Not just investing, but investing in ourselves

Aug 24, 2016 by Énergir in Community
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This will not be the first time I talk about social engagement or community involvement. In these times of government budget crunches, community organizations sometimes find themselves in more precarious situations and private companies are increasingly being solicited to help them financially. Now, more than ever, we need to talk about corporate social responsibility.

I want Énergir to rally people around a vision, awaken minds to the difficult realities of our society and create a movement for causes that lack visibility.

Extraordinary organizations and individuals have shown me that this is possible. The burst of generosity I witnessed at the Soup for Her challenge, launched with L’Effet A in support of Herstreet, showed us the strength of coming together, as well as the power of shared ambitions.

A tradition of involvement

Énergir employees also prove to me every day that it is possible to make a difference and generate positive impacts in our community.

Located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, Énergir’s head office is far from the reality of downtown Montréal. Here, our team exists in the heart of a neighbourhood that provides us with a daily reminder of the importance of pulling together and being aware of inequality to better alleviate it.

It would be impossible to list all of our employees’ individual initiatives, but I can talk about the actions of some of our groups. One is the Hochelaga school advocacy committee, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary and which brings joy year after year to over 80 children from underprivileged areas. Another is the team of technicians in our Bleu études program who share their passion for their trade with high school students at École Chomedey-de-Maisonneuve to encourage them to complete high school. And then there are the dozens of employees who each year devote themselves to raising money through a multitude of activities and who deliver hundreds of Christmas baskets to the poorest families in the Hochelaga neighbourhood.

The ecosystem of civil society in action

But beyond the involvement of individuals, the business world as a whole must become sensitive to the desperate needs of these organizations. Companies need to take care of communities, simply because they are an integral part of them. As a social actor in society’s ecosystem, a company can give meaning to the work we do.

Two inseparable elements stand out in this regard: the need to pull together to advance, and the audacity to ask that people pull together.

The example of ruelle

The ruelle de l’avenir is the result of conviction. The conviction that education has the power to break the cycle of poverty, that it is the greatest equalizer in the quest for success and that it must be accessible to all children, whatever the socioeconomic condition of their families. The ruelle has become a powerful crucible, arising from the pooled energies of the private sector, the community and the educational milieu.

Alice Waters and her School Lunch Initiative are what inspired us and what gave rise in 2008 to the idea of creating the ruelle, a sort of laboratory where children can “learn differently.” The ruelle was therefore born out of a company’s desire and the desire of men and women who joined forces to create a powerful flagship project that would give teachers innovative tools and children the aspiration to stay in their schools longer.

It didn’t take long to see results. A study conducted between 2009 and 2012 by researcher Roch Chouinard showed that the ruelle de l’avenir program had a positive impact on young people, notably by reducing school absences, increasing motivation and the sense of competence, and by improving mathematical problem-solving performance.

Commitment to our community is our duty. I deeply hope that our actions can inspire others, and that society’s stakeholders pursue efforts to rally individuals and replicate successes.