It was late winter 2021, and Albertans were coming up on one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. The polar vortex hit. Temperatures plunged into the -30s, making it difficult for many people to leave the house. Statistically, February is always the worst month for mental health in our province, but this year, it seemed especially rough. Albertans needed something to lift their spirits and bring them together, even if they were physically apart.
Enter ATB Up.
Getting up and giving back
ATB Up, a series of daily challenges for Albertans to complete at home and share on social media, ran from March 1-12, 2021. The idea was simple: ATB would donate $1 to Alberta’s Mental Health Foundation for every post, share, like or comment using #ATBUp. Albertans would get a chance to boost their mood at home through challenges like “Power up” (show us your superpower) and “Paws up” (introduce us to your pet). And everyone would have a feed full of lighthearted, everyday reminders that mental health affects us all.
“The campaign was an enormous success,” says Chett Matchett, Associate Vice President of Strategy, Operations and Social Economics, “not only raising $125,000 for the Mental Health Foundation, but also helping to raise the overall wellbeing of Albertans through the simple act of play.”
Thousands of Albertans participated in ATB Up. The $125,000 they raised will help the MHF continue to provide easy access to walk-in centres, a 24/7 helpline, youth services, addiction services, and programs specifically for students, men and cancer patients.
Some challenges also triggered additional donations to other Alberta charities. By the end of the campaign, Albertans had donated 1,275 pieces of clothing to five different shelters around the province, over 1,400 meals to meals on wheels programs, and a month’s access to sports programming for 240 Indigenous youth through Spirit North.
ATB Up and the greater good
ATB Up wasn’t just a response to pandemic cabin fever. It was the first major initiative in ATB’s Greater Good strategy, a long term plan to solve Alberta’s most pressing societal problems to improve the overall wellbeing of Albertans. The Greater Good strategy was designed by leveraging the Social Progress Imperative framework to create 35 indices across the province which highlight our greatest socioeconomic opportunities. ATB has pulled out the three most pressing opportunities that are relevant across the province to focus their CSR efforts: access to mental health resources, access to education, and access to information and communication.
“In order to have a thriving economy, our social systems also need to be thriving,” Matchett explains. “The opportunity in front of us all is to look at our economy like the circular system that it is, and ensure we are creating a future where no human is left behind.”
With ATB Up, the Greater Good strategy’s debut, the goal was to explore ways to move beyond raising awareness and instead create real social, material change for Albertans.
Catalyzing social change
Building an online community around ATB Up’s daily challenges was a major priority. Not only did this sense of connection help to boost ATB Up participants’ own mental health, it also demonstrated the power of coming together for good.
Partnerships with local organizations and like-minded Albertans are at the heart of the Greater Good strategy. The hope is that, as ATB joins with other Alberta not-for-profits, institutions and businesses to find new ways to address the three pillars of the Greater Good strategy, a core group of participants in ATB Up will also get involved in future Greater Good campaigns.
Setting the stage for material change
The impact of ATB Up’s $125,000 donation will go far beyond the immediate funding to the MHF’s essential services. For every $1 spent on mental health care, the Mental Health Foundation estimates that a province saves $7 in future care costs*. In other words, by making sure the right kind of support is easily accessible at the right time, we can prevent Albertans from experiencing more costly and debilitating mental health problems in the future.
Employing this type of forward-thinking approach is crucial to our province’s future economic and social stability, even—and especially—when faced with urgent demands, such as those caused by a major disaster.
“Before the pandemic we would have said the Greater Good strategy was important, and now during the pandemic and as we look to post-pandemic recovery, we realize that our Greater Good strategy is absolutely essential,” Matchett says.
The success of ATB Up means that the Greater Good strategy already has a proven track record of creating real social change with the potential to lead to increased wellbeing and financial stability in our province.
So what’s next?
“The ATB Up campaign served as a great example of what is possible when we focus on the data driven problems that exist in our province, and partner with great organizations to start to solve them,” Matchett says. “What's next? Well, it is only going to go UP from here.”
If you’re part of an organization that’s interested in partnering with ATB on our Greater Good strategy, connect with us online.
* Towards a Comprehensive Mental Health Strategy, 2009, p.6