By Kim Nordbye, project manager Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo
In November 2011, I was seconded by my employer, Suncor Energy, to a project that at the time was called the Wood Buffalo Community Building Project. I was excited for the new adventure but wasn’t really sure what the project would involve. All I knew was the secondment was for one year (and later extended to two) and the Suncor Energy Foundation was trying a new approach to supporting the communities where Suncor operates.
Today, two years later, as my secondment comes to an end, and I go back to Suncor in January, I feel so blessed to have had this incredible opportunity! It’s with mixed emotions that I leave my role as project manager for Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo (renamed in 2012) and return to Suncor. While I’m thrilled to be returning to the community investment team where I started with Suncor in 2000, I’m also sad to leave the incredible role I was given in the Wood Buffalo social profit (nonprofit) sector. But, it’s not really goodbye! Social Prosperity continues for a couple more years and I will absolutely stay involved – just from a different desk.
The Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo project has a goal of building capacity in the community building sector. It is a community-driven collaborative process focused on building and sustaining innovation and social change for improved quality of life. The project emerged from Suncor’s vision to further build quality of life in Wood Buffalo by focusing on building capacity in the nonprofit sector. These organizations are critical to the social fabric of the community, providing services that range from recreation to crisis intervention. If these organizations are strong and better able to provide appropriate services, then the quality of life in the whole community will be impacted.
So, when I arrived to the project in November 2011 I came with all kinds of ideas from the business world, from my experience living in Fort McMurray since 2003, and from working with communities in Wood Buffalo and Calgary through my Suncor roles in stakeholder relations and community investment. I had a pretty good sense of how important the sector is to our community, our province and our country, but what I quickly learned is that I had no idea how pivotal this project would be.
This collective impact project has brought together incredible partners from the Suncor Energy Foundation, the University of Waterloo, the United Way of Fort McMurray, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the private sector and most important the social profit sector in our region. Together, we have been pioneering a new approach to building and sustaining capacity in the sector and in our community. Together, we have been working towards a common goal of helping the community benefit sector be better equipped and positioned to deal with the unique issues and complex challenges we face in our rapidly growing region. Together, we have been building a strong and resilient Wood Buffalo with a social profit sector that has the capacity to meet the community’s needs.
For the past two years, we have focused on developing skills, creating learning opportunities, connecting organizations to resources, learning about social innovation and collective impact and, for me, the most important outcome is we’ve built relationships and trust. Without healthy relationships and trust the different sectors cannot work together to make this region a global model for sustainable living. While I always knew how important relationships were, I’ve learned over the past two years that they cannot be taken for granted and require constant attention and nurturing.
As I transition out of the project manager role, what I’m most inspired by are some of the incredible initiatives that have emerged from the great conversations sparked by Social Prosperity over the past two years. Celebration events such as the Heart of Wood Buffalo Leadership Awards (www.heartofwoodbuffalo.ca), game changing conferences such as ConvergenceYMM (www.convergenceymm.ca) and the creation of FuseSocial (www.fusesocial.ca), the new social profit backbone entity formed through the merger of Volunteer Wood Buffalo, Leadership Wood Buffalo and Nonprofit Sector LINK.
Going forward, I’ll continue to work with Social Prosperity through the project steering committee, so it is a new chapter for me and not goodbye! I’d like to give big thanks to the incredible project team, the steering committee and my secondment leaders, Cathy Glover (Suncor), Nancy Mattes (University of Waterloo) and Diane Shannon (United Way). You have and will continue to be wonderful mentors for me and I look forward to many more adventures together! Another big thanks goes to Suncor for believing in this project and giving me this wonderful opportunity.
As I return to Suncor, I take with me a wealth of experience and new found knowledge that I can share with my colleagues. I am so proud of the sector, its leaders and volunteers for the incredible passion and dedication they have put forward in this project. I have learned so much from you and I thank you for this incredible journey. I return to Suncor knowing that I am now part of an exciting movement in our community!
Watch for news in early 2014, announcing a new Fort McMurray Social Prosperity project manager. In the meantime, you can continue to contact the project director, Nancy Mattes at nancy [at] socialprosperity [dot] ca or reach out to any of our dedicated, local steering committee members: Diane Shannon, Bonnah Carey, Cathy Glover, Russell Thomas, Manny Makia, Bryan Jackson, Heather Evasiuk, Sana Elache, Tim Reid, Ken Chapman and Tracey Carnochan.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
knordbye [at] suncor [dot] com