The inaugural Forward Summit took place from February 26-28, 2019 at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Forward Summit brought together over 500 delegates, 32 exhibitors, and organizations representing 40+ Indigenous communities from across Canada. Indigenous and industry though-leaders joined this initiative to share experiences and ideas to further the goal of economic reconciliation.
The format for the three-day conference included high production panel sessions with a combination of Indigenous and industry thought-leaders. Main panel sessions provided information on key topics surrounding economic and workforce landscape for Indigenous communities and businesses. Attendees were then invited to join the roundtable discussions and workshops to get more involved and share their experiences with expert panelists. Panel sessions covered a variety of topics including; mining, forestry, major projects, hydrocarbons, capacity building, market access, attracting capital, supply chain, renewables, the nascent cannabis industry and many more. The conference program was designed to assist the goal in aiding the fulfillment of Recommendation #92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, which specifically calls on the corporate sector.
Over the course of the three-day Summit, Indigenous and non-Indigenous attendees embraced the opportunity to collaborate and share experiences during various activities. Encouraged by the unique exhibition floor layout, networking lounge and reception, Forward Summit created an intimate environment that fostered new relationships and grew existing ones. Through the Forward Summit meeting app, attendees connected with like-minded individuals and scheduled meetings in the networking lounge. The feedback obtained from delegates indicated that the networking aspect of Forward Summit helped evolve the conversations introduced in key panel and roundtable sessions. Based on post-show survey data, 91% of the attendees stated that conversations throughout the show directly resulted or should result in new business or opportunities for themselves, their organization or community.
The focused shifted from Indigenous economies, the theme of session topics on day one and two at the summit, as HR professionals joined the conversation in a full day of panels and workshops related to Indigenous workforce development. Workforce Forward discussed employment and education as an avenue to Economic Reconciliation and included panel sessions such as Creating Pathways to Employment and Indigenous Youth Participation in STEM fields.
Attendees at Entrepreneurs Forward, a small business conference hosted in conjunction to Forward Summit, enjoyed a full schedule of panels from Indigenous entrepreneurs. These business owners also had a chance to hear a special keynote delivered by W. Brett Wilson, former dragon on CTV’s Dragon’s Den.
Forward Summit also incorporated an employment program for Indigenous youth. The Indigenous Students Career Fair, hosted by LYNX Indigenous Career Connection, encouraged students and alumni to come down and converse with organizations actively looking to recruit within the Indigenous community. Participants in the Career Fair included; Westjet, Syncrude, Suncor, Imperial and more.
Highlights from this year’s Forward Summit included;
- Teck Resources discusses community relationships and agreements on major Frontier Project.
- LNG Canada and Gitxaala Nation discuss the evolution of their relationship.
- Minister Shannon Phillips delivers welcome address and announces the next round of Renewable Electricity Program (REP) and its Indigenous focus.
- Entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den “Dragon” W. Brett Wilson delivers lunch keynote to Forward Summit delegates.
- Tata Consultancy Services and Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business release report on approach to bridging emerging digital technologies to Indigenous businesses and communities.
As a result of the support from communities and organizations involved, year two of Forward Summit is now in production and scheduled for Spring of 2020. Next spring, Forward Summit will build on it’s initial success and offer more unique sessions as well as welcome a larger community and industry presence.
For more information on highlights from Forward Summit, download the post-show report below: