Leveraging Energy Transition to Overcome Barriers for Marginalized Communities

How can we leverage today’s energy transition to overcome barriers for entrepreneurs who identify as or work in service of marginalized communities to succeed as the Canadian economy recovers?


Defining the Challenge

The Issue: To enable an equitable and inclusive energy transition, otherwise known as a “just transition,” no person or community can be left behind, especially those who have been historically marginalized.

The Opportunity: To support work conducted by or in service of underrepresented groups in Alberta, including that of women, Indigenous peoples and young entrepreneurs.

Response to the Innovation Challenge: The Energy Futures Lab is allocating staff expertise, funds and resources to engage with and directly support these entrepreneurs through tailored programming and engagement.

Learn More

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed our ability, as a global community, to mobilize and effect change at an unprecedented rate. In Canada, the pandemic response has resulted in a “build back better” movement. In other words, the pandemic has presented our country with an opportunity to address a number of deep, systemic challenges that have shaped our social, economic and environmental systems. But to truly “build back better,” we need to recognize that certain communities of entrepreneurs have been historically disadvantaged, receiving far less support than others. As such, many of these entrepreneurs are at less of an advantage than some of their counterparts.  

In order to ensure a prosperous and inclusive future, Canada’s diversification strategies must embrace diversity, both in terms of the perspectives that shape these strategies and the people or programs they support. 

This innovation challenge is focused on supporting historically marginalized groups such as women, youth and Indigenous entrepreneurs who are actively involved in or being impacted by Alberta’s transition to a clean energy economy.

Unlocking the Challenge

A growing awareness of social inequality is now playing a key role in today’s decision making. We recognize that economic and technological successes are underpinned by communal values, interests and needs that ultimately represent a diversity of perspectives and cultures. As Canadians navigate the global energy transition, we require solutions spaces that support system wide change. These solutions must account for the interconnectedness between our social systems and our energy system. 

This challenge is guided by the following question: How can we leverage today’s energy transition to overcome barriers for entrepreneurs who identify as or work in service of marginalized communities to succeed as the Canadian economy recovers?

In response to this Innovation Challenge, identified by Energy Futures Lab Fellows and Partners, the Energy Futures Lab is committed to allocating staff expertise, funds and resources to engage with and directly support historically underrepresented entrepreneurs through tailored programming and engagement.

Innovation Approach

To achieve a inclusive and equitable energy transition, the Energy Futures Lab approach to supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs is as follows:

Baseline assessment and needs inventory. We work directly with entrepreneurs in our network and beyond to assess their baseline strengths, needs and areas where further support will optimize success.

Customized engagement and programming. Based on the needs identification for entrepreneurs from identified groups within the Energy Futures Lab Fellowship, we develop a customized approach to help position these individuals and their organizations for success. 

Convening stakeholders. Leveraging our convening power and expertise, these custom engagements bring together a curated group of stakeholders specifically designed to address barriers and accelerate progress of projects and initiatives led by these identified groups. Wherever possible and most needed, the Energy Futures Lab will offer small bursaries to support the participation of underrepresented groups in workshops and training programs, including in the Energy Futures Lab Fellowship.  

Communications. Our communications team works one on one with entrepreneurs to craft and execute a compelling communications plan and to share their stories with target audiences. As a social innovation lab, we have learned that strong communications efforts help generate more support for innovators by way of deepening public interest, understanding and investment.

What We’ve Accomplished

  • The initiation and launch of the Youth Seed Fund to provide Alberta youth with funding aimed at supporting local climate and energy-related projects. 
  • Initiative and continued development of the Behind Closed Doors: The Reality of Energy Poverty in Alberta project to share people’s lived experiences, highlight existing efforts and advocate for more timely solutions for Albertans living in energy poverty.

Challenge Partners

This work is made possible thanks to funding from Prairies Economic Development Canada | Développement économique Canada pour les Prairies. Their generous contribution will allow us to continue engaging with rural marginalized communities across Alberta as the energy transition unfolds.

Next Steps

If you are an entrepreneur who identifies as or works in service of marginalized communities, please reach out if you have a project idea that could use the support of the Energy Futures Lab. 


For more information, please contact:

Kelley Thompson
Lab Operations Manager, Energy Futures Lab