Linking Employment to Sources of Value in Inuit Nunangat

Inuit skills can strengthen Northern economies. How can we realize this opportunity?

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Many Inuit want to find a balance between market participation and traditional land-based activities.

They want diverse jobs that strengthen their communities’ social resources—and that expand on existing cultural knowledge and traditional skill sets.

And they want to see their social and cultural values reflected in the sectors that dominate Northern GDP.

Making a living, making money

A mixed economy is critical to livelihoods in Inuit Nunangat. This means both market- and traditional land-based activities are vital.

Market-based activities

Market-based activities include work for wages or business income. This is what economists normally recognize as a person’s capital.

Traditional land-based activities

Traditional land-based activities create social and cultural resources that aren’t formally tied to the exchange of goods or services for money.

  • provide food, clothing, and tools
  • strengthen social inclusion and nurture cultural traditions and heritage languages
  • strengthen the identities and self-determination of Inuit
  • strengthen Inuit ties to the land

What goes into making a sustainable livelihood?

We think it’s useful to talk about the elements of sustainable livelihoods as different sources of value creation—encompassing economic, social, ecological (or natural), and cultural aspects.

What is sustainable livelihood?

A sustainable livelihood is a way of life that fulfils a person’s long-term material and socio-cultural needs. It includes skills, resources, and activities that ensure their economic self-determination and future well-being.

Sustainable livelihoods are specific to environmental, geographic, and social contexts, and incorporate a sense of identity and belonging. In other words, it’s far more than just a job.

Sources of value


  • Cash
  • Property/investments
  • Wages/barter/trade
  • Infrastructure (roads, community buildings, equipment)


  • Family and relationships
  • Community and social support services
  • Relationships between communities


  • Natural resources
  • Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge)
  • Participation in remediation/monitoring programs (knowledge benefit and transfer within community)


  • Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (principles and values)
  • Language
  • Traditions and ceremonies
  • Ways of knowing

A strengths-based approach

By taking a strengths-based approach, we want to build on existing knowledge and skills to promote inclusive growth and economic opportunity across Inuit Nunangat.

A strengths-based approach helps us identify the skills, assets, and strengths that individuals and communities have. It also identifies how these link to opportunities in the market economy and emerging sectors that could better reflect Inuit values and visions of sustainable livelihoods in the North.

Strengths-based approaches:

  • Are goal-oriented and person-centred.
  • Identify inherent strengths and accessible personal, interpersonal, social, and cultural resources.
  • Are inclusive of the sources of value and personal capital that individuals already possess.
  • Are designed to enhance capacity.
  • Support self-empowerment and self-determination.

Our plan

We are The Conference Board of Canada’s Indigenous and Northern Communities team.

Our research will generate recommendations on how existing Inuit skill sets, strengths, and knowledge can be better applied to existing and emerging economic opportunities.

Our goal is to identify insights that will help Northern economies grow, diversify, and offer opportunities for sustainable livelihoods in Inuit Nunangat.

What’s next

A rich, descriptive review of community perspectives on the four interrelated sources of value.

The chance to hear community voices regarding how these sources of value can best be used to help create sustainable livelihoods.

An analysis of existing change agents and current opportunities identified by community leaders.

Identification of areas that can be supported to help Inuit capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Stay in the loop. Access more Indigenous and Northern Communities research projects here.

FSC partners

Toronto Metropolitan University
The Conference Board of Canada
Government of Canada

The responsibility for the findings and conclusions of this research rests entirely with The Conference Board of Canada.

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