Frequently asked funding questions

This page answers the most frequently asked questions about Calgary Learns funding.

For general information about Calgary Learns and where our funding comes, see the dropdown menu under the About Us tab.

  1. What is literacy?
  2. What are essential skills?
  3. What is foundational learning?
  4. What is important in foundational learning programming?
  5. What are Calgary Learns’ funding streams?
    1. Literacy and Foundational Learning
    2. Community Capacity Building
    3. Indigenous Adult Learning
  6. How can I find out whether my proposal idea fits Calgary Learns funding?
  7. When does Calgary Learns accept proposals?
  8. If our program is funded, what required evaluation measures we must track?
  9. Do you fund individuals or provide bursaries for individual learners?
  10. Must my organization become a Calgary Learns member before applying for funding?
  11. What advice does Calgary Learns have for returning applicants?
  12. What should I do if I want to submit a new proposal?
  13. What is a proposal preview meeting?
  14. Who reviews my proposal?
  15. How do I report on our grant?
  16. Who do I contact if I have more questions about Calgary Learns funding?


What is literacy?

The Alberta government report, Living Literacy: A framework for Alberta’s next generation economy, gives a good definition of literacy in its broadest scope:
“Literacy is not just about reading and writing. While reading and writing provide the necessary foundation for learning, literacy is fundamentally about an individual’s capacity to put his/her skills to work in shaping the course of his or her own life. Literacy involves ‘reading the word and the world’ in a variety of contexts. Individuals need literacy skills to obtain and use information effectively, to act as informed players and to manage interactions in a variety of contexts (ex. Making decisions about health care, parenting, managing household finances, engaging in the political process or working).”

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What are essential skills?

While the above definition gives us a description of literacy, it doesn’t break it down into specific components or skills. That’s where the Government of Canada’s Essential Skills Framework comes into play. These nine skills are like Velcro—the skills to which all other learning sticks. They are the skills we need for learning all other skills in the workplace, our communities and in life. They enable us to evolve and adapt to a changing world.: The nine essential skills are:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Numeracy
  • Oral communication
  • Working with others
  • Document use (e.g. forms, maps, tables, graphs)
  • Digital technology
  • Continuous learning (knowing how to learn)
  • Thinking skills (problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, task planning and organizing, significant use of memory and finding information)

Each of these skills can be used in many different contexts at different levels of complexity.

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What is foundational learning?

Foundational learning refers to the acquisition of the basic skills adults require to fully participate in life: the ability to participate as neighbours and citizens, have satisfying employment, and prepare to pursue further learning. It is therefore more than basic literacy. It includes all of the nine essential skills at their lower or foundational levels of complexity.

Foundational learning opportunities can include skills in thinking and problem-solving, reading and writing, money math and numeracy, basic proficiency in English as an additional language and basic computer skills.

Several frameworks inform our understanding of foundational learning: for example, the Essential Skills frameworkProgram for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) levels, Canadian Language Benchmarks, and ATESL best practices.

UNESCO published a working definition of literacy which reflects the emphasis on context and use: ‘Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve his or her goals, develop his or her knowledge and potential and participate fully in community and wider society.’ (UNESCO 2005: 21).

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What is important in foundational learning programming?

Foundational programming must prioritize the needs and goals of the learner. Foundational programming is as much about how the program is facilitated as the subject matter. Learners need to be engaged in their learning. To assist learners programming should:

  1. Take into account and respect the wealth of life experience and knowledge learners bring. Programming needs to help learners to build on this experience and knowledge through carefully scaffolded program delivery.
  2. Be relevant. Learners come to programs with goals. Learning objectives need to be developed collaboratively with the learners.
  3. Account for various learning styles. People may be visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. It is best that program delivery address these styles.
  4. Incorporate relevant practice to reinforce skills
  5. Build confidence. Confidence is a strong learning barrier for many learners at the foundational level. Encouragement and creating successful experiences help build confidence in learners.

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What are Calgary Learns’ funding streams?

Calgary Learns funds in three areas.

  1. Literacy and Foundational Learning
  2. Community Capacity Building
  3. Indigenous Adult Learning


Literacy and Foundational Learning

Adult Basic Literacy

Adult Basic Literacy is defined as the ability of adults to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. The primary intended outcome for programming in this area should be the development of reading, writing, and/or document use skills up to and including PIAAC level 2. Reading, writing, and document use are three of nine Essential Skills from Canada’s Essential Skills framework, defined as follows:

  • Reading includes understanding materials written in sentences or paragraphs.
  • Writing includes communicating by arranging words, numbers and symbols on paper or a computer screen.
  • Document Use includes finding, understanding or entering information (e.g. text, symbols, numbers) in various types of documents, such as tables or forms.

