Our North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL) in Prince Rupert is bringing people together to try out new ways of creating lasting, positive change for both the economic and social systems of the community. The NCIL is focusing its first year on a small number of projects that already have some support or momentum in the community, but would benefit from new networks, additional human capacity, research, coordination and/or business thinking.

Project Co-ordinator Kara Herbert is a student in the Masters of Public Policy program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, doing an internship for the summer of 2018. Here she shares her work as part of the NCIL team, focusing on ways to enhance co-working, information sharing, and resource sharing in Prince Rupert.

Different groups have different needs

Our community engagement efforts highlighted that supporting entrepreneurs, which include home-based businesses and micro businesses, can be a powerful tool for economic resiliency and community well-being.

We’ve seen that there are many existing and thriving entrepreneurial training and educational programs in Prince Rupert, hinting at an emerging entrepreneurial spirit. However, it is also clear that there is a need for additional support, networks, and resources for individuals who complete these programs, so they don’t have to overcome the common challenges of starting a business by themselves.

The needs differ across different groups. The artistic community has expressed the need for professional development – workshops, business planning, online marketing, and connections to existing programs in order to grow. Some have also been interested in sharing resources such as studio space or certain tools.

The professional and online services community identified similar professional development needs, but also want a physical space to work from to bring about collaboration and networking opportunities. Many have used co-working spaces or incubators in other areas in BC and are seeing the need for one in Prince Rupert.

Solution-building with the community

Now that I have a base understanding of some of the needs here, I’m looking to the Project Advisory Committee and other community members to help craft what kind of initiative makes sense and may best benefit all kinds of entrepreneurs.

Building on this, we want to undertake a small pilot before the summer ends, and then have some more detailed aspects of a potential shared working space ironed out with concrete recommendations at the end of the summer.

It’s been amazing to approach this issue from the bottom up and co-create solutions with the community. And in working to build the foundation of this social innovation lab, I’ve found it so important to really embrace the uncertainty that comes along with an approach such as this. I think there will be many important lessons learned and knowledge shared as a result.

A welcoming place

Even though I’m only living in Prince Rupert for the summer, I’ve really been welcomed with open arms – there is a great sense of community here. I was born and raised in BC, and this is the first time I’ve gotten to explore the North. So, on weekends, we’ve been adventuring to surrounding glaciers, lava beds, towns, and islands – and spending weeknights playing baseball or paddling in the outrigger. It’s been a great experience living here, and I would encourage other young people to try it out too.