The NRE project was organized into four major themes—with teams of researchers who specialized in each topic. A Central Team, working out of NRE Headquarters located at Concordia University in Montréal, coordinated the activities of the entire project, as well as conduct research of a broader nature.
32 NRE research sites were chosen according to criteria which enabled the research initiative to understand the new rural economy across Canada. Data from the Census was analyzed, and census sub-divisions were categorized according to five variables: status as leading or lagging rural areas; extent of exposure to global market forces; economic stability; proximity to urban areas; and local social and institutional capacity. The sites were chosen to ensure that rural areas reflecting the various possible combinations of these variables were included in the NRE research.