Partnership with a Purpose

Partnership with a Purpose

“Without a proper intervention, 80% of our indigenous youth in Canada will become type two diabetics.”

That stark statistic is how Mick Lautt describes the reality faced by thousands of people living in first nations communities.

“We should be running out of the room with our hair on fire. I don’t know why it’s not on every agenda,” he adds.

Lautt is the CEO of Scimar, a bio-research company developing products designed to end the type 2 diabetes epidemic. And to do that, he’s partnered with first nations communities across Manitoba.

Image Courtesy: Scimar

“When I first met with Mick, I recognized a lot of synergy between the work that he was doing, and the work we are doing back home to overcome the challenges that we’re facing with diabetes,” recalls Chief Derek Nepinak, chief of the Minegozhiibe Anishinabe (Pine Creek First Nation.)

“I brought in our economic development group and the rest of my leadership council,” says Nepinak. “We talked about what we could do to feed that synergy and actually build a relationship out of it. That’s how we started.”

The synergy between Scimar and first nation communities has taken decades to develop. In the 1990’s Lautt was working with indigenous youth in Winnipeg. He ran a program to engage with them after school and reduce the sky-high dropout rates. Later, he ran experiential adventure based learning programs. Those involved taking vulnerable youth canoeing and camping, teaching them life and social skills, while using the natural environment as a classroom.

“The wilderness can be a really unforgiving teacher. If there is a storm coming, and one of the campers doesn’t want to set up their tent properly, they are going to have to deal with some very real consequences,” says Lautt. “There is nothing fake or forced about that. They are learning that all their choices have real consequences.”

While designing and running the program, Lautt worked alongside elders and community leaders from around Manitoba for many years. That experience, and that commitment, meant that when Mick approached the community about being financial investors, he was seen as a trusted ally, not an outsider.

“The relationship between Derek and I, and between his community and Scimar is unique,” said Lautt at a recent event where Scimar was named ‘Emerging Company of the Year’ by the Bioscience Association of Manitoba. “The Pine Creek First Nation is a financial partner, but more importantly a strategic partner. Working with them, we will be able to support restorative programs to the people who can benefit the most from them.”

“This is a first in Manitoba effort,” Lautt continued. “It will demonstrate that we can deliver an intervention to a singular community today and expand it to other communities as we grow.”

Image Courtesy: Scimar

Bringing the Team up to Speed

There is more to Scimar than just Mick Lautt. The company has a strong team and a dozen contractors and specialists spread across the country. For this partnership to be effective, every one of them needs to understand the realities faced by indigenous people today. That’s why Scimar is working with Legacy Bowes through their “Truth2Action” program.

Legacy Bowes is an indigenous owned Human Resources consulting company based in Winnipeg. Their Truth2Action program is designed for businesses interested in increasing their awareness and knowledge. The goal is for employees to gain insights into the modern and historical realities faced by the indigenous people in Canada and learn how they can improve their operations to support reconciliation efforts.

In Scimar’s case this means understanding the complicated history of internal and external health care systems that operate in first nation communities. Understanding that context is crucial for this effort to be successful.

“The program provides three things,” says Lautt. “It teaches essential historical knowledge, skills and techniques so that we can have meaningful conversations about bias, discrimination, and racism in our workplaces, and lays out a clear and actionable plan for actually doing something productive.”

Funding for this training is coming from another of Scimar’s partners, the accounting software company Xero. Xero recently awarded Scimar a cash grant for upskilling through their Beautiful Business Fund.

This ongoing commitment to communication, and a willingness to listen and learn is a big reason why a number of other first nations communities are now considering investing in and partnering with Scimar.

“We recently made an investment in Scimar to support the work that they’re doing towards finding solutions to overcome the epidemic of diabetes that’s happening in our community,” says Chief Nepinak. “And we look forward to working closely with them moving forward.”

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