Smart Islands

Smart Islands in Scotland and Ireland: Supporting Enterprises and Young People

This transnational project (July 2019 to October 2021) brought together island communities in Scotland (especially Uist in the Outer Hebrides) and Ireland (off Donegal, Mayo, Galway and West Cork) to share and develop experiences and methodologies that can make their islands smart, dynamic and sustainable.  The project focused in particular on the critical role of young people returning, settling or staying on island communities, and the contribution they can make to reviving these remote communities.

Early project activities like the Island Gathering in Grimsay and training for island representatives in Galway took place face-to-face.  With Covid-19, the project quickly adapted to deliver a range of activities on-line (see, for example, our posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

The Smart Islands project has left a significant legacy.

We have created products that outlast the project, most notably the Uist Beò platform, including its instagram feed, and the 17 podcasts featuring island voices in Uist and almost all the Irish islands, as well as the report on young Uist and other island voices that CoDeL will be promoting in early 2022.

We have helped individuals and island communities around specific initiatives and projects, which continue to contribute to local development. This includes, for example, support and promotion of young islanders’ campaigns, and the significant impact they are now having for example in housing, and evolving ideas around health and inclusion.

We helped island communities to respond to the major challenge of Covid, first through facilitating community conversations in Uist.  We then facilitated the development and sharing of positive perspectives, and above all empowering visions for positive futures, for Uist and for many of the Irish islands in the light of/in spite of Covid.  We have highlighted the resilience, adaptability and dynamism of island communities in response to crises, and have contributed significantly to changing policy discussions, nationally and internationally, on these themes.

We have supported giving young people and islanders voice, a clearer identity and more confident aspirations.  By raising the profile of young islanders and their voices, — in Uist, nationally, including in the Scottish Parliament, and in Ireland, — we have contributed to changing policy debates on young people and demographics, and on opportunities and perspectives in island communities.

We have significantly raised the profile of Uist locally, nationally and internationally, especially around our young people, our dynamic and enterprising communities and around our community and social enterprises.  This has contributed to sharing more rooted and positive perspectives on islands, rooted in the lived experience of islanders.

The Social Enterprise Place award has finally captured much more holistically the significant and almost existential contribution that community and social enterprises make to island and remote rural communities, with our brochure acting as benchmark of good practice for places seeking the award in the future.

Finally, through gathering young island voices and the priorities in the Social Enterprise Place brochure, we have given greater prominence to the climate emergency in relation to our islands.