Project Comeback

Project Comeback Information

Why Project Comeback?

Many communities face the twin demographic trends of youth out migration and an aging baby boomer population. Succession is becoming a major issue in many rural communities, as aging baby boomers approach retirement with little in the way of a succession plan or successor. If these trends are not proactively addressed many rural communities will suffer from the closure of their rural business and the continued migration of their youth.

Who finances the project?

The BC Rural Network’s Project Comeback, in partnership with the Fraser Basin Council, is financed by Human Resource and Skills Development Canada and BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.

What is Project Comeback?

This pilot project is being conducted in 5 rural BC Communities to strengthen rural youth retention through youth engagement.

Objective: To identify, build, and share community based knowledge and evidence about innovative strategies that enable youth to stay in or move back to their rural communities.

The project consists of four parts:

  • stage one is to create and implement a survey in our community;
  • stage 2 is to collect the data and analyze the results;
  • stage 3 is to share the results and brainstorm strategies with the community through a workshop format.
  • stage 4 is to establish a community working group that will develop and implementing an action plan, which will be tracked to ensure meaningful results.

In Kaslo we have expanded our definition of youth to include those aged from 17 to 39 years old.

Where are we now?

Survey Development

The North Kootenay Community Services Society hired Dustin East to act as a coordinator for their local Project Comeback initiative. They identified young adults aged 17-39 as the target of their survey and created question options within the survey to address and categorize this broad demographic. Over 80 people completed the survey. Survey Results and Community Workshop. The North Kootenay Community Service Society analyzed their survey data and presented the information back to the community at a workshop held on January 23rd, 2014. It was clear in the survey results that many residents have chosen Kaslo because of the lifestyle it offers them, with 49% of survey participants identifying lifestyle as their reason for choosing Kaslo as their home. Family was another important reason identified, at 39%. Jobs, however, only rated 12% as a reason that residents settled in the town.
In the course of the evening workshop, Kaslo residents were asked to brainstorm, in small group discussions, their ideas for projects that would address youth retention in their community. Suggested ideas included the need for high-speed Internet, affordable housing, opportunities for learning and skills development, and connecting local organizations and youth to funding opportunities to pursue local projects complementary to Project Comeback.

Project Plan and Implementation

The main project that Kaslo committed to has been sponsoring and administering the Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) Project. The BRE project includes conducting a survey that examines the employment retention and expansion needs of locally owned businesses in the region. After the survey data has been analyzed, the results will be shared with businesses, local and regional government, and the regional community at an open meeting.

North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society will continue working closely with Village of Kaslo, Chamber of Commerce, Selkirk College, and the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute (RDI) to conduct a useful project that will ultimately result in more mentorship opportunities, more skilled jobs, and increased services in the area. More information about the BRE can be found on the RDI website at  The Kaslo BR&E workshop and survey results presentation will take place in May 2015.

Project Comeback has also helped local entrepreneurs and societies apply for and receive additional funds from Columbia Basin Trust. Additional funds were obtained to support a “Rural Revival” school which organized and implement six very successful workshops in 2014.

More information on the Rural Revival project can be found at:

Contribution to Youth-Retention

The four main barriers for youth retention identified were health care, education, housing, and agriculture opportunities. The Rural Revival School taught young people skills for utilizing energy, harvesting forest edibles, and preserving food and demonstrated how young people can successfully sustain their rural life. All of the workshops were developed to teach young people how to live in their rural community, save money, and be creative and resourceful at making a living in a rural area.

The BRE project is focused on helping current businesses retention and succession planning (e.g., to find young people to train and carry on with the business). The project is also designed to improve the economic viability for business operation in the area. This will help increase job opportunities for youth and will provide young people with information and resources on needed education and skills to successfully run a rural business.

Kaslo Project Sustainability

The Business Retention and Expansion project results will inform the Village of Kaslo’s Official Community Plan. Columbia Basin Trust funding is available to support ongoing work that will build upon our Project Comeback initiatives. The Rural Revival School has developed plans to possibly provide avalanche training this winter and to continue with another series of workshops next summer. Other independent projects have happened based ideas and concepts form the PC workshop such as the creation of a new healing arts studio and organization of more entertainment events for young adults (e.g., “Sundance on the Lake” ecstatic dance events). These initiatives found their foundations from Project Comeback but will carry forward with community involvement and the momentum generated around the projects.

How do I found out more?

Dustin East, Project Coordinator, by email at or by phone at 250-353-7691