Sharing knowledge for resilient, sustainable and prosperous islands worldwide – South Atlantic participation in the Virtual Island Summit

  • St Helena represented at Virtual Island Summit 2020
  • A successful event for the Island resulting in future opportunities

The Virtual Island Summit took place between 7 and 13 September 2020. The event was managed by Island Innovation, founded by James Ellsmoor.

This is the second year that the event has been run, but the first time that St Helena and the Falkland Islands have participated and had representation.

During the week, over 10,000 people registered and over 500 islands around the world were represented. Participants were able to listen to and engage in chatroom discussions with panel experts on a range of sustainable development issues from clean, innovative energy strategies and technologies to island responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as local and global challenges faced by the UK Overseas Territories in adapting to the changes brought about by Brexit, island collaboration, planning for the future and education for sustainability.

Registration was free and enabled participants to engage in networking opportunities through events hosted via the Summit website to reach out and make contacts across areas of interest and explore opportunities for sharing innovation and experiences, and applying technology and learning to their own situation. 

The St Helena Research Institute (SHRI), working together with the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), the Falkland Islands Government (FIG), and Enterprise St Helena (ESH), promoted the event and coordinated engagement and participation in the summit, along with Summit Ambassadors Kirsty Joshua, The Honourable Teslyn Barkman MLA (FIG) and Tara Pelembe (SAERI).

The South Atlantic islands as a region was represented across a number of events. Chair of the Board of Directors of SHAPE, Lolly Young, joined the discussion on various projects across the Orkney Islands, showcasing how the local communities are shaping energy developments to solve problems and shine a light for island futures globally. Lolly provided an example, together with Humberto Vidal of the University of the Magallanes (Tierra del Fuego) and Ebrahim Jadwet, Secretary of the Nicobar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, of energy and innovation of three very remote and different islands, shining a light on the work of the innovative social enterprise project and noting the original concept for SHAPE had grown from an example in the Shetland Islands.

Feeding back after the talk Lolly said:

“I have had quite a few messages come in to say people enjoyed the presentation, some who had never heard of St Helena and others who are offering to help. It has been a great opportunity and we continue to get people contacting us at SHAPE, saying they saw our slot and wanting to network.”

The SHRI co-sponsored the panel discussion ‘Innovation and Sustainable Development in the South Atlantic’ with the Falkland Islands Government. The panel was aired on Friday, 11 September, day five of the Summit, and was moderated by Deputy Director Innovation, SAERI, Tara Pelembe. The speakers were: Executive Director (SAERI), Dr Paul Brickle, Environmental Officer (FIG), Denise Blake, The Honourable Mark Pollard MLA (FIG), Director of Education & Employment, St Helena Government, Wendy Benjamin, The Honourable Russell Yon, Member of Legislative Council, St Helena Government and Entrepreneur and Co-creator of the Inside St Helena App, Darrin Henry.

Panel Members. Photo Credit: Inside St Helena

The panel discussion was listened to by 457 people from over 84 countries and islands, including colleagues and friends on or associated with Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island, Montserrat and Anguilla. Questions were raised by the audience through a chat line and fielded to the panellists by Tara. Although it wasn’t possible to answer all the questions in the time available, the team is working through the outstanding queries and will be continuing these conversations with those who asked them. One of the people getting in touch was Ann-Marie Jonas who is based in New Jersey. Ann-Marie works to build sustainable development within organisations.

On St Helena, about 50 people were listening in from the St Helena Community College (SHCC), the Tourist Office, National Trust and other locations.

In the days after the event, The Honourable Russell Yon said:

 “It was challenging to ensure that the correct information was collated for the presentation and doing so in the limited time available, but now that it is all done and dusted the rewards are and will be monumental. Since this Summit I have received several interesting correspondence from individuals either interested in St Helena or our Renewable Energy programme or providing some form of advice. This kind of engagement would not have been possible if not for the Virtual Island Summit 2020.”

Wendy added:

“To participate in this event, although a little daunting at first, was an amazing experience.  I would never have thought that I would be a part of such a prestigious event whilst remaining on St Helena.  This was a fantastic way of sharing what we do here on St Helena to a global audience.  I have had positive feedback from people on-Island and off-shore and see the connections made as a way of developing education on St Helena.”

Darrin commented:

 “A flawless live video link-up from St Helena is no small achievement, especially one that ran over 90 mins. It was a real privilege being a part of the whole event and speaking alongside Wendy and Russell. I’ve had two LinkedIn connection requests from people who watched the talks, from Estonia and the US (Texas). I’ve also had two emails from people who watched and reached out – a geographer from Poland and someone working in sustainable industries in Argentina. Feedback on-Island has also been very good from people who watched, mostly from the SHCC but also from other locations.”

The Honourable Teslyn Barkman MLA (FIG) spoke on the panel discussion ‘Brexit and beyond: global and local challenges in the UKOTs’ held on Saturday, 12 October.

Coordinator, SHRI, Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, concluded:

“Remoteness no longer means isolation, through the internet as well as radio we can connect to a global family of islands and islanders who we share similar challenges and opportunities with and who want to share knowledge to help grow and support sustainable, resilient and prosperous islands. We have some excellent examples of sustainable development initiatives on St Helena and the Falkland Islands that put the South Atlantic on a global leadership platform and we also have much to learn from others advancing in many other ways. The people we have reached out to, and are reaching out to us, maybe future visitors, investors, ambassadors and collaborators in progress for prosperity. Thanks are extended to our sponsors ESH and Sure SA Ltd for enabling us to co-host the panel discussion and engage online, to the SHG IT section for their excellent technical support service, to the speakers both here and on the Falkland Islands, and to Tara and SAERI, our ‘sister’ organisation who we worked hand-in-hand with to coordinate this event. Finally, thanks to James Ellsmoor and the Island Innovation team for the opportunity to participate in this incredible experience.”  

A big thank you to Paul Blake and Saint FM who produced a podcast of the four speakers from St Helena and relayed that through the local radio and also made available online on the Saint FM ‘Listen again’ page and linked from there to Facebook and Twitter.

If you would like further information please contact:

#StHelena #VirtualIslandSummit #VIS2020


7 October 2020

St Helena Government Communications Hub

Telephone: 22470