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Numeracy is defined as the ability to use, apply, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas. Numeracy is one of nine Essential Skills from Canada’s Essential Skills framework. To align with that framework, the primary intended outcome should be using numbers and thinking in quantitative terms to complete tasks, up to and including a pre-GED level.

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English Language Learning

English Language Learning is defined as the study and practice of the English language by individuals whose first language is other than English and who are unable to communicate fluently or learn effectively in English. The primary intended outcome should be to help learners gain proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English. These outcomes correlate to the following essential skills from Canada’s Essential Skills framework: reading, document use, writing, and oral communication. Calgary Learns supports the improvement of basic English proficiency from pre-Benchmark (ELL Literacy) through to Canadian Language Benchmark 4+ in four streams: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Instructors of English language learning must have a certificate that qualifies them to teach English as an additional language.

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Basic Computer Skills

Basic Computer Skills are defined as the ability of individuals to appropriately use computers and related technology to find, evaluate, utilize, create, and communicate in order to participate effectively in society. The primary intended outcome is the development of foundational computer skills to support an individual to navigate the basics of a computer, keyboard, operating device, or the internet. This category corresponds to the basic level of digital technology skills – one of nine essential skills from Canada’s Essential Skills framework

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Foundational Life Skills

Foundational Life Skills are defined as learning opportunities that facilitate the development of the personal and interpersonal skills required to deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life on an independent basis. These skills may include the following basic components:

  • Decision-making and problem-solving;
  • Creative thinking and critical thinking;
  • Communication and interpersonal skills;
  • Self-awareness and empathy;
  • Coping with emotions and stress;
  • Intercultural competencies.

The primary intended outcome of learning opportunities in Foundational Life Skills is to improve any combination of the above skills to prepare a learner for further learning, employment, and/or participation in society.

Learners is Foundational Life Skills programs may:

  • Be unable to engage in learning opportunities without first improving their foundational life skills.
  • Face barriers that could impede their learning. For example, they may:
    • Be marginalized in society;
    • Have experienced trauma, such as violence or abuse
    • Have had encounters with the justice system
    • Have addictions issues
    • Be unable to manage a social context effectively
    • Be unable to accomplish basic daily tasks
  • Be either Canadian-born or newcomers to Canada
  • Not recognize or admit the need to improve their skills
  • Have limited or no formal education
  • Associate learning with trauma and/or frustration and may have a fear of failure

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Family Literacy

Family literacy programs promote the value and benefits of literacy, as well as oral language skill development. These programs also provide parents with the skills and strategies to create a literacy-rich environment in the home and use daily activities to strengthen the emergent literacy skills of their children.

While adults may enter family literacy programs to become more confident in their role as a child’s first teacher, these programs also create opportunities for adults to increase their confidence to return to learning and find out about other learning opportunities available in the community. Organizations delivering family literacy programs must be well-connected in their communities to make knowledgeable referrals to other local providers to support adults to transition to further learning, employment or other learning goals.

Family Literacy Learners
Supporting Families Facing Barriers
While it is acknowledged that all families can benefit from family literacy programs, grant funds must be used to support learning opportunities and increase access for families facing social and economic barriers to learning, including costs for all program fees, and costs for child care, transportation, or other participant supports as required. Programming must be delivered free of charge to the participants.

Adult Family Literacy Learners
Family Literacy programs are directed towards the parents of children up to six years of age. Children may be present for all or part of the program, or they may not be directly involved at all.

Based on Foundational Models
Eligible programs must be based on one or more of these approved foundational family literacy models. Funded organizations are encouraged to create a program that will best attract and meet the needs of participants in their communities.

NOT Drop-in Programs

Family Literacy must be designed for committed participants and requires attendance at multiple sessions over a number of weeks. One-time drop-in family literacy events can be used as strategies for participant recruitment, advertising or awareness-raising, but these participants numbers should not be included in final reporting.

Coaching and Modeling
Family Literacy programs must focus on actively coaching and modeling strategies and activities to parents to support the oral language and early literacy development of their children. Programs cannot be designed around the purchase and passive distribution of children’s books or resources and materials.

Expectations for the Provision of Childcare
Where programs are providing childcare on-site during parent programs, it is expected that age and stage appropriate programming with an oral language and early literacy development focus will be provided for the children in a child-safe and child-appropriate environment.

