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GBV Collaboration Tool


Working Together to End  Gender-Based Violence


We know that gender-based violence (GBV) affects all communities  regardless of culture, ethnicity, or immigration status. Yet, there  are systemic factors that can increase GBV risk and create  barriers to safety and support for newcomers, immigrants,  and refugees. These may include language barriers, migration  stress, and racism, to name a few.


In this resource, we highlight  how increased collaboration between the immigrant-serving  and anti-violence sectors can help address these barriers and  increase safety for those experiencing violence. By building  a shared base of knowledge and support network together,  service providers from all sectors can better understand and  respond to the unique realities of newcomers, immigrants, and  refugees experiencing GBV

Collaboration Tool


Immigrant-serving agencies are often the initial and main point of contact for newcomers to obtain  assistance in Canada. Service providers in these agencies require training, resources, and information  about GBV. However, it’s important to recognize that a complicated issue like GBV cannot be solved by  any one sector alone. Collaboration is a key strategy and a best practice for GBV prevention and  awareness work with newcomer, immigrant, and refugee communities.

Collaboration between the immigrant-serving and anti-violence sectors is about working together towards the common goal of ending GBV. When supporting diverse communities, it’s important that service providers across sectors share their skills and knowledge. For example, service providers in the anti-violence sector may have specialized training around risk and safety, while those in the immigrant-serving sector may have insight into how the experiences newcomers, immigrants, and refugees can impact how they encounter GBV. Collaboration is a lens we can apply to all aspects of GBV work to increase knowledge and capacity across sectors

Through collaboration, we can:

  • Foster strong relationships, so that we are not isolated in our work or limited in our capacity to provide support through referral when necessary.

  • Better support clients by coordinating services, allowing multiple service providers to form a circle of care around a person or family experiencing GBV.

  • Work with the communities we serve to create new strategies and solutions for addressing GBV

What Our  Research Says: In our national survey  conducted in 2019, 96% of  service providers identified  improved coordination  between the immigrant-serving and anti-violence  sectors as a priority in a  national strategy




Models of violence prevention or awareness don’t always reflect the intersectional realities of racialized and migrant women’s lives. A one-size-fits-all approach to violence prevention or intervention just doesn’t work

Improved coordination can help address gaps that clients experience when trying to navigate different systems and/or sectors. At the same time, collaborative partnerships can be leveraged to foster systemic change.

There is a lack of knowledge about the fundamentals of migration, and limited awareness of racialized and migrant women’s intersectional experiences of violence.

Sharing information between sectors allows us to build a common base of knowledge that will benefit us all.

Staff serving immigrants and refugees are less likely to have received training in trauma- and violence-informed approaches than anti-violence staff. Those in both sectors reported a lack of training about GBV supports for refugees and newcomers (especially non-status or undocumented people).

By building relationships between providers with diverse expertise, we can address gaps in professional development and service provision and better meet the multiple needs of clients in a holistic way.

Service providers in the immigrant-serving sector sometimes provide anti-violence services such as counselling, safety planning, and risk assessment. Likewise, those in the anti-violence sector sometimes provide settlement services such as needs assessments and language training.

Increased knowledge exchange, communication, and even joint case management between sectors can help ensure that service providers are equipped to address the intersectional needs of clients

There is an increased likelihood of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout for service providers working in these sectors.

Collaboration can be an important source of social support among service providers, providing a space for collective care and mutual support. Organizations can also benefit from increased knowledge sharing on best practices for reducing vicarious trauma and related issues for staff.


GBV Collabotation Tool

The immigrant-serving and anti-violence sectors each hold different areas of expertise and specialized knowledge that can support newcomers, immigrants, and refugees experiencing GBV. Yet, each sector also has its limitations and challenges. By sharing our knowledge and skills, we can enhance both sectors’ capacity to collectively support clients.

As illustrated in the image below, each sector has expertise that can be helpful for preventing and responding to GBV. Note that these are general areas of strength at the sectoral level that may overlap in specific organizations or in the skill sets of individual service providers. Expertise can also vary across time and region: the information below is based on our project’s research and consultations conducted across Canada between 2019 and 2021.

In addition to the strengths of each sector, there are also common frameworks, goals, and approaches that are generally recognized across both sectors as important for GBV awareness and response. Our research showed that many of these approaches are aspirational for organizations, and that service providers want more training in areas like anti-racism and anti-oppression, for example.


To help advance training in these areas, the project partners collaboratively developed and launched an online course called Bridges to Safety, which provides a common base of knowledge for service providers across the immigrant-serving and anti-violence sectors. We also released a series of webinars in 2020 that provide further information on the topics discussed in this section. You can access these resources here:


Effective Collaboration

It’s not just about collaborating more. Effective collaboration requires capacity building, that is, ensuring that service providers have the time, skills, resources, and systems to build and sustain partnerships.

In the remainder of this resource, we share helpful tips and strategies for building capacity for collaboration, as identified in our research and experience collaborating on a national project. The three strategies featured in this resource include:

  • Resource mapping: Discover resource mapping – a practical strategy that organizations and service providers can use to foster a strong network of collaborators in their local region

  • Enhancing skills and competencies: Explore how organizations can support their staff to increase skills and competencies required for effective collaboration. Service providers can also use this section to reflect on individual areas for professional development.

  • Establishing and strengthening partnerships: Reference this section for tips on building intentional partnerships. Tools for reflecting on the success of our partnerships – both large and small – are also provided.


Collaboration is a practice that occurs on multiple levels, whether it’s between individual service providers, organizational partners, or between whole sectors. In this project, we have identified the following four levels at which collaboration can simultaneously thrive.

