» The North Coast Innovation Lab Ecotrust Canada
Creating new forms of collaboration, capacity and partnership for initiatives in Prince Rupert so the community can strengthen its social and economic resilience and wellbeing.

The North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL) is a place-based initiative for people who are invested in the future of Prince Rupert to work together on tangible projects and initiatives that build a resilient economy as a tool for community well-being.

Prince Rupert is a coastal city of around 12,000 people in northern BC, historically dependent on resource-based activities and vulnerable to boom-and-bust economic cycles. It’s a microcosm for many remote communities dotted across Canada who are seeing increased unemployment as jobs move overseas, fewer benefits going to locals from the natural resources near them, the loss of young and educated people to urban areas, and seasonal employment.

In 2015, the City of Prince Rupert set an ambitious, modern vision for the city called Hays 2.0, and introduced a civic engagement process to develop and implement strategies for economic diversification and community resilience.

Integrating with this work, Ecotrust Canada launched the North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL) in late 2017 to test how an intentionally designed social innovation lab can bring capacity, resources, creativity, and solutions to bear on the serious problems facing the community.

Our approach

Nathan Randall
Project Manager, North Coast Innovation Lab

The NCIL draws on eight years of community-based work in Prince Rupert and our award winning three-year initiative in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab). Crucially, it has been adapted for a northern and municipal context and designed to reflect the unique opportunities, challenges, cultural context, geography, and people that make up Prince Rupert.

The NCIL is a place-based initiative for people who are invested in the future of Prince Rupert to identify, prioritize and work together on tangible projects that build and initiatives that build a resilient economy as a tool for community well-being.


It addresses the desire to innovate within constrained conditions by providing human capacity to advance ideas, a safe space for design and experimentation, and a supported process to develop and evaluate projects that enhance social and economic resilience in Prince Rupert. Within the community, it aims to work at multiple scales to:

  • Develop a shared understanding of the community problems and solutions
  • Strengthen community networks
  • Provide capacity & coordination for community-led projects
  • Collect ideas and share knowledge
  • Build community capacity for social innovation through workshops, partnerships, events, and interactive learning

Over three years, the NCIL aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Spark innovative, collaborative, community-led projects using Social Innovation Lab methodology to address complex systemic problems
  • Acknowledge, complement and activate existing community-wide development initiatives
  • Prototype and nurture small, rural and remote community partnerships with academic institutions
  • Develop student talent for social innovation in rural, northern and industry-dependent communities and economies
  • Enhance the capacity of new and existing businesses, community organizations, and local “champions” to realize their own potential
  • Build a culture of social innovation and collaborative community development within Prince Rupert

Our long term goal is to increase social and economic resiliency for the community of Prince Rupert.


Starting with a focus

After many conversations with the community, the NCIL will focus its first year on projects which:

  • Grow the local economy for fish and marine products in Prince Rupert
  • Enhance co-working, information sharing and resource sharing
  • Increase economic diversification through entrepreneurship
  • Create low-skill income generating opportunities through social enterprise

This will assist projects and initiatives that already have some support or momentum in the community, but would benefit from new networks, additional human capacity, research, coordination or business thinking.

For more info:
What is the North Coast Innovation Lab? The Northern View

Project insights:
: Recent results of the summer research around fostering the marine economy and enhancing co-working in Prince Rupert