ABC Strategic Plan

A new vision for ABC Life Literacy Canada

By: Alison Howard

ABC Life Literacy Canada (ABC) is pleased to announce the launch of our 2023-2025 strategic plan. Having joined ABC as Executive Director just over a year ago, it’s been my mission to complete this plan as a way to help guide us through the next couple of years.

The challenges of the last few years have taught us all many hard lessons. Experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and its consequential impact on labour shortages and supply chain issues among other things, taught us one primary lesson: the need to be adaptable.

Our new strategic plan was built during a time when we saw the world shift. With our aging population, many workers opted for early retirement instead of remote work. Others went back to school to improve their skills and left industries such as hospitality, which suffered from lengthy lockdowns. We also experienced a labour shortage, which drew attention to the importance of skills development.

As many people were forced out of work, financial literacy skills were increasingly crucial to survival. Being able to manage household expenses on a lower–and sometime subsidized–income was challenging for many, and continues to be as we now experience record inflation and higher interest rates to combat it.

Additionally, the need for technology has never been stronger. The entire world shifted online for work, learning, fitness, and to stay connected with friends. Those with strong digital literacy skills fared well, while those without struggled from isolation. At ABC, we adapted to running our programs online. However, as we move back to in-person learning, it’s clear that there is still a role for virtual programming.

All of these experiences have helped us build our new strategic plan, which launches at a crucial time as we move into a post-pandemic world. Over the next three years, we will focus on new programming, collaboration, and showcasing the benefits of investing in literacy. We will also continue to expand both our in-person and online learning opportunities to ensure learners have flexible options available to them.

Many adults have faced life issues that prevented them from taking advantage of earlier learning opportunities. Unfortunately, they still face particular challenges in returning to education, such as the need to balance employment and family responsibilities, finding transportation to a classroom or having a strong Internet connection for online learning.

Our new strategic plan will create more resources and opportunities for improving literacy in Canada, because the benefits of increasing literacy are boundless.

Literacy has never been more important 

Literacy affects our lives in critical ways – in our ability to get and keep good jobs and to advance in our careers; to managing our finances and our health; to helping our children with their education; and to engaging in civic and community activities. At ABC, we envision a Canada where everyone has the skills and opportunities to fully participate in learning, life, and work.

We know that adults who take part in literacy programming have increased self-confidence. This helps them take that important next step to continue learning, ask questions, and push forward to reach their personal goals.

The priorities in ABC’s new strategic plan reflect our understanding that there are different learning needs across our population. We want to ensure we present learning content that is relevant for those using it. Our learning needs change as we age, as we enter the job market or move within it, and as our families grow. We must also be prepared for the new learning challenges that advancing technologies continue to bring.

The 2023-2025 Strategic Plan

ABC Life Literacy Canada has a long history of supporting literacy skills development. We champion literacy in Canada by empowering adult learners, raising awareness of the importance of literacy skills, and by collaborating with and supporting the adult learning sector.

Our 2023-2025 Strategic Plan commits us to:

  • Empower adult literacy learners in Canada: Expand our programming and programming areas based on identified community needs. We will continue to focus on the literacy needs of under-served communities and vulnerable populations (e.g., racialized individuals, Indigenous peoples, individuals with diverse abilities, etc.).
  • Be a leading voice for adult literacy in Canada: Champion research that demonstrates the benefits and impacts of literacy skills development. We will then share the results widely to increase public and private sector engagement in addressing literacy issues in Canada.
  • Support adult literacy learning in Canada: Continue to support literacy practitioners by sharing best practice research and by providing networking and convening opportunities for them to connect and learn from each other. Literacy training practitioners are critical linchpins in supporting adult learning, and it’s vital that we support this group of people.

Looking forward to the future 

We are pleased to continue our work with the literacy and adult learning community in Canada and to support the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Literacy practitioners are the backbone of skills improvement efforts, and we are proud to partner with them.

I’m especially looking forward to ABC’s development of new resources to help adult learners build literacy skills that are relevant to their lives and work. There are many underserved communities and groups that need support and resources tailored to their learning needs.

I am also excited to advance research that will provide the basis for new investments in literacy skills development in Canada. We need to showcase what works and present clear evidence of the return on those investments.

As a Canadian literacy leader, ABC will continue to advance positive learning outcomes for individuals, organizations, and communities. We will invite and promote private and public sector conversation and collaboration to support efforts that address literacy challenges. By working together, we can move the literacy markers and realize our personal and collective economic and social potential.