CBSR Blog: ATB Financial and Calgary Homeless Foundation – Embracing New Models of Partnership

CBSR Blog: ATB Financial and Calgary Homeless Foundation – Embracing New Models of Partnership

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 1:30pm

As Canadian businesses integrate social and environmental commitments into their organizations, those with a strong history of community involvement are moving away from traditional corporate philanthropy and sponsorship toward models with a much wider impact. ATB Financial and the Calgary Homeless Foundation recently announced a partnership which shows how a business can integrate their expertise with their community involvement strategy to help address some of the most challenging social issues of our time.

ATB Financial is the largest Alberta-based financial institution, with more than 635,000 customers in 244 communities. “ATB has been providing financial services to Albertans for more than 70 years. Our staff and our corporate commitment have a deep connection to the needs and priorities of communities across Alberta,” states Peggy Garritty, Senior Vice President of Reputation and Brand. “Through conversations with Tim and the Calgary Homeless Foundation, we recognized the value of a partnership that would leverage our banking skills and financial expertise to help with the complex issue of homelessness.  The result is the ATB Social Enterprise Incubator.”

As Alberta’s economy has grown, homelessness has grown alongside. From 1994 to 2006, Calgary had the fastest growing homeless population in Canada. In 2008 the Provincial Government created thePlan for Alberta - a multi-partner approach which works with organizations in seven municipalities. One of these organizations is the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), whose ten year plan to end homelessness targets the year 2018. Outcomes include ensuring that no person will spend more than one-week in an emergency shelter. Progress to date includes the development of a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) which enables the numerous government, community and faith-based agencies involved to develop a better understanding of who is being served and what is required to end homelessness. Through these efforts over 4,000 people have been housed and for the first time in 20 years of counting, homelessness in Calgary is decreasing.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation recognized early that the complexity of homelessness meant that their plan to end it would benefit from the expertise and leadership that corporate leaders apply to the complexities they regularly face in business. Although ending homelessness has a different outcome than a private sector project, the knowledge and thinking that leading CEO’s are bringing to this problem have helped CHF develop their guiding principles.

“The leadership we received from the Calgary business community has been exemplary. It was this model of coming up with solutions through leveraging expertise that we continue to build with our ATB Financial partnership,” says Tim Richter, President and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation. “Internationally and also here in Canada there are great examples of how alternative investment vehicles like Social Impact Bonds, Community Bonds, and Social Enterprise are being used to meet community needs. With ATB Financial’s support and expertise we are going to examine and pilot these routes for funding.”

For the next three years, ATB Financial is providing both seed funding and its financial sector expertise. Their support and investment will be a fraction of what will be raised through these financial tools. “ATB Financial’s vision in supporting this kind of community development is to provide long-term assistance to end homelessness in Calgary,” comments Mr. Richter.

ATB Financial has a history of getting involved in communities and using the expertise and commitment of their staff to help out whenever it’s needed. “We are excited about the opportunity to take what we’re good at and lend that expertise to help solve a pressing challenge like ending homelessness,” says Ms. Garritty. “This is the kind of community support we think will be a model for addressing other social issues in communities across the province. As a business committed to corporate responsibility, we are interested in creating positive change, and we look forward to sharing the knowledge gained through this partnership.”

“For years people focused on managing homelessness, comments Mr. Richter. “Now we have the government’s commitment to end homelessness and the way to accomplish that is through new and innovative partnerships that ensure a wide base of long term support. Thanks to businesses like ATB Financial, we are continuing on the way to this goal.”