Virtual summit connects Islanders on a global scale

Platform allows Vineyard folks to grow and share ideas with other Island communities. 

The Island Innovation Vineyard Ambassadors team is a group of seven participants initially brought together by Bob Johnston, the president and co-founder of Vineyard Futureworks.



By Lucas Thors


Island folks have a chance to be involved in a global conversation with other Island communities across the world in the Virtual Island Summit, which will run until Sept. 13.

According to Bob Johnston, director of Vineyard FutureWorks, the goals of the Island Summit run parallel with the goals of his organization, which seeks to grow the sustainability and prosperity of the Vineyard through collaborative innovation. The Island Summit is developed by Island Innovation, a social enterprise and digital media organization seeking to create sustainable solutions through digital bridges, according to the organization’s website.

“Our strategic intent is to create and realize a preferred future for the Vineyard community through Islandwide communication and alignment through shared issues confronting Islanders,” Johnston said. “Things like social and economic equality, environmental issues like sea level rise and waste and pollution — most of these are being discussed through the Island Summit.”

Johnston said Vineyard FutureWorks’ goals with the virtual summit are unique to the 500 Island communities participating. He said Vineyard FutureWorks reached out Islandwide, and identified 30 Vineyarders who are now participating in an M.V. Island discovery team, which will use the summit to gain insights that can be directly applied back to our Island home.

“We are doing that through a proven process called the Discovery Process, which I and a number of others have developed over the last 40 years,” Johnston said. 

By bringing those 30 members of the team together in what he called a “staging process,” they will be better prepared for success in each of the individual webinars and meetings with other islands.

“In the staging process, that is essentially setting your team up for success, and puts them in a position to gain the greatest insights moving into a process like this summit,” Johnston said. “The summit is really a time to stimulate new thinking, share best practices, and then relate that [information] back to the group that is going to try and implement those changes in their community.”

Johnston is also encouraging folks to set up “discovery pods,” where one or more team members get together and coordinate which sessions they go to at the summit, and apply that knowledge to a specific area of Vineyard life. 

He gave an example of how bringing people together in a collaborative environment can help disseminate important information and share ideas. “I just got an email from Tristan Israel. He attended an online Island Innovation session this morning that was called ‘Meet Ellen, the Future of Clean Maritime Transport.’ It’s an operation in Norway where they are using an electric ferry. Tristan emailed a link for that session out to everyone,” Johnston said. 

Now the Island Summit has moved from a staging process to an exploration process, that will involve each member of the M.V. discovery team sharing key information they gleaned from webinars they attended.

“What new questions need to be addressed, based on what they have seen at the summit?” Johnston said of the exploration process. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 5:30 pm to 7 pm, there will be an “insight session” where the members of the M.V. discovery team will share their insights, look for common themes, and delve into any new ideas that have been inspired by the summit and can be applied to the Vineyard. 

“Issues like waste and recycling are things that everyone is dealing with, but on the Vineyard, we aren’t yet dealing with that collaboratively,” Johnston said. “This is the opportunity for us to be more clear about how this is a challenge for the Vineyard, and resolve it in a way that it is perhaps a best practice for other islands.”

Johnston encouraged everyone to attend the summit, and learn about and contribute to important conversations that will ultimately determine the long-term sustainability of our Island.

Island Innovation released an attendee guide for the summit, which can be found at