Working towards strong, sustainable communities takes the effort of many voices, with a variety of perspectives and experiences. With that in mind, the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) hosted its fourth Gathering from May 2-4. About 155 funding partners, social innovators, government and community representatives, Indigenous youth, thought leaders and Suncor team members attended the event which explores complex social issues. This year’s event focused on storytelling, community resilience and diverse collaboration. The Gathering does not seek to solve these issues, but provides a forum for diverse networks to:
- connect existing work and initiatives
- take a system-wide view
- explore a variety of perspectives
- strengthen partnerships
The theme of this year’s Gathering was ‘There is No Us and Them- the Nature of Paradox.’ According to Lori Hewson, Suncor director of Community Investment and social innovation, the theme allowed for deeper reflection with partners on some of the challenges and opportunities experienced when groups collectively work for change.
“Coming together we recognize the value of diversity, and the creative tension that comes along with that. The role of the Gathering is to bring everyone together to spark innovation and to see what new possibilities emerge,” says Lori.
At this year’s Gathering, select participants were also invited to act as witnesses. Mike Lickers, Suncor senior advisor Indigenous relations, says the role of the witness is traditional in Indigenous West Coast ceremonies.
“Those who agree to witness are responsible for ensuring the community knows of the event and they vouch for the integrity of the ceremony for future reference. This is not an easy task, or one taken lightly. Witnesses may be called upon to remember what happened, who said what and so on.”
The Gathering had nine witnesses represented by three community partners, four young Indigenous leaders, and two Suncor representatives.
“What I will be taking with me and sharing is the generosity of spirit, of us as human beings to show up and do the work that we do. In essence we’ve been invited to co-create, to start our stories from the beginning and weave them together,” said Alexia McKinnon, associate director, Indigenous Leadership, Banff Centre and Gathering Witness.
The SEF team is currently consolidating the witness reflections and other insights from those who attended.
“These will be valuable inputs as we continue to work with and learn from community partners, and contribute to building community resilience and lasting change,” sums up Lori.
Happy Birthday Suncor Energy Foundation
The 2018 Gathering marked a special milestone for the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary. SEF Board members past and present, along with community partners, celebrated with a birthday themed dinner.
SEF was the vision of the late Rick George, former Suncor president and chief executive officer. Rick imagined a charitable organization which would support community-based initiatives to enhance quality of life in Suncor’s key operating communities and add value through effective collaborations. Pat O’Reilly, Director Outreach & Disclosure, Suncor, was part of the Foundation’s founding team.
“What Rick liked about a Foundation was the permanence,” says Pat. “He also saw it as a visible symbol of our commitment to community. He was a visionary who cared deeply for the communities where we operated, and believed we had an obligation to give back.”
Photo: Attendees of the Gathering took part in an outdoor breakout session at the 2018 Gathering. More than 150 thought leaders, community partners, employees and young leaders took part in the Suncor Energy Foundation Gathering May 2-4.