Information plays a vital role in an immigrant’s journey to a new country, in accessing services, finding resources and securing meaningful employment. But how do they find the information they need? We spoke to Nadia Caidi, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, whose research looks at the role information sources, such as service agencies and newcomer centers, institutions and technology play in immigrant and refugees’ experiences.

ncaidiQ. What is your current research about?

My research is focused on human information behavior and the intersection of information and immigration. It examines how information fits in the lives of individuals who migrate elsewhere, from the initial decision about migrating, pre-arrival information, all the way to arrival and beyond. The questions I wanted to answer were:

  • How do people seek, use and share information?
  • How do they assess the credibility of information?
  • Whom do they trust for information?
  • Does uptake of information depend on the sources, mechanisms of delivery, quality, quantity, language?

Understanding these complex dynamics can lead to better outcomes for immigrants and their families.

Q. How and why did you initiate this research?

I was intrigued by the existing definitions of social inclusion, and how little attention was paid to access to information in these definitions. My team and I set out to research the literature around the information practices of immigrants and explore the link between access to meaningful information and people’s ability to deal with situations they encounter in their daily lives. This includes integrating in the labor market and becoming a vibrant contributor to their community and society.

Q. Why is it important to know about the information practices of immigrants?

Information as a resource, and facilitating access to it, should be recognized as a necessary factor in enabling the inclusion of immigrants in their adopted community. Since immigrants’ information practices are both local and global, in large part due to digital media, service providers need to understand the complexity of immigrants’ information worlds and their practices, and keep up with these evolving demands.

Q. What are some of the key trends that you noted from your research?

Due to the unique circumstances of immigrants, their social capital and the environment they find themselves in, they’re often put in a vulnerable position which can lead to feelings of marginalization or exclusion. We recognized that finding information is a necessity for immigrants, and that access to information is a very important aspect of social inclusion

Another trend we noticed was that immigrants learn as they seek information. When immigrants seek information online in a foreign language, we find that they develop both their expressive language skills through creating queries, and their receptive skills through reading and interpreting results and documents.

Q. What advice would you like to give to immigrant employment stakeholders about providing information to immigrants?

Through our research findings, we realized the importance of combining formal and informal sources of information and connecting with personal networks within immigrants’ new settings. This allows immigrants to take better-informed actions and connect with others in similar situations. It is important to help immigrants become information literate in their new environment, as it increases their chance in finding meaningful employment, which contributes to their overall well-being. At the same time, we can also learn from these individuals who often bring diverse knowledge and problem-solving techniques, which facilitates two-way inclusion.

To learn more about Nadia and her research, please click here