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Project Māmū: Coming together for Community

In the spring of this year, BMO’s Indigenous Banking Unit (IBU) was tasked with a special assignment: find new homes for a large number of lightly used and refurbished electronic devices. When some assets in BMO’s tech inventory reach the end of their operational life cycle at the bank, they can still be perfectly functional in a different setting, so BMO regularly repurposes this kind of equipment, often by making donations to schools or not-for-profits. This time, the bank chose to target schools and educational institutions in Indigenous communities—in particular, those in rural and remote parts of the country—recognizing that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, access to education has become technology-dependent. Many Indigenous communities are technologically underserved compared to other places in Canada, and in the virtual school environment, that can worsen existing educational inequities.

Our strategy for this initiative was clear: impact as many communities as possible, leveraging the deep local knowledge and relationships the IBU possesses. VPs in the IBU were asked to identify educational institutions and communities in their regions that would most benefit from additional technology, and they took to their task with pride. They canvassed their regions, enthusiastically devoting time to contacting local customers, schools, and community leaders in an effort to ensure that the donations would truly go to where they would make the biggest difference. This granular involvement in identifying recipients made the donation an especially meaningful one for the VPs. As Mike Bonner, Head of Canadian Business Banking and Co-Chair of BMO’s Indigenous Advisory Council noted, “Our Indigenous banking team was key to bringing it all together. Our approach to building deep relationships with Indigenous communities is to earn trust and respect. This enables us to understand and anticipate customer needs and, as we did with this project, to respond to them.”

The wide geographical scope of this project meant that managing the donation would be a logistically demanding task. To handle it, the IBU joined forces with BMO’s tech rollover team. The latter is responsible for overseeing the renewal and disposal of BMO’s tech inventory, and their first task involved wiping the devices clean of any traces of any identifying data. Then they had to run them through a series of tests to ensure that they functioned properly, after which every item had to be paired up with accompanying accessories to constitute a full working unit. Additional work was required to deposit the units at warehouses, print and deliver shipment stickers, appose them to the right boxes, and prepare the entire shipment for final pickup and delivery.

The logistics were further complicated by Covid-19. Mindful of the need to observe pandemic protocols, the project team made sure that the deliveries would not disrupt local public-health guidelines. It also needed to coordinate deliveries over an enormous territorial range, and establish a delivery schedule that was suited to the academic calendar. The first delivery was made in June, to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who distributed the devices to Inuit schools and communities in Canada’s North. Further shipments were completed over the summer, and the final deliveries will be made in September, in conjunction with the start of the new school year. Of note is the inclusion of all three Indigenous groups in Canada — First Nations, Métis, and Inuit — among the recipients, a conscious decision that reflects BMO’s commitment to engagement with all Indigenous Peoples.

In total, BMO’s donation comprises over 1079 iPads, 4 charging stations and 250 laptops, collected from P&BB branches, Procurement and BMO’s Institute for Learning (IFL), delivered to more that 80 Indigenous communities, schools, and educational institutions, coast to coast to coast. While it constitutes a small part of the bank’s overall corporate giving in any given year, it represents a very significant and meaningful one: not only for those who will now enjoy the use of the technology they have received, but also for the regional VPs, tech employees and IBU members who made it happen. Appropriately, given its unique nature, the project was given a unique name: Project Māmū. Signifying “together” in Innu, Māmū embodied for project participants the true value of joining forces within the bank to support our wider community. 

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