Tree Hugger

The Virtual Island Summit

The Virtual Island Summit was founded by James Ellsmoor.  It is truly a unique event.  The ethos of the Virtual Island Summit is connecting leaders from around the world to drive sustainability and prosperity for island communities.  A variety of topics including environmental, sustainability and economic recovery are discussed with a focus on islands.  Now, more than ever these important conversations are needed to help facilitate positive change and more towards a more sustainable future for the betterment of the environment.  

There will be over 30 interactive panels, roundtables and keynote sessions all packed with networking opportunities and the chance for you to ask questions, have your say and get involved in the discussions with world-class experts from across the globe. 

Sessions cover a variety of important topics for islands around economic recovery, sustainability and good governance, including:

  • Towards Sustainable Island Futures: Comparing Small Island States and Subnational Island Jurisdictions
  • Clean Energy Development and Integrated Resource Planning (IRP)  
  • Democracy In The Islands: Political, Issue & Public Affairs Campaigns
  • Technology and Innovation Policy for Island Sustainability
  • Political Roundtable Of Island Political Leaders On Responses To COVID-19
  • Meet Ellen, the Future of Clean Maritime Transport
  • and more!

The summit makes these important conversations accessible to all with a platform to share knowledge and drive change.

Last year, The Virtual Island Summit had over 4,000 people join from 250 island communities around the world. 

Join The Virtual Island Summit and connect with sustainability leaders from Prime Ministers and Presidents to the local islanders doing their part to make the world a better place. 

Click here to register for free.

Q&A with James Ellsmoor, Founder of The Virtual Island Summit

What inspired you to create Island Innovation and the Virtual Island Summit?

In recent years the effects of environmental degradation and climate change have become more serious, there has been a corresponding shift in society, with people and governments wanting to transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle that is more environmentally-conscious. However, there have been communities that have been dealing with these issues for decades that have not really been part of these new conversations. Island nations around the world are disproportionately affected by climate change, and have had to adapt and innovate in order to survive – yet their voices and knowledge are not always being acknowledged on the global stage.

The Virtual Island Summit aims to be more inclusive in its approach. We have an opportunity to create “digital bridges” that will bring the voices of these communities to the forefront and work together towards solutions that lean on the expertise of every global community, no matter how isolated they may be. The input of these communities is invaluable in building a sustainable future, and the event brings together experts from islands around the world to discuss key issues facing the planet and how we can resolve them together.

Can you share with us more about the aim and purpose of the Virtual Island Summit?

The Virtual Island Summit’s main aim is to create digital bridges between hundreds of policymakers, entrepreneurs, academics, and NGO leaders from islands across the globe in order to discuss the major issues that are facing society. It is meant to bind together the global community, and promote the transition towards a sustainable world through constructive dialogue while highlighting the important work being done by island communities. 

We want to create opportunities for more experts from these communities to partake in high-level discussions on global issues and be a part of finding workable solutions. There are often certain barriers to entry, such as the location of international summits and the associated travel costs. A virtual event ensures that the playing field is level and that the only tools needed are a computer and an internet connection – we are committed to keeping the summit completely free! This makes for a more diverse array of speakers and attendees and lifts the curtain on what are usually restricted events.

What is the theme for this year?

Sustainability in action. There will be several panels and lectures outlining current developments in technology, renewable energy and governance – and how they can help with a transition towards greater sustainability. Each session will bring together leaders from different sectors to create a comprehensive discussion that really encapsulates the topic at-hand from several points of view. As the VIS Agenda highlights, every aspect of global sustainability will be under the microscope, with topics as diverse as the speakers themselves.

Who are some of your keynote speakers and topics of interest?

This year the Summit will boast participants who are leaders in their respective fields, such as the CEO of Leclanché, Anil Srivastava, who will be speaking during the Western Hemisphere Grand Opening, or Dr Laurie Brinklow from Prince Edward Island’s Institute of Island Studies’ who will be moderating a session entitled: “Towards Sustainable Island Futures: Comparing Small Island States and Subnational Island Jurisdictions” which will gather academics from around the world. There will be themed sessions with topics including but not limited to governance, renewable energy, and ocean conservation, as well as keynote addresses from several political leaders such as His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the recently elected President of Guyana, and The Honourable Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji.

How can individuals take part?

Registration to the Virtual Island Summit is completely free, with viewers able to follow interactive sessions live or through a replay link at a later date. There are over 30 different sessions available with no cap on how many you can join. Attendees will be able to interact and engage with each other during these events, and will have additional opportunities to interact with the Summit’s speakers and sponsors!

What can attendees expect when watching The Virtual Island Summit?

The Virtual Island Summit is held through a series of dynamic public panels, webinars, and lectures that unites some of the world’s sharpest minds and decision-makers in one place, providing a knowledge-sharing experience like no other. There is a large range of topics that are sure to grab attendees’ attention with sessions held in Spanish, French and English discussing important regional issues and how they can affect the world at large. It will give attendees a chance to listen to experts from around the world discuss case studies, the latest breakthroughs in their field, and outline a blueprint for a cleaner, more sustainable world – there is nothing else like it in the world right now!

What is your overall goal this year for the Island Innovation Virtual Island Summit?

The capacity to inspire, educate, and innovate through the contribution of island communities is a core goal of the Summit. Beyond that, the discussions had during the Summit can lead to real global change, with the leaders who speak and the attendees that partake leaving the VIS armed with knowledge, new connections, and a desire to enact change. I hope the digital bridges created by the Summit are the first of many and will help find a range of workable solutions for the planet that will safeguard it for future generations.

What advice would you give for individuals and/or companies trying to be more sustainable?

The hardest part of any transition is the beginning. There are so many different ways for individuals and companies to become more sustainable as well as an ever-growing support network that can help you reach your goals. Sustainability is good for the planet but also for businesses and individuals, and the opportunities that become available once that transition begins might surprise you! Sustainability within an individual or company system can be hard to implement in one go, but making small increments towards a greater goal will ensure that you are more likely to reach them! To slightly alter Anne-Marie Bonneau’s words, we don’t need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable, we need several million doing it as best they can. 

What advances have you seen in sustainability that gives you hope for a more sustainable future? 

Both the tourism and transport industries could benefit from more sustainable options. Agrotourism is a concept that has taken off in recent years – it capitalizes on the natural environment without damaging it and serves as a great learning experience for tourists. When you take into account the vast amount of nations that rely on tourism who have a wealth of natural beauty, and combine that with the growing interest in sustainable tourism there is a pathway there for making the industry more sustainable. On top of this, developments in low-carbon vehicles – namely electric vehicles and airplanes are always very exciting and have the opportunity to have a major impact on the world. Now those are just two developments in two separate industries, but they have the potential to really change how those sectors operate. 

James Ellsmoor is the Director of Island Innovation and Founder of the Virtual Island Summit. The network connects 20,000 islanders from around the world using “digital bridges” to share knowledge and encourage collaboration between islands and build a more sustainable future.

Relevant photos for this article including a headshot can be found here.