Additional Requirements
All staff responsible for the administration and delivery of Family Literacy programs must have completed, prior to the start of the program, training in the foundational model on which the program is based. If more than one program is delivered, or the program is based on more than one model, training for all relevant models must be taken: family literacy models.

All staff responsible for the administration and delivery of Family Literacy programs must have completed, within the first year of employment, Introduction to Family Literacy.

All staff and volunteers who work with or may have unsupervised access to children must provide to the service organization a current security clearance/criminal record check available through the Calgary Police Service.

Funded organizations are also encouraged to have at least one staff member present during program delivery with a valid First Aid, Childcare First Aid or Emergency First Aid Certificate.

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Family Literacy Models

Eligible programs must be based on one or more of the following provincial-approved foundational family literacy models. Funded organizations are encouraged to create a program that will best attract and meet the needs of participants in their communities.


  • This program encourages parents to discover the joy of reading with their babies beginning at birth.
  • Families receive a bag with a number of books suitable for babies, a teddy bear or other toy, and easy-to-read information on other available programs and services.
  • Some programs include a series of workshops for parents where book-sharing ideas are modeled, and parents are given guidance on choosing appropriate books for their baby. Parents may also be introduced to their local library and other available resources.


  • A facilitator works with a group of parents for eight weeks, modeling book-sharing and strategies for supporting their child’s literacy development. Children generally do not attend this program.
  • Ideas and themes in children’s books are discussed and extended by craft and drama activities. Parents borrow the books to share at home with their preschool children.
  • Parents also engage in informal writing, often writing a story for their children during the program.


  • Through this home visitation program, trained literacy facilitators called “builders” work with families in their homes for at least 20 half-hour sessions.
  • The builders work with parents and children, providing strategies, ideas, and knowledge on how to use everyday activities to promote literacy development and create a literacy-rich environment in the home.
  • Builders provide follow-up support by telephone.
  • Target population is preschool children but builders have worked with families with children up to 12 years.
  • This program was specifically designed to meet the needs of rural families, where transportation may pose a barrier to bringing parents together to meet as a group, and/or parents are simply not ready to be part of a group-based program.


  • The program is designed to build on the existing parenting skills of participants, expand on their ability to develop their children’s language and literacy skills, and encourage their own literacy development.
  • Practitioners choose from a variety of parenting topics (e.g., positive discipline, building self-esteem, listening skills) presented through flexible and adaptable plain language materials and a facilitator’s guide.
  • Parents learn to model good literacy practices with their children.
  • Variations of the program have been developed specifically for Aboriginal, English as Second Language, and Francophone families.


  • Parents and preschool children engage together in activities that enhance development of oral language, early literacy, and social interaction skills.
  • Parents participate in presentations/discussions to increase their knowledge of literacy, child development and positive parenting.
  • The program informs and links families with other child and adult learning programs in the community.
  • Sessions run weekly for 15 to 30 weeks and are led by trained facilitators who are supported with ongoing training, mentoring and program resources.


  • A group program for parents and their babies and young children, focused on orally-delivered interactive rhymes, stories, and songs delivered at a slow and relaxed pace with plenty of repetition of materials and casual discussion of issues and questions that arise.
  • The program aims to strengthen the parent-child bond, provide a welcoming and supportive group for parents, enhance literacy skills, and help link them to other resources in the community.
  • Sessions are generally delivered once a week for ten weeks, with at least two program facilitators present at each session.


  • The program promotes oral language development in babies and toddlers and provides a positive, supportive environment for parents through group-based delivery.
  • Programs involve circle time with parents and infants/toddlers during which rhymes, stories, and songs are shared and modeled.
  • In most programs, two facilitators lead a program for 10 weeks, with one hour-long session per week.


  • Story Sacks supports the development of literacy skills in a range of settings.
  • A story sack is a large cloth bag made by parents or other volunteers in the community that contains a children’s book, soft toys of the main characters, props, and scenery relating to the story, a non-fiction book linked to the theme, an audio-tape, and a language-game based on the book to stimulate and extend reading activities.
  • Delivery of this model must include actively coaching and modeling to the parents and caregivers how to use the resources and activities to support their children’s oral language and early literacy development, and providing appropriate resources for parents and caregivers to practice these strategies at home.

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Community Capacity Building

Calgary Learns recognizes that successful learning outcomes are intertwined with the ability of our community to support the development of the individual, the family, and the broader community itself. We support a province-wide vision of building vibrant learning communities in which individuals, families, and communities can thrive and reach their full potential.

For this reason, in addition to offering learning opportunities in the Literacy and Foundational Learning programming area, we also support a range of learning opportunities in Community Capacity Building.


