Alberta organizations rising to the COVID-19 challenge

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Alberta organizations rising to the COVID-19 challenge

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

Alberta is entering our second month of physical distancing regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most bricks and mortar stores, restaurants, offices, and other businesses remain, for the most part, closed.

So, how are we all adapting?

In this post, rather than linger on the many, *many* negative economic and social impacts of the quarantine, I want to look at some of the positive, or just plain interesting, ways Albertans are adapting to the times.

In my next blog post, we’ll look at the longer-term opportunities (post-crisis) that could emerge from these “temporary” adaptations.

Short-term pivots

As is always true, the businesses that can quickly pivot to address new opportunities will be in the best position to survive and thrive.

Alberta’s beloved craft breweries, for example, now offer home deliveries. As do local bookstores, bakeries, crafting companies, and even restaurants that never even offered take-out options before. Van Gogh, the Calgary-based “wine and paint” studio, is offering to ship at-home paint kits (including instructions for creating specific paintings) to amateur painters looking for a fun evening activity.

Innisfail Growers moved its indoor mini-farmers market in Red Deer to a strip mall parking lot, and now offers a drive-thru market (allowing customers to get local, fresh produce, while maintaining physical distancing).

The Alberta arts community is also embracing new avenues for people to explore art from a safe distance. The Alberta Foundation for the Arts is advertising several exhibitions, residencies, and workshops — all being run online via videoconferencing, web, and social platforms.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Court of Appeal is still hearing all matters, but only through video or audio conferencing.

Gyms are streaming workouts and offering online coaching sessions. Music teachers have switched to online instruction.

More conferences are creating and sharing collaborative tools with their participants – like Google docs adding ideas, or Slack for continuing on public or private conversations – during live web feeds. Last month, I participated in an Alberta Innovation Corridor COVID-19 Impact Virtual Town Hall meeting that used Zoom’s “rooms” function to create smaller discussion groups among the 150+ online attendees. 

(I actually found this “speed dating” format much less intimidating than those held at physical events.)

Many first-time entrepreneurs (who now happen to have extra time on their hands) are also popping up. Some teenage friends in Strathcona County have created a COVID-related t-shirt business, donating $1 from each t-shirt sale to the Strathcona Food Bank.

Offering Solutions

The desire to help is driving an overwhelming number of businesses to adapt their expertise to services or resources to the current health needs of the province.

Distillers like Minhas Micro Brewery, Burwood Distillery and Annex Ale Project; as well as soap manufacturers, like Rocky Mountain Soap Company, are now producing hand sanitizers.

Garment and blanket manufacturers, like Alberta Garment, King Athletics, and Hippo Hug, are sewing masks, gowns and other protective items.

Many service companies, such as Men in Kilts, which offers window cleaning services, or Driverseat Calgary, which offers chauffeur and shuttle services, are now offering grocery shopping services to those who are housebound. 

Digital marketing agency Top Draw is offering free social media support.

Platform Calgary has compiled a list of Calgary startups that are offering support to Albertans right now.

“Bits and Pieces”

More than 3,600 Alberta businesses, organizations and individuals have made formal offers to help in the week since the provincial government launched its “Bits and Pieces Program.” The program is named after the federal “bits and pieces program” established during the Second World War. It coordinated innovative production and procurement efforts from across the Canadian economy to support the war effort.

The Alberta businesses taking part in the modern incarnation are offering items and services such as passenger and commercial vehicles, hotel rooms, mobile trailers, food and water, human resources, logistics support, consulting services, hospital gowns, face masks and ventilators.

Covid Continuity

A team of Alberta entrepreneurs have also created a one-stop information resource for businesses and organizations looking to survive the COVID-19 crisis, and plan for recovery.

COVID Continuity is a platform connecting leaders in business with resources related to transformation and recovery during the crisis. Focusing on mutual aid, their goal is to provide a platform for people to share tools and actions that will facilitate adapting to the times ahead.

The site includes collated information on funding available, templates for financial planning, continuity planning toolkits (including a template for First Nations’ groups), and best practices for remote meeting, cybersecurity, etc.

“This is an empowerment tool, not just a resource portal,” says Sam Jenkins, Managing Partner of Edmonton-based Punchcard Systems, and co-creator of Covid Continuity. “It’s hard for businesses in general to build a roadmap for the future, and right now, it’s all very overwhelming to think about. We wanted to create something that would make it simpler to plan. We see this as a repository for people who are learning how to fish, rather than just having the fish given to them.”

They are currently seeking more partners to join the platform and contribute content, curate existing content, or simply help spread the word.


Are we missing anything? Let us know of an organization doing cool things to support Alberta during this time in the comments below, and we’ll add it to our list!

Meagan Hampel
Meagan Hampel
An expert in technology communications with over 10 years of experience, Meagan is well-versed in translating complex topics into stories that can be understood by anyone. She spent four years working as a science reporter in the UK, covering a diverse range of research and industry breakthroughs. Since 2014, Meagan has led the communications team at Cybera, a not-for-profit, technology-neutral organization responsible for driving Alberta’s economic growth through the use of digital technology. She passionately believes in the importance of increasing the breadth and quality of Alberta’s digital resources, for the benefit of everyone. Meagan is also fascinated by new communications technologies, and the integration of multimedia tools with traditional storytelling.