On Jan. 25, Newo returned to its roots, hosting an event reminiscent of the Spirit of the Land conferences at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus; those conversations planted a desire to enact real-world change that resulted in Newo’s formation.

Before a room of about 35 people gathered at Roundhouse, Newo’s co-working space in Edmonton, speakers laid out visions of a healthy world where people thrive, and described the progress already making those visions reality. Attendees from disparate backgrounds and community organizations gathered at round tables, engaging with the systemic problems of Canadian society with creativity, determination and hope.

The occasion was a visit by five team members from Raven Indigenous Impact Foundation (RIIF), who were in Alberta to facilitate ongoing discussions about supporting community energy transition within the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), soon to be more properly known as the Otipemisiwak Métis Government.​​ This was the first session of what Raven calls an Indigenous Solutions Lab.

According to Raven, “Inspired by the age-old Indigenous practice of ‘gathering around the Council fire’ to solve community issues, the Lab process is guided by values of Indigenous sovereignty, collaborative problem-solving, inclusivity, and trust.”

The Lab is part of Raven’s innovative Community-Driven Outcomes Contract (CDOC) process. CDOCs are Indigenous-inspired pay-for-performance investment vehicles whereby, as Raven puts it, “money acts as medicine,” with good relations as the foundation for positive outcomes. This model was pioneered by Raven and Aki Energy alongside Fisher River Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation in Manitoba.

In brief, CDOCs engage private capital to fund meaningful social programs that improve outcomes in Indigenous communities, Subsequently, government and other invested parties purchase some of the many benefits generated by those programs – everyone wins. (Read more here.)

The Lab helps establish the necessary relationships between different stakeholders, including community, Indigenous social enterprises, field experts, and different levels of government. Attendees included representatives from the Government of Alberta, City of Edmonton, CMHC, Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, Prairies Economic Development Canada, Trade Winds to Success, Retrofit Canada, Children of the North, and SPICE.

The focus of the Lab in Edmonton was to learn about the impressive work the MNA Environment and Climate Change Department is doing, and to explore the possibility of installing solar and energy-efficiency retrofits on 150 MNA housing units, with training and employment opportunities for MNA citizens.

The conversation is ongoing, and we look forward to sharing more about Raven’s exciting approach in the coming months.