Energy Futures Lab

Challenge question:

How can Alberta’s leadership position in today’s energy system serve as a platform for transitioning to the energy system the future needs?

About Energy Futures Lab

The Energy Futures Lab (EFL) is an Alberta-based, multi-interest collaboration designed to accelerate the development of a “fit for the future” energy system – one that addresses the increasingly complex requirements and demands of 21st century society. The EFL is aligning and amplifying existing efforts in Alberta to foster innovation related to energy systems, creating a cohort of leaders capable of working together to address current and emerging energy challenges, and generating opportunities to identify, test and scale new initiatives and collaborations.


The Energy Futures Lab is convened by The Natural Step Canada, with support from the Suncor Energy Foundation, Pembina Institute, the Banff Centre, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, and the Alberta Government.

The core design and delivery team for the Energy Futures Lab is led by The Natural Step Canada and features experts in process design and facilitation, strategic communications, systems mapping and information design, and developmental evaluation.

The EFL Steering Committee provides guidance on the composition of the Fellowship as well as overall project design. The Advisory Council lends credibility and wisdom to the evolution of the Energy Futures Lab. See design team, Steering Committee and Advisory Council at

How does the Energy Futures Lab work?

Drawing on an internationally-recognized framework for sustainability-driven innovation and leading practice in social process design, the Energy Futures Lab is serving as a:

  • Space to move fragmented and polarized conversations to a new outcome-based dialogue;
  • Platform for ongoing experimentation, innovation, and collaboration; and a
  • Channel to re-frame a broader public narrative about energy.

The EFL is advancing three streams of interrelated activity: the Fellowship, organizational engagement and public engagement.


The EFL Fellowship program has three phases, each with multiple workshops interspersed by webinars and collaborative meetings to advance Lab initiatives and maintain momentum.

Phase I: Building Shared Value
1. Foundations Workshop
Fellows meet one another and jointly explore the issues and challenges facing Alberta’s energy system from a range of perspectives. Fellows identify shared needs and opportunities, and begin prototyping while practicing collaborative leadership capacities.

2. Backcasting Workshop
Fellows experience learning journeys to various parts of Alberta’s energy system to deepen understanding of the challenges and opportunities. They describe together what a future energy system could look like and identify opportunities for early collaborative action.

Phase II: Designing Shared Priorities
3. Systemic Design Workshop
Fellows refine their vision and identify high potential areas for collaboration. Through collaborative action, they continue to test ideas, deepen understanding of the system, learn more about working together, and refine their prototype projects.

4. Collective Impact Workshop
Fellows debrief prototype projects, further refine their initiatives and determine next steps. They are joined by an expanded circle of collaborators to further test and refine ideas.

Phase III: On-going Implementation and Collaboration
In Phase III, the EFL builds on this foundation with focus on two interconnected priorities:
1. expanding participation in the lab to accelerate collaborative innovation amongst the Fellows, their organizations, and additional collaborators on a growing portfolio of breakthrough initiatives; and
2. engaging wider audiences to build a movement for a new energy future in Alberta.

Organizational engagement
Organizational engagement in Phases I and II consists primarily of piloting a workshop series in a Fellow organization, refining the approach and evaluating impact. Fellows are also supported in engaging their organizations and networks with supplied communication tools and packages (slides, facilitation guides, etc).

Public engagement
The EFL engages communities and individuals to build a movement that understands climate and energy issues in terms of the future we want to build together, rather than getting stuck in arguments that pit ‘us vs. them’. The lab’s public engagement activities consists of approaches that:

  • Leverage the distribution channels and networks of Fellows and participating organizations to reach a broad cross section of Albertans with tailored messaging.
  • Build media partnerships, wherein the EFL provides specialized content that highlights the voice of the “radical middle” to counter polarized and polarizing public narratives about energy and climate change, and to showcase the work, results, stories and personalities of the EFL.
  • Bring aspects of the EFL Fellowship experience directly to communities across Alberta through in-person learning opportunities such as EFL Leadership Bootcamps, and the Newtonian Shift energy transition simulation game, as well as online eLearning resources.