Learning opportunities offered in the Community Capacity Building programming area support the development of the individual, the family, and/or the community. Community Capacity Building programming may complement, build upon, or supplement the literacy and foundational skills a learner is trying to achieve, or has achieved, or it may be an opportunity to attract learners who may not recognize or admit the need to improve their literacy and foundational skills. Examples include learning opportunities that:

  • support workplace readiness, including the development of computer software skills and application skill development
  • support the achievement of a high school equivalency credential, such as the General Equivalency Diploma (GED); • support local or indigenous language/culture
  • address mental health issues
  • prevent and support victims of violence and abuse
  • prevent substance abuse
  • promote parenting skills

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Indigenous Adult Learning

All Calgary Learns grants support low income learners in programs that support literacy and foundation skill development.

The defining factor with the Indigenous Stream is the emphasis on programming that is designed, implemented and evaluated from an Indigenous perspective to best meet the needs of Indigenous learners.

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How do you define Indigenous learners?

Indigenous is defined as First Nations (status and non-status), Métis or Inuit people.


What do you mean by “Indigenous perspective”?

Indigenous perspective could mean many things. In the case of Calgary Learns, we are looking for programs and projects that are more than just a program that recruits Indigenous Learners.

An Indigenous perspective usually is framed in a holistic manner, inclusive of the whole person, their mind, their body, their spirit and their heart. There are many ways that Indigenous cultures view this, however across most cultures there is an understanding of an interconnectedness between all beings, all peoples and the environment that surrounds us.

There are many helpful Indigenous models that can be used to design, implement and evaluate a program that could address the unique needs of adult Indigenous learners. It is important that the knowledge comes from “expert” sources such as Elders, community leaders, and people with experience and understanding of diverse Indigenous cultures and traditions. Models such as the incorporation of the Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, or the Tipi Model could be used to best support Indigenous Learners.

It is our hope that programs and projects will be designed and delivered by and for Indigenous learners in an inclusive, respectful and knowledgeable way. We encourage organizations to determine the models that will best fit for them and the learners.

If you have more questions or would like some direction in regards to Indigenous perspective, design or otherwise, please feel free to contact our Indigenous Liaison at

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What are examples of Indigenous Learning principles?

There are a number of different resources available and some are very place-based to a specific Indigenous group, Nation or area, however, there are universal elements that can utilized if done respectfully by knowledgeable individuals.

As an example, out of British Columbia comes the First Peoples Principles of Learning:

  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning involves recognising the consequence of one’s actions.
  • Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history and story.
  • Learning involves patience and time.
  • Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.
  • Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations.

Here are some other resources. We encourage you to seek out the ones that best suit your program and its learner outcomes.

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What is the Indigenous funding process?

The Indigenous funding process follows a community of practice and inclusion. This process has been designed with Elders, community leaders and knowledge keepers to support projects that will best meet the needs of Indigenous Learners. Read more about the community research here. (Add link to our research)

This process includes:

  1. An Expression of Interest (EOI)- include link that can be handed in electronically or done orally in a face-face meeting with the Indigenous Liaison.
  2. Formal application using the specific Indigenous Proposal (include link), that includes criteria developed with input from the Elders and knowledge keepers in our community research, and budget- include link.
  3. Proposals are then sent to the Indigenous Review Team where proponents are invited to a Question & Answer meeting for an Oral Review. This was a component that the Elders believe is integral to an Indigenous process. Proponents have 15 minutes to present their project orally, and 15 minutes for questions and discussion.
  4. Summaries from the Review Team with recommendations for funding or not, are then sent to the Elders Advisory to validate cultural components, ensure appropriateness and provide the loop back to the Elders on the kind of programs that the community has brought forward.
  5. Recommended programs for funding are then sent to our Calgary Learns Board of Directors for final approval.
  6. All proponents are notified whether they receive funding or not and can meet with the Indigenous Liaison for the Indigenous Review Team feedback and notes.

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Who is on the Indigenous Review Team?

Like all of our review teams at Calgary Learns, the Indigenous Review Team is a carefully curated group of volunteers who bring their expertise, knowledge, and wholistic understanding to the table. All of the Indigenous Review team members are Indigenous themselves.

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How can I find out whether my proposal idea fits Calgary Learns funding?

Advice for anyone with a new proposal idea: Spend time exploring our website to learn about Calgary Learns and our funding mandate. Ensure you can explain how your proposal idea is a strategic addition to what already exists in Calgary for adults who learn at a foundational level.
Here are a few program directories that may help you see what else is available in Calgary:

We have three types of funding:

For the funding type you are interested in, study the Request for Proposals (RFP) to understand our programming areas and eligibility requirements. Be prepared to meet all requirements and answer all questions in the Application.

