Canadian Oil Sands: Fostering Partnership for Early Math Literacy


Math MindsCanadian Oil Sands (COS) engaged JS Daw & Associates in efforts to simplify, and deepen the value and impact from their community investment program. Rather than making many small donations to a number of non-profits, COS realized that by concentrating their community investment dollars around a single cause, they could have a much more substantial impact on the community.



Through internal workshops and interviews, we determined that the employees and leadership at Canadian Oil Sands (COS) were interested in making a difference in the education sector because it was seen to align strongly with both the COS brand and staff interests. Through interviews and discussion, together we landed on early math literacy as an area of critical importance and opportunity. COS found this cause of particular importance since math is foundational to innovation and technological advancements, which is critical for both Canada and oil sands companies to remain globally competitive.

Math Minds is a 5-year initiative, spearheaded and funded by Canadian Oil Sands, but carefully co-created with their valued partners. The shared goal is to enhance early math literacy in students and teachers, and establish Calgary, Alberta as a centre of excellence for math education. What makes Math Minds unique is that it is an innovative three-way partnership, which involves different sectors coming together around a shared commitment and a higher purpose, tied by shared values.



Once the intentions for the initiative were clarified, carefully identified partners were brought together to collectively co-create this initiative, rather than keeping those partners working in silos independent of each other. Jocelyne played the role of “partnership broker,” a neutral intermediary between COS and the other partners. An extremely important part of the process was building trust between the partners, leaving egos and hidden agendas behind.

Measurement and evaluation were embedded into each of the components of Math Minds from the outset. Starting with the end in mind will be key in determining if Math Minds achieves the agreed upon desired outcomes.

Working with the Calgary Public Library and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary, a weekly Math Minds after-school program was devised. The programs are initially being offered at three branches of the Calgary Public Library, eventually expanding to all 17 branches throughout the city. The program is also offered at all Boys & Girls Clubs locations in Calgary for children who are looking for help with math and require support.

Check out this video of Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaking about the importance of early math literacy and the value of this unique program:


Playing the role of partnership broker, Jocelyne was able to mediate any challenges that presented and facilitated the rigorous partnership process. The 5-year Math Minds initiative is an excellent example of a strong, mutually beneficial partnership aligned around a common goal. Through our collaborative process we were able to develop a unique, shared value initiative that will continue to have a lasting impact on all involved.

“Thank you for having a vision for such a unique and bold initiative and for all the support you gave Canadian Oil Sands as we developed the Math Minds investment and partnerships”
– Laureen DuBois, Director, Human Resources and Community Investment, Canadian Oil Sands Limited