Hitting the Reset on Energy-Related Engagement and Collaboration

In today’s blog post, our Calgary office managing partner Beth Diamond shares some of the issues she addressed with guests and participants at the recent Walrus Energy Leadership Dinner she co-chaired.


I have been working with energy clients as a public relations advisor for more than 30 years.  I have never felt more challenged by an environment that increasingly makes energy development more difficult and more expensive.  What we are doing just isn’t working.  We can’t go on like this; but we have to find a way to go on.

Much of what we do to establish and maintain good relationships with stakeholders who can impact our businesses is important, necessary, thoughtful and even strategic. And yet, the positive impact is slow and partial and our best-intentioned collaboration strategies still miss the mark in some ways.  Projects are most often characterized as “battles” even before consultation begins.

I don’t have the answer or magic bullet, but I know that the Walrus dinner brought together some of the best minds working on the issue of public permission for energy projects– individual corporate leaders, academics, regulators, and government representatives.

But we also have to realize that while we can – and should – continue to advocate, educate, inform, and consult, we need to reset the relationship, not just with affected stakeholders, but with our fellow citizens. And collaboration and co-creation are going to be at the heart of a successful reset.

Here are four ideas to consider:

1. We need to collaborate sooner and more formally with those we impact

This means we attempt to agree sooner (even before we decide to apply to do something) on formal shared goals in energy development and delivery. Once we agree that we have a shared objective – like needing energy – we are talking about how to get something done and not if.  And we must refuse to use the language of combat when discussing projects and stop setting ourselves up for failure by referring to applications as “battles.”

2. Collaborating with fellow citizens

We need to acknowledge the off-carbon agenda and be a visible and vocal part of the long term transition to lower impact energy. We must try to be seen as collaborative participants in that transition, and not a barrier to it. In reality, we are all engaged in producing and delivering transition energy – that energy required to sustain our lives and economies while we move toward increasingly lower impact energy sources.

3. Collaborating with the full breadth of the energy sector (and those who develop the policies and regulations that impact it)

We need a Canadian energy strategy, which means that we need leadership, a national common ground and a clear vision of the energy mix of the future.

4. Collaborating with innovators and bold thinkers

Dealing with – and ultimately solving – big issues requires big thinkers. We must partner with creative and innovative thinkers in consensus building and economic development. We need to look beyond the usual industry sources to those not normally associated with resource development. We need to develop new skills in negotiating and convening.

Those are just a few ideas discussed at the Walrus dinner. I hope readers will generate more because we, as energy producers and consumers, really can’t go on like this.