Smart Islands in Scotland & Ireland

Led by CoDeL and supported by SIF and the Irish Islands Federation, Smart Islands in Scotland & Ireland brought island communities together to share experiences and develop ways to make their islands smarter and more sustainable.  The project had a particular focus on the role of young people and this was at the centre of the island gathering in Grimsay which included SIF’s 2019 learning exchange.

A project update from the visit to Ireland is below, and you can learn more about the project here and keep up to date through the Blog, Facebook and Twitter which continue to be used to share news and ideas.

The week after the island gathering, including S.I.F.’s AGM, in Grimsay in the Outer Hebrides, an outdoor children’s nursery was launched in Sherkin Island in Ireland, creating an opportunity for the young children and mums on the island to come together, building a network for children and adults alike. Until recently, Sherkin had no children; with young families deciding to move in, there are now 8 young children on the island. The nursery was directly inspired by the presentation on Uist Wild Outdoor Things at Grimsay.

Building on this very promising start, four facilitators from CoDeL and the Scottish Islands Federation Chair joined 13 Irish islanders in Galway to spend a week together in November 2019 working through aspirations for their islands: Tory Island, Arranmore, Clare Island, Inishturk, Inishbofin, Inis Mor, Inis Meain, Inis Oirr, Bere Island, Cape Clare Island and Sherkin Island.  This work is being delivered under CoDeL’s Smart Islands project, which is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Outer Hebrides Leader 2014-2020 Programme as well as four Irish LAGs, and supported by the Scottish Islands Federation also.

During the week participants identified the unique positive assets of their islands. They considered the economic, social and environmental resource inflows and outflows and learned and honed coaching skills to enable them to support their fellow islanders to develop island-based enterprising aspirations.

From the offset, the week attracted visits from the Irish Government Chief Whip, Minister of State for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, followed mid-week by a visit and presentation by the Director of Schools with Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board in Ireland. On the final day two representatives from the newly established Irish Government Interdepartmental Group for Islands Development joined the session.

Perhaps counter to the usual negative and deficit narrative often presented to such visitors, on the contrary, island representatives at the Galway training presented well-articulated, often visualised outlines of the strengths of each island, as they are today and the plans for their future. The response from the official visitors was positive and affirming. One of the officials picked up on the clear message of moving from “managing decline” in islands to “investing in their future”.

The week of training in economic literacy and coaching led to comments like: “all expectations were exceeded … useful process, will be well used”; “ (learned) to look at assets already on the island … young people are the future”; “coaching is enabling people, not doing for them”; “the importance of facilitating people – to follow ones passion, allow communities to record their interests, the importance of community”; “ways of creating opportunity!”.

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