This pandemic has presented a series of complex balancing acts for businesses, like when to open your doors or work from home and how to manage health regulations. For businesses especially, there is no doubt that over the past two years the scales tipped to create a digitally dependent world.
Digital platforms were important for small businesses before the pandemic, but now, “If you don’t have a digital platform, you may as well not exist,” says Heather Thomson, Executive Director of the U of A’s Centre for Cities and Communities and leader of the Digital Economy Program (DEP).
DEP is a free initiative that sees a team of U of A students help build the online presence of small businesses in the Edmonton area. That could be adding e-commerce, creating a social media plan or even designing a website. And thanks to partnerships with Business Link, Digital Main Street and the Alberta government, it will move more than 3,400 of Alberta’s small businesses into the digital world by April 2023, all while giving students real-world business experience.
Amid the enduring economic hardships of the pandemic, we can’t lose sight of these kinds of extraordinary community partnerships, which help businesses in the Edmonton region endure.
“The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce understands the power of partnering,” says Jeffrey Sundquist, President and CEO, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber saw this during the pandemic and worked to provide the Edmonton business community with critical supports. These helped people sustain their business while ensuring they followed restrictions and guidelines.
“From creating a ‘support local’ hub to providing rapid tests that allowed safe operations, we leveraged our partnerships to ensure we reached as many organizations as we could,” says Sundquist.
Partnerships are more important now than ever before. Many of the city’s organizations are still experiencing increased demands because of the pandemic and need the support of Edmonton’s local businesses and skilled professionals.
Your staff members’ talents and time could be part of the solution, as proven by some suggestions offered by the chamber. Volunteering, in even the smallest ways, makes a world of difference to a local organization. If you can’t offer hands-on help, consider giving the gift of business advice or mentorship. Even donating your leftover PPE and hand sanitizer makes an impact.
“Edmonton is a natural leader in partnering with community,” says Sundquist. “We’re stronger when we work together.”
My experience at the U of A underlines the importance of community connection. In 2018, the university spent a year consulting with around 250 organizations and more than 1,500 individuals to reimagine how we engage with the community. We learned a lot about how to create deeper, more meaningful partnerships, which is why we are releasing our Report to Community this summer. Like you, we will use the lessons we learned to strengthen our community connections. The result will strengthen both the U of A and our surrounding community.
In the end, we are all part of this community, and we are here for the long haul. Your partnerships will prove it, and your business and community of supporters will strengthen and grow because of your engagement.