Before applying you must be able to answer ‘yes’ to all of the following questions:

  • Does your idea fall within one of the three programming areas:
    • Literacy and Foundational Learning (high priority)
    • Indigenous Literacy and Foundational Learning (high priority)
    • Community Capacity Building
  • Do your instructors/facilitators have the skills in facilitating foundational learning?
  • Does your proposed program meet all the eligibility requirements including the following:
    • Is your organization either registered with the province as a non-profit organization or as a federally registered charity? Either one is eligible. Not-for-profit companies are only eligible if incorporated under Part 9 of the provincial Companies Act.
    • Do you have audited financial statements for your last full fiscal year (12 months)?
    • Does your organization have current liability insurance that will cover the proposed activities? If not, we cannot entertain your proposal.

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When does Calgary Learns accept proposals?

Indigenous program Expressions of Interest (EOI): mid November (mandatory first step)

Program and Indigenous proposals: mid January* (decisions announced late May/early June)

Initiative proposals: first business day in June* (decisions announced in late June)

* click above links for specific due dates

All grants are for one year and all activities must take place between July 1 and June 30. Our call for Program and Indigenous proposals are launched in October. The Initiative project call is released in April.

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If our program is funded, are there any required evaluation measures we must track?

Yes. As part of the provincial Community Adult Learning Program (CALP), all funded programs must have a system in place to collect and report evaluation measures as outlined in the Outcomes Measures and Evaluation Guide. We provide a Course List and Measures Tracking form for proposing your program’s course list in your application. The same form is used for reporting on these measures at the end of the funding year

Initiative projects with learners in pilot learning opportunities must track and report an abbreviated list of evaluation measures using the Pilot Course List and Measures Tracking form.

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Do you fund individuals or provide bursaries for individual learners?

No. Our funding is only available to eligible organizations: provincially registered non-profit organizations, charities, and not-for profit companies incorporated under Part 9 of the provincial Corporations Act.

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Must my organization become a Calgary Learns member before applying for funding?

Organizations approved for funding need to become Calgary Learns members from July 1-June 30 of the corresponding funding year. Organizations are not required to become a member before submitting a proposal. Check out our membership.

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What advice does Calgary Learns have for returning applicants?

When currently funded programs reapply we look for how the proposal:

  • Attends to changes in the community context of your program in describing the need for the program: similar programs, and possible synergies with local programs that feed into your program or that your learners move on to. Is your program changing with the world around it?
  • Shows us, in the Program Details section, how you are reflecting and improving on your work. Share evidence of the ways you listen to and accommodate learners, fresh insights, design changes and any  new professional development.
  • Provides any specific information we have asked for in our correspondence with you.

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What should I do if I want to submit a new proposal?

Calgary Learns accepts all proposals that meet our funding mandate and requirements. However, we urge potential applicants to call the Grants Coordinator Jeannie Finch (403-266-6444, ext. 2) or Indigenous Liaison Monique Fry (403.266.6444 ext.4) to discuss new proposal ideas. If your idea appears to fit our mandate and criteria for funding, we invite you to submit a proposal. We also strongly recommend that you book a proposal preview meeting to receive feedback before formally submitting your proposal.

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What is a proposal preview meeting?

We invite applicants to come in for a one-hour proposal preview meeting to discuss your draft proposal and assess its readiness for the review process. These meetings with a Grants Coordinator are available in the month before a proposal deadline. In order to prepare for the discussion, we must receive your draft proposal electronically within 4 business days of the meeting date.


Who reviews my proposal?

Each proposal is logged and screened for eligibility by Calgary Learns staff. Eligible proposals are grouped by programming area and reviewed by a review team chosen for their subject matter expertise..

The review teams’ recommendations are communicated to the Calgary Learns Board of Directors and the Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education (the source of these funds). Funding allocations are ultimately approved jointly by the Board of Directors and the province.

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How do I report on our grant?

Separate reporting formats are available for Program grantsInitiative grants, and Indigenous grants. Click on these links and find the reporting documents in the right-hand column.


Who do I contact if I have more questions about Calgary Learns funding?

Learning for adult newcomers to Canada, including English language learning: Nicky Peeters (403-266-6444 ext 3)

Indigenous adult learning: Monique Fry (403-266-6444 ext.4)

All other adult learning categories and general inquiries: Jeannie Finch (403-266-6444 ext. 2)

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