Commentary: Convening with purpose

In the age of social networking apps and collaborative offices, convening people for meetings, projects and daily tasks is the easiest it has ever been.

However, as the Rockefeller Foundation, Monitor Institute and Monitor Deloitte wrote in a 2013 report, effective convening involves more than just a slate of regular meetings and report-outs; it is a deliberate, intentional and structured process.

The Advanced Energy Centre at MaRS Discovery District and Coalition: Energy in Chicago are both testing and refining the use of an intentional convening process with the energy industry. Both organizations are neutral conveners that foster the adoption of innovative energy technologies and catalyze broader systemic change in the sector.

The Advanced Energy Centre’s work entails coordinating multiple actors to reach outcomes that no one of them could achieve on their own. The key insight that informs its work is that unique, facilitated collaboration drives greater value for the system as a whole. MaRS and Coalition: Energy are two groundbreaking examples of the types of organizations we need to unlock the economic opportunities of the innovation economy. By working together, they can learn from one another and educate others about the value that systems change thinking can bring.

MaRS and the Centre have a track record of delivering complex, multi-stakeholder projects – a good example is the Centre’s work to bring the Green Button Standard to Ontario. This standard allows consumers to access and share their electricity usage data in a standardized, secure manner.

Access to smart meter data – and the ability to share that data with innovative applications, products, services, and solutions – can help households and businesses conserve energy and better manage their electricity bills. With 4.7 million residential smart meters installed, Ontario is well placed to adopt the White House-led Green Button standard for open energy data, but the complex nature of the Ontario market means that no one actor can move alone.

Coalition: Energy is a neutral, unrestricted space for interaction with energy industry insiders that is linked to a wide range of members and mentors. Coalition: Energy invites the energy community to come together at least once a month for strategic industry engagement initiatives. A new partner is invited each month, providing networking for energy industry thought leaders and educational topics including recent smart grid findings, upcoming topical summits, and investor opportunities.

Coalition regularly brings together corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, job seekers, nonprofits, and others who wouldn’t normally meet. The reoccurring events have helped establish Coalition: Energy as an energy hub in the Midwest. Coalition: Energy sees its partnerships and collaborations as invaluable resources in convening the energy industry in a purposeful manner.

Both innovation hubs – the MaRS Advanced Energy Centre and Coalition: Energy – provide resources to innovators in the energy and cleantech community in their cities and across the US and Canada. Each understands that although energy systems are rapidly evolving and complex in nature, breaking down barriers to create a community where thought leaders and change agents can access information, receive support, and thrive is essential to driving systems change.

Learn more

Coalition: Energy (@CoalitionChi) is an innovative coworking hub of professionals in energy located in downtown Chicago. Startups, corporations, local government, and consulates flock to its bustling energy community. From consultants to venture firms to transportation sharing, it covers a large area of the energy and cleantech industry. Valued members like Schneider Electric with its global presence and well-deserved respect in the energy industry play an important role in the Coalition: Energy community.

Join Coalition: Energy on Thursday, December 3 for “The Current” — its collaborative monthly happy hour and networking series. “Clean Energy Trust Challenge” is the theme of this month’s event. Be sure to RSVP.

MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD) in Toronto is one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs. MaRS cultivates high-impact ventures and equips innovators to drive economic and societal prosperity. MaRS provides expert advice and market research, and makes connections to talent, customers and capital. MaRS startup ventures have created 6,500 jobs and, in the last three years alone, they have raised $1 billion in capital and generated $500 million in revenue.

The Advanced Energy Centre (#AECmars) is a public-private partnership with the mission of fostering the adoption of innovative energy technologies in Ontario and Canada, and leveraging those successes and experiences into international markets. The Centre works with Canadian startups and Small Medium Enterprises in the cleantech and, specifically, the energy sector. Its role is to actively develop partnerships that will help bring these technologies to global markets. Within Canada, the Centre works to identify and remove systemic barriers to the adoption of energy innovation.

Ian Philp leads the development of programs that catalyze export opportunities for Canadian small- and medium-sized energy technology companies. 

Kathleen Gnocato is an Associate at the Advanced Energy Centre (AEC). In her role, she facilitates dialogue with key energy players to address barriers to innovation in the energy sector and produces thought leadership around this topic.

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