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A New Partner in Deepening Communities

Posted on May 23, 2017
By Tamarack Institute

Blog for Kris - Crop 1 .jpgTamarack is thrilled that the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) has invested in the work of Deepening Community. In introducing our new partner, we want to give Kim Nordbye, Manager of Community Investment at SEF, the opportunity to tell us more about Suncor’s support for community engagement. Here’s our Q & A with Kim.

Tell us a little bit about why Suncor is interested in community investment. 

The simple answer is that we’re part of the communities that we work in. It’s important to us that our business is contributing to economic prosperity, minimizing our environmental impact, and helping to build stronger communities for today and tomorrow. Suncor is committed to using its strengths and capabilities to actively engage in the creation of resilient and sustainable communities. Our commitment to community engagement goes back to 1998, when we created the Suncor Energy Foundation to support community-based initiatives and effective collaborations.

What are you excited about in the partnership with Tamarack? 

Our relationship with Tamarack began about 10 years ago when we sought help to rethink our Foundation strategy, looking at our first 10 years and where we should go next. That led us to a significant shift towards social innovation. We began to use the book Getting to Maybe as a guide for our giving strategy, and Tamarack became an ongoing thinking partner for us. Tamarack helped us develop a five-year initiative called Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo, our first true journey into social innovation, where we looked to improve quality of life in the community by building capacity at an organizational level with social profits. This led us to later work with Frances Westley to launch a social innovation residency program at the Banff Centre, focused on capacity-building at the systems level. We continue to look for opportunities that will enhance quality of life through key concepts and tools such as social innovation, collaboration, collective impact, systems change, etc., at various levels of the community system.  We feel that Tamarack’s Deepening Community initiative offers an opportunity to foster this mindset at a grassroots citizen level, but on a national scale. 

It is a little unusual for an energy company to engage in community innovation, but I’m gratified by the positive impact we can have. It is wonderful to work with leaders who have so much commitment and passion to make their communities a better place. 

Can you tell us about SEF’s investment priorities and some of your other community investments? 

Our priority investment areas include Indigenous, Energy Transition, Community Resilience, and Place-Based Priorities and Employee Engagement. Within these areas, we are looking to build skills and knowledge, cultivate community leaders, and inspire innovation while advancing the needle on some key challenges.

We’ve invested in community projects like Wheels to Lambton in Sarnia, FuseSocial in Wood Buffalo, the Energy Futures Lab with The Natural Step, Indspire, and the Getting to Maybe Social Innovation Residency at the Banff Centre. For our employees, we offer a SunCares program across our operations (Canada, U.S., and International).  

Tamarack just hosted a poverty reduction summit in Hamilton, ON, in which we highlighted the role of businesses engaged in reducing poverty. Can you talk a little about businesses and social good?

Businesses have a responsibility to their customers, their employees, and the communities where they work. But at Suncor, we want to help build social good, because we all have a shared aspiration for a better world. We recognize that addressing complex social problems requires all voices at the table – business, citizens, government, non-profits, everyone. 

What are you looking forward to over the Tamarack partnership? 

In the near term, we’re looking forward to the Deepening Community gathering in Montreal in June! And longer term, we’re excited to work together with you on a transformative initiative that happens at a grassroots level and has national impact.

Further Reading:


Community Building, Cities Deepening Community

Tamarack Institute

By Tamarack Institute

The Tamarack Institute is a connected force for community change. We work with leaders in non-profits, governments, businesses and the community to make work of advancing positive community change easier and more effective. We do this by teaching and writing about collective impact, community engagement, collaborative leadership, community development, and evaluating community impact. We host two learning communities Cities Reducing Poverty and Cities Deepening Community turning theory into action.

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