Redesigning Access to Social Assistance in Toronto

With over 100,000 city residents relying on social assistance – known as Ontario Works (OW) – annually, Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) provides a critical service to Toronto's most vulnerable populations. Applying for OW can be both complicated, and intimidating, and cumbersome. To improve service access and residents' experience for the 50,000 residents who apply for OW every year, TESS took a logical but also bold step: ask front-line staff and service users to design a new service access model.
Using user-centered design approaches, TESS empowered front-line staff to not only champion change, but to create it. Through a multi-layered approach, a Modernized Access Model was co-created by a cross-section of staff. This was done through rigorous prototyping and piloting, with OW recipients engaged throughout the process.
The entire process had wide-ranging, systemic impacts on TESS' business and presents a significant best practice in the way of change design and management.


Clara Ganemtoré, Policy Development Officer, City of Toronto

Clara Ganemtore is a Policy Development Officer at the City of Toronto's Employment and Social Services division. Her current work focuses on social services design, implementation and evaluation. Her work at the City is informed by her previous experience in community development in Canada and community-based approaches to disaster risk management in West Africa.


Safiah Chowdhury, Policy Development Officer, City of Toronto

Safiah Chowdhury is a Policy Development Officer at the City of Toronto where she works on social policy and program design for Employment and Social Services and focuses on Poverty Reduction. She has a background in design thinking, community engagement, and systems level approaches through her prior work with the MaRS Discovery District and ongoing work with multiple community initiatives.


Shari Kamali, Manager, Employment & Social Services Division, City of Toronto

Shari Kamali is a Manager at the City of Toronto's Employment and Social Services division, where she oversees the Service Delivery Model Renewal Initiative. She has over 20 years of experience working with Toronto's homeless, low-income and disadvantaged populations. Her current work at the City is driven by a passion to advance service delivery modernization in social assistance in Toronto.