Introducing the Island Innovation Summit

What can Martha’s Vineyard learn from other islands?

An estimated 10,000 participants from over 500 islands across the globe will participate in the Island Innovation Summit this Sept. 6 through 12.

Organizers and Martha’s Vineyard ambassadors of the Island Innovation Summit, scheduled for Sept. 6-12, met over Zoom on Tuesday night to provide the public with a brief overview of the summit and the role Martha’s Vineyard will play in it. The Island Innovation Summit is a virtual event where an estimated 10,000 participants from over 500 islands around the world will meet to share ideas and solutions for resilient and sustainable living in the face of climate change. The public is invited to attend.

“There are so many similarities among islands across the world,” Audrey Joachim, director of operations and growth for the Island Innovation Summit, said. “Some [islands] may have solutions that others may need and don’t know. We created the Island Innovation Summit to showcase what is happening on different islands. The idea is to create a place for leaders who believe in the prosperity of islands through sustainable choices.”

Bob Johnston of Vineyard Futureworks discovered the summit last year, and promptly organized a group of Vineyarders to be ambassadors for 2021. The ambassadors considered a range of topics — everything from affordable housing to agriculture to waste management — but eventually settled on three areas of interest. 

The first area is Vineyard Arts and Culture, headed by ambassadors Phil Wallis, executive director of the Vineyard Open Land Foundation and former executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and Keren Tonneson, co-director of Pathways Arts. Tonneson said artists can work together with tourism boards and local governments to promote sustainable messaging, bolstering the cultural economy while encouraging inclusiveness and collaboration. 

The second area of focus is Youth Empowerment and Engagement, led by Jason Danielson and Joe Gammal, and supported by Johnston. This task force aims to “give the power to our youth, which is our future, but also engage them in new ways so that they can help solve the challenges we are facing,” Gammal said. 

The third consideration is a Vineyard Island-Wide Governance, helmed by Dukes County commissioners Christine Todd and Tristan Israel, alongside Island Housing Trust board member Dan Seidman. Seidman emphasized that Martha’s Vineyard’s current structure of six town governments on one Island is unique compared with other islands

“We have certain issues that can’t be handled town to town,” Todd added. “Sea level rise, affordable housing. We’re much stronger working together than as six separate entities.” 

While the ambassadors are focused on these core issues, the public is encouraged to attend the summit with any questions or considerations that could benefit from discussion with other islanders. “Anyone who has any interest in their own particular challenges that might be represented across the Island will likely find something at the summit,” Gammal said. “We welcome anyone to participate at a general level.”