Know risk, know change


   Over the course of November and December 2017, we conducted a set of interviews with 20 young people in Nova Scotia. These individuals comprise a range of backgrounds, and our discussions were comparably diverse. Taken with our survey, the interviews provide insight into the perspective of young people in this province and highlight what would make them stay or leave.

   Throughout the interviews there was a general sense that Nova Scotians are risk averse and hesitant to embrace new trends and ideas. This attitude was seen as an impediment to the emergence of an innovative and forward thinking culture — the type of thing that might attract and retain young people.

People here are generally very risk averse. They just want to stay with the status quo. But, why wouldn’t you want to innovate and be better? That’s a big problem in Nova Scotia.
I think it’s hard because there is this perspective that says ‘this is the way we are’. People are afraid of change, and I don’t know if that is what holds us back.

   This was also a theme present in our survey. We asked young people to describe the difference between ideal and non-ideal societies, and the central theme was attitude toward change. Ideal societies were described as innovative, forward thinking, and open to change, while non-ideal societies were described as resistant, fearful, and stuck in the past. 

   How does this relate to the central question of this initiative? Put differently, is there a relationship between how young people view innovation and their willingness to leave the province?

   In order to determine this, we asked them to describe innovation in Nova Scotia compared to other provinces. We then compared this response to whether or not they would consider leaving the province in pursuit of a job. Of note, the less innovative a young person describes Nova Scotia, the more likely they are to indicate a willingness to leave the province in pursuit of work.

   Can we shift our mindset, given this information? Is it possible to look at risk taking not as an ill-advised danger, but rather a prerequisite for innovation? And if we can do that — what else might change?

Just a job?

  Young people in Nova Scotia want more out of their work than employment. They’re also looking for challenge and sense of purpose, so much so that they’re willing to trade driver’s licenses to get it. 

  Out-migration statistics from CANSIM matched with our survey results can help contextualize this statement. While out-migration has decreased and levelled off in recent years, Nova Scotia is still losing more young people than it is gaining.


  Out-migration is often framed as a problem caused by a lack of work, and yet 70% of young full-time workers indicate a willingness to leave the province in pursuit of a job. It seems there's more to out-migration than employment.

So what's missing?

  Our long form survey responses reveal a more complex image. Young people repeatedly indicate a desire for purpose — a sense of contributing to something greater than the actual work. This was also a common theme throughout our interviews, which featured a selected group of twenty young people from across this province.  

This generation wants to know that they’re making an impact on their community and they want to know that they can have a positive footprint. It’s about something bigger than financial compensation.
— Fadi Al Qassar, Group of Twenty Interviewee

  In addition to purpose, our survey suggests that young people are looking for challenge in their work. Individuals who reported a greater level of challenge were also more likely to report a higher level of life satisfaction. 

  So, if young people are leaving Nova Scotia, and a job won’t necessarily keep them, what will? Our data suggests that young people want to be connected to a greater purpose, to feel challenged, and feel that what they’re doing matters. If we can build these characteristics into the jobs that young people do here, we might be able to help curb the issue of out-migration. 

  Not a bad resolution for 2018. 

Make Shift Happen

“What shift needs to happen for the best version of your future to unfold here in Nova Scotia?”

We’re working on A Younger Perspective: Nova Scotia’s Economic Future (AYP) and we need your help.

AYP is a project that is crowdsourcing an economic action plan from young Nova Scotians. Their voice is one that is not heard and yet they are the future. We want to ask what it’s going to take to keep them here, bring them back and draw them in, and, what this province needs to do to realize its potential, right now.

Our project starts with a 60-question survey that asks about the type of life they want to lead, what’s important to them, why they want to stay or go, and what they see as important to the future of Nova Scotia. Next we will consult with a group of 20 young, professional Nova Scotians who love this province to help us put the data into context, to make sense of everything and keep it short and to the point.

This is an opportunity to have your voice heard and be part of shaping the future of Nova Scotia. In 15 minutes you will have a hand in co-authoring Canada’s first, crowdsourced economic action plan.

We look forward to hearing from you and getting shift started.

Thanks and take care,