In the five years he’s been with Alectra, Blair Peberdy has seen a lot of growth at the utilities company. But, he insists, “everybody has to come along with that success” — including the people who live in the communities Alectra serves.

“The population of Barrie is growing, which is exciting,” says Peberdy, the company’s vice-president of government and corporate relations. “But we also see the issues the region is facing. It’s going to take innovative approaches to address some of the challenges ahead.” At Alectra, innovation is more than a buzzword. Green energy and technologies have become “core to the company, because we know now that climate change is very real,” he says. And the creative energy doesn’t stop there. Formed when four utility companies merged in 2017, Alectra continued to support those organizations’ charitable efforts but wanted to find ways to innovate within its giving program as well.

“The concept of Alectra being an ally to the communities and stakeholders it serves” became a rallying cry, says Peberdy. The company developed a social-impact program called AlectraCARES and began searching for partners who could help bring its vision to life. That’s where the RVH Foundation came in.

“We asked RVH Foundation, ‘What are the areas of real need you’re seeing that we could direct our support to?’” he says. “That led to a really good conversation and a program developed for Alectra by the Foundation.” The Alectra Fund for Health & Social Innovation was established earlier this year. Initially, it will fund research in two areas: one study will look at the impact that conversations about patients’ treatment goals can have on improving seniors’ quality of life; the second is a partnership with Community Builders, an affordable-housing social enterprise in Simcoe County, to evaluate the impact that a wraparound approach of health services could have on the youth enrolled in their trades training and diversity program.  

“Our crews see [people experiencing homelessness] on the streets when they are out there,” says Peberdy. “If this housing program can remain viable, it will benefit everyone by reducing the numbers of [people in] this population who are showing up at the hospital in distress.”

Peberdy praises the RVH Foundation for its openness and willingness to find common ground with Alectra. “I would say to any company that is thinking of reaching out to RVH Foundation: Talk to them. Find the intersection between what your company is doing and their needs. They will find opportunities that may not have been obvious,” he says. “It’s more than just cutting a cheque.”

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