Cultivating Creativity in the Workplace: Portland General Electric

Portland General Electric (PGE), an energy company headquartered in Portland, Oregon, has been fostering creativity within and beyond its walls. We sat down with Kregg Arntson, their Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Executive Director of the organization’s Foundation to learn how PGE is creating a workplace culture that promotes creativity and innovation.

Why is a power company investing in creativity?

Like most companies, PGE wants to make a positive impact in our community and help solve important issues that improve the quality of life for our customers. We have nurtured a culture of community involvement through our corporate social responsibility programs that attracts great employees and keeps them engaged.

This is important as we take bold steps toward a clean energy future. We believe we must do our part to reduce the threat of climate change. The world is changing, and we need a diverse set of employees who understand the value of the creative process and feel empowered to think and act differently to realize our vision.

How are you promoting creativity within your organizational culture?

We have been using the language from Creating Connection to offer values-based messages that help employees see the link between what they care about and what they gain from creative experiences.

For example, during our annual employee giving campaign, we have used the Creating Connection message framework to encourage giving through the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s Work for Art program by emphasizing the value of creative expression and connection to ourselves and our community.

Innovation and creativity are also key focus areas in our Foundation’s grantmaking, particularly around arts education. We believe that a well-rounded education must include the arts and hands on applied learning opportunities. The arts help kids view the world differently by building bridges, collaborating, persevering, and solving problems.

We’re investing in programs across Oregon that help integrate the arts into classrooms, provide teachers with professional development opportunities, elevate culturally specific programs, and engage students in learning about electrical safety.

PGE’s “Saturday Night Give” Employee Giving Campaign kick-off event inspired by the late-night comedy show

PGE’s “Saturday Night Give” Employee Giving Campaign kick-off event inspired by the late-night comedy show

Many companies don’t see the value of investing in arts programs much less encouraging creative expression among its employees. What sets PGE apart?

You’re right. There are some companies that have put arts in the box and say, “we don’t support the arts.” Therein lies the challenge. At PGE, we believe in the mission of Creating Connection to dismantle the box. We recognize human connection and creative expression in the broader context are valued and should be supported and celebrated.

So what is next for PGE?

We are very focused on conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion and taking action to create lasting change. The PGE Foundation, the corporate foundation of Portland General Electric, has made a commitment to equity in terms of our grantmaking, operations, and engagement in the community.

Building on the Foundation’s commitment and our company’s diversity and inclusion work, we’ve begun our journey to strengthen our awareness and understanding of equity. We want to ensure all people have a voice in the new energy economy by exploring opportunities and challenges for community members who have historically experienced systemic barriers based on racial, social, economic, and geographical factors.

I see using the arts or creative processes as a way to do that, because the arts can play a powerful role in bringing people together to help them learn, grow and reflect on their own awareness, and build empathy.