Collaboration at each level is equally important, and no one level can function optimally without simultaneous networks and partnerships flourishing at all levels. This presents both challenges and opportunities for service providers who want to build effective collaborations.

Between Individuals

This most often refers to collaboration between individual service providers, and can sometimes be referred to as case coordination

Within Organizations and Between Teams

Collaboration within organizations can refer to exchanges between organization leaders and frontline staff, as well as the coordination of multiple teams and programs within an agency

Between Organizations

Collaboration between organizations may include formal or informal project partnerships. It can also involve coordination of services, training opportunities, and knowledge exchange

Within and Between Sectors

This includes provincial/territorial or national networks within a sector, cross-sectoral tables or initiatives, and advocacy work or educational campaigns led by champions or leaders.


GBV Collabotation Tool

Sometimes referred to as asset mapping, resource mapping is a practical tool that can help:

  • Identify and document important resources, services, and programs in our communities.

  • Build bridges between the immigrant-serving and anti-violence sectors, as well as other sectors involved in GBV or settlement work.

  • Recognize and respond to the needs of newcomers, immigrants, and refugees experiencing GBV.

  • Prepare service providers with the necessary resources before a client walks through the door or a crisis occurs.


  1. Determine what geographic region your resource mapping will include. Will it be your neighborhood, city or town, or province or territory? The bigger your region, the more general the resources will be. With smaller regions, you can include more details.

  2. Consider which services and programs you are most familiar with in your region. For example, service areas you work in or collaborate with regularly, or service areas where you have strong relationships with other people in the field. Maintaining and sharing up-to-date lists of these resources is key.

  3. Consider which services and programs you are least familiar with in your region. For example, services in a completely different sector, services that are new to you, or services that have been hard to connect with or that you haven’t collaborated with before.

  4. Collaborate with your colleagues. Find out if they have experience with the sectors you do not, and vice versa. If you find common gaps, aim to find out more about the work that organizations in these areas do and find common issues you can use to connect.


GBV Self Reflection

Self Reflection

Individual Reflection:

  • Reflect on how your intersecting identities such as gender, race, and class result in you holding a more or less privileged position within society. This largely depends on the degree to which society values these various identities.

  • Take responsibility for your own education - do not expect people who have been marginalized to educate you about the oppression they have experienced. Read more


Organizational Reflection:

  • Learn more about the newcomer, immigrant, and refugee communities in your region, including their histories of migration, colonization, religion, language, and culture. Recognize the challenges they may face in the settlement process as well as their hopes, dreams, and sources of strength and resilience.

  • Centre the voices and experiences of underrepresented groups in programming, staff training, and human resources. Assess the extent to which your organization consults with diverse immigrant and refugee communities in the design of programming and in your hiring practices. Read more

GBV Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution

Open-Mindedness and Appreciation:

  • Recognize your strengths and limitations as a service provider, and how your perspectives are shaped by your worldview, cultural influences, and personal experiences.

  • Celebrate and actively show appreciation for diversity in your collaborations.


Giving and Receiving Feedback:

  • Ensure that you are not offering unsolicited feedback. When unsure, ask before providing feedback

  • When giving observations or suggestions for improvement, be specific with your feedback. Feedback about what does work is just as important as what doesn’t - especially when we are specific about why something works well. Read more

Flexibility and Adaptability:

  • Acknowledge that there is more than one right way to approach a problem. Aim to bring different ideas together in a collaborative way, not a competitive one.

  • Be attentive to what others are saying and use active listening to resolve conflicts

GBV Client Advocacy

Communication and Client Advocacy

Shared Language and Clarifying Meaning:

  • In order to ensure understanding when collaborating, make an effort to clarify unfamiliar terminology, such as acronyms and specialized terms. Read more


Boundary Setting and Assertiveness:

  • Set and honour boundaries in your collaborative relationships - being clear about expectations and capacity limitations can prevent individuals from over or under extending themselves. Being able to say “no” and set boundaries is also important on a personal level, to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue.. Read more

Client-Centred Approaches:

  • Communicate nonjudgmentally so that service users feel deserving, heard, understood, and accepted. Help clients identify their strengths through active listening, keeping the conversation open, and reflecting back the thoughts the client shares.

  • Be prepared to use your position and experience as a service provider to advocate on behalf of clients (i.e. when they are facing systemic barriers), while prioritizing their agency and voice.


GBV Collabotation Tool

Partnerships are important for building capacity, sharing resources, and utilizing community organizations’ strengths and expertise to enhance client-centered services. Building partnerships and collaborations at all levels is a best practice and is encouraged whenever possible in this work.

Some important steps to consider when developing new partnerships or building upon existing ones are as follows:

  • Share a vision of success: Agree on a set of project goals and ideal outcomes that clarify the mission and priorities of the collaboration.


  • Establish transparency of viewpoints: Create an environment in which partners can communicate openly, allowing the collaboration to address partners’ differing priorities, as well as find the common priorities that unite them.


  • Build a common base of knowledge and commit to information sharing: Find consensus among partners as to what knowledge is most relevant, and continue to share new information relevant to the collaboration’s efforts.

  • Communicate the strengths of each partner: Acknowledge each partner’s unique contributions, and recognize their distinct expertise, resources, and networks.

Note on Sustainability: The keys to sustaining collaborative partnerships are preparation and adaptability. We recognize that external factors such as changes in funding, policies, and staffing can have an impact on collaborations. It is good practice to consider these changes beforehand and to revisit them often, to plan how the collaboration can adapt and continue to move forward

Read more..

GBV Testimonial

For me, collaboration is about the relationships that you build over time. It requires that we have spaces where we can show up and be our full selves, where we can connect and feel a sense of belonging, where we can be kind to each other, where we can laugh together and work towards collective goals. It's really about being in community


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