To collectively create the energy system the future requires of us, we invite change-makers to start with the end in mind. 

Through an innovation approach called “backcasting,” we invite collaborators to position themselves in this energy future and “look backwards” to identify new ideas and actions that:

  • are necessary to make this future a reality,  
  • are stepping stones for future possibilities, and 
  • generate social and economic benefits to seed future steps.  

We celebrate people’s unique perspectives and experiences. 

We draw on the diverse perspectives of our Fellows, Convening Partners and support team to collaboratively explore solutions for our energy future. 

We believe that in order to successfully steward Canada’s energy transition we must continually listen and learn from one another. By celebrating different perspectives, we actively demonstrate our group agreements: 

We hold space in service of:

  • Supporting each other to engage with courage, listen actively, and be open to new ideas, ways of thinking, and feedback;
  • Allowing tensions to foster creativity and innovation where we challenge ideas, not people;
  • Addressing systemic barriers and the possibilities of intersectional diversity, while acknowledging our biases, assumptions, and judgments; and
  • Maintaining shared trust, respect, and confidentiality.

We learn by doing.

In the spirit of uncovering sustainable, equitable and prosperous solutions for our energy future, we are committed to experimentation and learning. We believe in the power of ideation and iteration and pivot our approaches as new insights and understandings emerge.

The purpose of experimentation is also deeply linked to the importance of collaboration. No single idea, person or technology can independently drive our energy transition. Rather, we require a diversity of perspectives, technologies and approaches to instill resilience within our evolving energy system. By experimenting, we test how various approaches interact within and across systems, while further identifying potential opportunities or barriers.

We focus on systems thinking. 

Energy transition is a complex, multi-faceted challenge. Systems-thinking accounts for the interconnectedness between various components of a given system (i.e. society and the biosphere) and allows us to better understand how components interact, change or evolve.

The ancient parable of the blind men and an elephant perfectly depicts the importance of systems thinking. In this story, we are invited to consider how an elephant might appear to a group of blind men. Each person reaches out a hand and touches a different part of the animal’s enormous body. Perhaps one man feels a tusk, while another grabs a tail or trunk. Then, with limited insight, each man attempts to describe the elephant. The men are surprised, at times even disgruntled, as their experiences do not align. Some become mistrustful, thinking they have been lied to. Yet not one of these men were capable of seeing the whole elephant. Rather, they were each gifted a unique understanding and only when pieced together could they begin to understand the full presence of this animal. 

The same thinking can be applied to our energy system: we each carry different understandings and insights into the broader system. By working collaboratively, we weave our knowledge to uncover new solutions and a deeper understanding of the system in which we are working. 

We focus on social innovation. 

We are an Alberta-based social innovation lab focused on addressing complex sustainability challenges impacting Canada’s energy transition. 

In the energy transition space, social innovation can be understood in the following context: if a technology is viable, what else might be inhibiting its uptake? In this sense, social innovation involves looking at our energy system holistically to enable, shift or encourage new ideas, policies and practices conducive to energy system transformation. 

While innovation is often considered technological, there are many important social factors underpinning the success of our energy transition. We draw on social innovation approaches to address the complex and often polarizing challenges shaping today’s energy landscape. Together, we are exploring how changes to our social systems can help accelerate the transition to the energy system the future requires of us. We focus on efforts such as: 

  • Raising cultural awareness and shifting mindsets
  • Fostering social or political acceptance
  • Surfacing new policy ideas
  • Clearing regulatory barriers
  • Developing new business models
  • Shifting financial resource flows
  • Capturing emerging narratives 
  • And more…

We evolve as our context shifts.  

As the global community works to create a net-zero future, the ways in which we use and produce energy continue to evolve. Meanwhile, Alberta’s energy sector must rise to the task of delivering transformative solutions aligned with the energy system the future requires of us. But addressing complex challenges like those relating to energy development is no easy feat. In order to navigate such uncertain terrain, we must adopt a flexible approach as we track and measure our progress towards evolving goals. One such approach is called Developmental Evaluation. 

Developmental Evaluation is an evaluation framework used to support innovation occurring  within uncertain environments. Unlike many traditional approaches, Developmental Evaluation allows for emergence and exploration and can be applied to ongoing innovation processes wherein both the path and the destination are subject to change. 

By applying Developmental Evaluation to complex challenges, innovators can more effectively:

  • Map the path to breakthrough results
  • Enable exploration and development
  • Capture emerging learning and insights to evolve the work
  • Uncover expected and unexpected outcomes
  • Support the process of innovation to disrupt and transition the system

“A new generation of leaders is poised to take the reigns in business, government and community organizations across Alberta. Their future-focused orientation and global outlook will create a wave of innovation and change for our communities.”

Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton