Katimavik is a learning program for young Canadians between the ages of 17 and 21. Its mission is to foster youth’s personal, social and professional development through volunteer community work, training and group interaction; to promote community service; and to provide a diverse experience that instils a better understanding of the Canadian reality. In keeping with that mission, Katimavik participants are invited to embark on a journey of learning through several months of volunteer work in different regions of Canada. Participants have two options: a nine-month “long” program; and a six-month “short” program that was introduced in September 2009. Both programs focus on the acquisition of personal, social and professional abilities through volunteer work, integrating into the community and group living. Between 2005-06 and 2008-09, nearly 4,200 young Canadians set out on the Katimavik adventure.
The program is delivered by Katimavik-OPCAN Corporation (Katimavik-OPCAN), a not-for-profit organisation that receives 98% of its funding from the federal government through a contribution agreement. The federal government’s contribution to Katimavik is managed by the Youth Participation Directorate (YPD) of the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH).
Between 2005-06 and 2008-09, the federal government’s financial contribution remained fairly steady at more or less C$18 million a year. The government’s decision in 2006 to reconsider annually whether that contribution would be made created much financial uncertainty. However, that uncertainty was allayed in fall 2009 when the government announced multi-year funding for the period from 2010-11 to 2012-13.
Evaluation objectives and methodology
This summative evaluation follows a similar evaluation carried out in 2006. Its objective is two-fold: to comply with Treasury Board’s requirements for the renewal and continuation of funding for Katimavik; and to provide the government with information on the relevance, implementation, performance and achievements of the program in the fiscal years from 2005-06 to 2008-09. Four lines of enquiry were used to meet these objectives: a document review; interviews with 32 key stakeholders; three online surveys of 645 former Katimavik participants, 131 unsuccessful applicants and 134 community partners (representatives of organisations that took in participants and benefited from their volunteer work); and 10 focus group sessions in Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Calgary that involved 98 people in three categories (ordinary Canadians, former Katimavik participants and engaged youth who have never taken part in the program).
Findings regarding relevance
Katimavik is based on a holistic education approach that promotes community service throughout Canada (English- and French-speaking regions) and incorporates the development of key personal, social and professional competencies. It aims to help young people learn more about themselves, assume civic responsibilities in the community and acquire the abilities they need to be active members of society. In that sense, Katimavik ties in with the Government of Canada’s youth programming. It is a special initiative, very different from programs that deal exclusively with training or employability. Katimavik does more than give young Canadians an opportunity to absorb themselves in volunteer work and become involved in the life of the community. It enables them to form lasting bonds, appreciate the true nature of volunteerism and gain insight into the constraints and challenges faced by community partner organisations in different regions. Because it endeavours to help participants become better citizens through civic engagement, Katimavik contributes to the achievement of PCH’s strategic objectives, in particular those related to second-language learning and appreciation of Canada’s geographic and cultural diversity.
Katimavik meets young people’s need for civic involvement, even though involvement is not the only—or even the primary—reason why young people try to enrol in the program. For many youth, Katimavik is a chance to experience something unique and discover the many different ways they can contribute. Regarding employability and the development of job abilities and behaviours, participants have a clear sense of the needs addressed by the program. The program’s community partner organisations, meanwhile, need volunteers to deliver services to the community, and the young people they take in help them do a better job, which in turn enhances the well-being of the groups they serve. Finally, when members of the public are told about the mission of the program and the way it operates, they see Katimavik as a great way of developing youth. They believe it is justified for the federal government to make a financial contribution to support the program.
Findings related to design
In 2009, Katimavik decided to rethink its educational mission and approach to learning. The introduction of the short program (as a complement to the long program) and the adoption of a competency approach (to replace an approach based on five learning programs) reflect the desire of Katimavik-OPCAN and YPD to modernise Katimavik, make it more effective and adapt it to the needs of today’s youth, which are different from the needs that existed when the program was created in 1977.
Implementation of the Katimavik program is based on effective, proven management and delivery mechanisms that were somewhat enhanced during the period covered by the evaluation. The learning tools included in the program are for the most part useful and relevant. Katimavik-OPCAN has also made considerable headway in the areas of information management, reporting and information flow, both internally and with YPD. Katimavik-OPCAN has also taken measures to improve the participant retention rate, although with limited success between 2005-06 and 2008-09. Nevertheless, preliminary results obtained after the short program was added in 2009-10 are encouraging. Overall, it is easy for youth to sign up for Katimavik. Recruitment goals are met for three out of six designated groups. The program attracts a very large number of applicants, particularly from remote rural areas, low-income families and to a lesser extent Aboriginal communities. However, Katimavik has not met the target levels set for recruiting young males, disabled youth or youth from visible minorities.
