Influencing and Informing Decision-Makers: Clean Energy Canada’s Use of Dialogue in Building Canada’s Battery Industry

May 05, 2021

By: Claire Patterson, Marketing and Engagement Assistant at Morris J. Wosk Centre For Dialogue

If Canada emerges as a home to a globally competitive lithium ion battery industry, it won’t be by accident states Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada. Canada has many of the ingredients needed  to become a leader in battery production, but there are limits to what can be achieved if  stakeholders along the battery supply chain aren’t communicating with each other. Clean Energy Canada is leading the country's transition to clean energy  through deliberately convening stakeholders to connect on a human level, through conversation and dialogue. 

The goal is to “catalyze pan-Canadian cross-sectoral collaboration on clean industrial growth while optimizing jobs and investments''. The dialogue event had the aspirations to meet that goal by bringing together participants from different sectors across  the battery supply chain. This included folks who work in the mining and auto sectors, in labour, academia and consulting. Sixteen participants from across Canada came together, by gathering virtually over March 30th and 31st of 2021. 

How do feelings play into a discussion about building an industry? They seem irrelevant but building trust and alignment among stakeholders--even in a business context--can go a long way to achieving goals. Facilitator of the event Merran Smith recalled the importance of hosting the conversation in a dialogue format, highlighting emotions as an important aspect of reaching the goal of cross sector collaboration. “Feelings are indicators of problems, hopes and barriers,” states Smith. Taking a values-based approach  proved successful in facilitating feelings of social cohesion among the group and building energy and alignment around potential pathways forward. Participants across sectors used Zoom’s chat function and sent personal coordinates to continue interpersonal conversations beyond the timing allotted for the event.

The dialogue format further brought a sense of comfort to participants. Being in dialogue about the creation of a new clean energy industry (batteries)  allowed organizations to connect over their individual and shared goals. As one player can’t build this new industry  alone, knowing where others are at and the commitment they have to the process provided confidence for organizations to take next steps. This allowed the dialogue to become a space for exchanging ideas, learning about each others’ needs and developing joint  recommendations, states Kyriazis.

Recommendations that came from the participants of the dialogue have a weight in influencing government decisions as they come already being backed by stakeholders in the industry. The space was unique as it allowed different sectors to workshop ideas outside of the governmental arena, making for a free-flowing, experimental space.

This workshopping came through the dialogue process of deep listening, exchanging ideas and seeking to understand the needs of folks in different sectors to reach potential recommendations. Reciprocity is at the forefront of the dialogue process, and parts of the overall report, particularly the  policy recommendations, were sent back to participants for feedback. 

Dialogue as a format for informing policy recommendations shows promise as an innovative way to ideate. With a focus on increasing understanding between sectors that usually don’t have channels of communication, dialogue can be a way to bring comfort to organizations as they take next steps in advancing a new industry such as building a domestic battery supply chain. Dialogue is allowing Clean Energy Canada to influence and inform decision-makers  when it comes to building Canada’s battery industry, paving a path for Canada to be a world leader in clean energy.

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The views and opinions expressed in the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue blogs are those of the authors, and they do not necessarily reflect the official position of Simon Fraser University, SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue or any other affiliated institutions in any way.