“Sharing knowledge for resilient, sustainable and prosperous islands worldwide”.

Over 100 experts from around the world spoke at the Virtual Island Summit 2019.

The first-ever Virtual Island Summit included almost 4,000 participants from over 250 islands participating from places as diverse as the Caribbean, Pacific, Arctic, Patagonia, Europe, Asia, the Indian Ocean and many more. Attendees were from a broad range of backgrounds representing entrepreneurs, public sector, NGOs and academia.

Discussions ranged from digital connectivity in Tristan da Cunha (arguably the world’s remotest island), cultural preservation in South Carolina’s Sea Islands, journalism in Mauritius and innovative energy projects from Orkney to St Kitts. The full list of sessions and recordings is available here.

Given the hugely positive response from participants and the media, we are now planning how to promote this content and grow the Virtual Island Summit for next year – if you would like to be involved please do not hesitate to reach out and discuss ideas for partnerships.

We owe a special thanks to this year’s lead partner, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States for their excellent contributions and organisational talent. An additional thanks to our panel sponsors: the Island InstituteNB CommunicationsGlobal Green Growth InstituteNathan AssociatesSolo EnergyAquateraLeclanchéBlue Planet EnergyEnexorthe European Marine Energy CentreCuraçao Ministry of Economic Development and Natural Resources Canada.

In the meantime, participants can continue to interact with the Island Innovation community by using the Facebook Group and LinkedIn Group.

Goals

Connectivity proved to be successful when the physical boundaries are removed through technology. Similar conferences often fail to offer equal opportunity to all the interested parties and individuals; the Virtual Island Summit was able to bring nearly 4,000 speakers and attendees from 250+ island communities from around the world.

Interaction was at the core of the mission. Most of the sessions were characterized by attendees raising their questions to the panel of experts. All the sessions featured live polls where attendees could participate and provide relevant demographic information, and the chatbox allowed communication among attendees.

Free access marked a strong participation of multiple sectors such as private and public sectors, academia and NGOs. The registration process allowed a simple and quick manner to sign up for all the sessions of the Summit.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were a key theme throughout Virtual Island Summit. The event was able to explore public participation experiences on different islands to inform SDG-related policies, strategies, and legislation.

Continuity of the conversations is important for talk to turn into action. The sessions covered a wide range of island-related topics and discussion does not need to end after the sessions are over. Participants are encouraged to continue to interact with the Island Innovation community by using the Facebook Group and LinkedIn Group.

Outcomes

Feedback for the Virtual Island Summit was overwhelmingly positive with 100% of respondents saying they planned to join the next summit and 97.6% saying they were satisfied or very satisfied with the event. Inevitably, there were several respondents who reported technology issues, particularly from islands from bandwidth limitations, but these were notable exceptions.

We have taken feedback on board to ensure next year will run even smoother and make the technology even more accessible. The most common feedback was about receiving the agenda earlier to allow for planning which has been duly noted, but the majority of respondents agreed sufficient information was provided.

An in-person event screening several sessions was organized by the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, allowing for a locally-based discussion on the island. We are thrilled with this initiative and hope to support further live sessions during next year’s Virtual Island Summit.

The conference app was used by many attendees, but usage dropped off after initial posts and many found the Facebook Group and LinkedIn Group were most practical with clearer opportunities for continued networking in the future.

All sessions were live-streamed on the Island Innovation Facebook Page and later uploaded on the YouTube Channel. Total reach on Facebook during the Summit was over 115,000, showing that it broadened the event attendees and attracted different interest groups.

Media coverage was widespread including: Devex, IISD SDG Knowledge HubJamaica ObserverCayman CompassLoop Cayman, ImpakterThe Orkney News, Canary Green, The Jamaica GleanerBBC Radio GuernseyCESaRE VoicesThe Highland TimesCities ForumIrish Tech NewsChester Energy & Policy, & Sustainability Times.

Feedback

Feedback for the Virtual Island Summit 2019 has been overwhelmingly positive with some good suggestions for tweaks that can optimize next year’s experience. Some examples include:

  • “Loved the diversity of talks, and the diversity of speakers. Really looking forward to next year already.”
  • “Thank you for the opportunity to participate.”
  • “Very impressed with concept, presenters, questions and that the technology genuinely enabled. Congratulations to the organisers and presenters.”
  • “Great job! It could not have been easy to organize. Amazing effort!!”
  • “Absolutely amazing work – I do not know how many people were working on this, from my view it looked like a one-man-show and I am deeply impressed! I wish I would have know about the summit a bit earlier, because now I missed out on many other sessions due to other engagements, but I will try to catch up checking out the recordings.”
  • “I think this was truly an innovative idea and I am happy that I got to take part in it and would be interested in future events, since this is truly sustainable and accessible to thousands of people.”
  • “I hadn’t expected to find this event as compelling as I did. I shall aim to set aside more time for it next time around!”
  • “Overall it was awesome and I think it should be conducted every 3 to 6 months so that more possibilities and solutions can be shared.”
  • “Thank you. I have not stopped taking about the sessions, and the brilliance of the summit.”
  • “I would like you to continue this program and create the opportunity for the LCD countries and assist them in terms of educational level by offering opportunity to get the job by working with you and also make a strategies which will be innovative and more firm in the living today for the better future.”
  • “I was blown away by the organisers’ ability to put together such an interesting programme and only wish I had been able to join more sessions. I plan to watch some I missed on you tube and have already spread the word to others who I know were not able to attend. I loved the reminder emails before the sessions and for a newbie when it comes to remote conferencing, it was great to find the tech relatively easy to deal with. Brilliant job! Thank you.”
  • “I enjoyed a lot the sessions that I managed to attend. I learnt and that is important for me.”
  • “I only rated low on the networking questions because I didn’t use the community board and so didn’t interact much with anyone except during the conference chat rooms.”
  • “It was a fantastic conference with a wide range of topics from some very interesting people.”
  • “First and foremost, congratulations James and every single person involved in the organization of the Virtual Island Summit. The whole summit was extremely interesting, well-organized and offered an extraordinary amount of insights. A huge thanks to all the organizers, speaker and panelists. I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity to participate. I look forward to the next one!”
  • “The event was super well organized and I learned a ton. The speakers were top-notch. I am sure timing the event was super difficult – in a way I might even recommend having fewer talks and a more consolidated agenda, as it is easier for me to plan for.”
  • “In the end I was only able to attend one session, which I was really sad about. I just had too many other things to do that week! I’m not sure how to address this issue, but I imagine other people might have had this issue too. One option would be to spread the event out more time-wise, i.e. one session a week instead of having it all together in the same week, but that might change the dynamic too much. Also in-person events might help garner more commitment. Perhaps I just need to be better about blocking out the time on my own calendar!”
  • “It was brilliantly implemented. Well done.”

Next Steps

Our goal for leading this summit was to maximize participation. There is so much to be gained from sharing information between diverse islands, and that became abundantly clear as the conference progressed and the event will be held again in 2020 with the learnings from this year.

Some next steps that we are looking to find partners for include:

  • Launching a podcast based on the Virtual Island Summit.
  • Monthly events with a similar format to Virtual Island Summit sessions.
  • Providing services and training for others looking to hold online events.

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