Findings regarding performance
Young people thinking about applying to Katimavik have high expectations in terms of the opportunity to travel in Canada and do volunteer work in different communities. In the vast majority of cases, the program meets all or some of those expectations.
By and large, former participants and community partners have positive comments to make about Katimavik’s placement and matching process. According to former participants, of all the learning activities offered by the program, the acquisition of leadership skills is the one that had the most bearing on their personal and professional decisions for the future. Generally, former participants are happy with the learning opportunities they were given by Katimavik. They also report having better abilities than youth who did not get the chance to join the program, which is a strong indication of the alleged effectiveness of the learning activities that are specific to Katimavik.
The funding agreements that regulate the federal government’s contribution are adequate. The transition from annual agreements (between 2006 and 2009) to a three-year commitment (2010-11 to 2012-13) is considered to have benefited YPD and Katimavik-OPCAN alike. Multi-year funding ensures financial stability—a condition without which stakeholders have difficulty planning and managing their activities associated with the program.
The 2006 summative evaluation questioned the efficiency of Katimavik. In the absence of standardised costing methods, the present evaluation cannot make an informed assessment of progress achieved in this area. With regard to salary costs, which were considered high relative to the total 2006 budget, the extent of progress made between 2005-06 and 2008-09 varies, depending on the calculation method used to examine costs. The same applies to changes in the cost per participant, an indicator calculated using criteria that lack accuracy and consistency. In spring 2010, Katimavik-OPCAN announced that it would be taking strong cost-cutting measures, and there is reason to believe that this decision will help make the program more efficient.
The Government of Canada’s investment in Katimavik seems reasonable given the scope of the program, the number of youth and organisations that take part in and benefit from the program, and the type of costs covered by the program (transportation and lodging for youth). Katimavik-OPCAN would be well advised to document the program’s situation in relation to other youth initiatives. A preliminary examination carried out in connection with the evaluation shows that Katimavik compares quite favourably with other youth programs in Canada and abroad.
Findings regarding achievement of results
Overall, Katimavik’s activities and outputs support achievement of the program’s expected results. According to the many indications provided by the lines of enquiry, most of the planned immediate and intermediate results are being met.
Regarding the achievement of immediate results, Katimavik enables youth to participate in community projects. It also helps youth develop and apply personal, social and professional competencies and abilities that will prove useful to enter the labour market or pursue an education. The program raises participants’ awareness of the richness and diversity of Canadian society and the value of community service, although this does not always translate to actual changes in the daily lives of former Katimavik participants. For community partner organisations, the benefits of Katimavik are especially clear: the young volunteers’ efforts improve in the short term their ability to serve the community. On average between 2005-06 and 2008-09, Katimavik participants worked a total of 650,000 to 740,000 hours a year, or 660 to 770 hours per volunteer. Many of the tasks assigned to Katimavik volunteers involve the direct or indirect delivery of services to the community partner organisations’ clients (implementation or facilitation work, client intake or service, creation or planning of activities, administrative support).
Regarding the achievement of intermediate results, Katimavik participants are more aware of Canada’s diversity, but their contribution to communities is still unproven. As an outcome of their Katimavik experience, former participants report having gained an appreciation of the value of volunteerism, both in terms of community support and their own personal and professional development.According to the latest logic model, Katimavik has only one long-term result: promotion of and attachment to Canada. It is difficult to say at this point whether that result is being achieved, because Katimavik-OPCAN has not acted on the recommendation in the 2006 evaluation that data on community partner organisations and youth be gathered periodically—after the participants leave the program—in order to measure the long-term impact of Katimavik. The Katimaroute system and the alumni database are tools that Katimavik-OPCAN could use to document, over the long term, the program’s impact on the lives of those who participated.
- It is recommended that a mechanism for gathering information from former Katimavik participants be established in order to measure the long-term effects of the program.
- It is recommended that Katimavik-OPCAN adapt the surveys distributed to community partner organisations so that they measure the impact of the participants’ time in the community, not just their appreciation of their experience in the program. Katimavik should also analyse partner surveys so that the tangible effects of the work done by participants in the community are systematically identified, by sector of activity if possible.
- It is recommended that, as soon as the current changes to Katimavik-OPCAN’s organisation have been completed, the Katimavik-OPCAN management team begin the process of review and strategic planning that must precede the preparation, in cooperation with YPD, of a new multi-year funding agreement that follows the agreement announced in October 2009.
- It is recommended that YPD and Katimavik-OPCAN come to an agreement on the method of calculating salary costs and costs per participant and document the formula used in the contribution agreements between the stakeholders.
- It is recommended that Katimavik-OPCAN continue the modernisation of learning tools undertaken in 2009, in order to make these tools more appealing, and come up with ways of encouraging participants to use those tools willingly.
- It is recommended that Katimavik-OPCAN continue its exploration to raise funds from private sponsors and former participants in order to reduce its dependency on federal funding.