Island Institute receives national recognition for Island Fellows program

Posted 2017-07-20

ROCKLAND, ME – The Island Institute’s Island Fellows Program was recently recognized as the 2017 Outstanding Program by the Community Development Society, a national professional society for practitioners of community development. The annual award is presented in recognition of superior programming that exemplifies and positively influences community development practice. It was one of nine awards presented at the organization’s Annual International Conference which took place in Big Sky, Montana, in June.

One of the core programs of the Island Institute, the Island Fellows Program places recent college and master’s degree graduates in Maine’s coastal and year-round island communities for one- to two-year fellowships, and provides a unique opportunity for graduates to apply their skills and gain experience helping to build sustainability within communities whose way of life and identity face many unique challenges and opportunities.

“We are proud to have the Island Fellows program recognized in this way,” said Karen Burns, vice president of community at the Island Institute. “This award is a direct reflection of the hard work and commitment our staff members, Island Fellows, and community members have put into this program over the past 18 years. In addition, being recognized as the best program in 2017 on a national scale by our peers and those working in the field of community development is an incredible honor.”

Started in 1999, the Island Fellows program is designed to meet diverse and changing community needs. Fellows work on a wide range of issues from elder care and telemedicine access to after school programing and municipal planning. Placements are designed to address a specific project for two years, while building capacity at the community level to ensure the sustainability of projects after the Fellowship term has ended.

During their time in the program, Fellows work to increase the leadership capacity of community members though their work with nonprofit board members, municipal leaders, and influential community leaders. They are able to provide technical assistance and research that provides high quality information to inform important community decisions.

“I love working with community members on important issues, while also helping our Island Fellows build and practice the skills they need to have successful careers,” said Kate Tagai, community development director at the Island Institute. “What we build is truly meaningful, beyond just the two years of the Fellows term. It’s great to show Island Fellows first-hand what an amazing place Maine is to live and work.”

In its 18-year program history, the Island Fellows Program has placed 112 college graduates into 23 rural communities and contributed 340,265 hours of assistance on community-identified projects. In addition, Island Fellows have recruited thousands of volunteers and built capacity for the local management of historical, cultural, natural, economic and informational resources, so that coastal communities thrive in the face of an uncertain future. Fifty percent of the former Island Fellows have continued to live and work in Maine, continuing to build community through service work in a wide variety of areas.

Established in 1984, the Community Development Society’s Outstanding Program Award recognizes a recent or ongoing program that reflects the organization’s Principals of Good Practice throughout the implementation process. These principles include: enabling community members to influence decisions that affect their lives; engaging community members in learning about and understanding community issues; incorporating the diverse interests and cultures of the community in the community development process; enhancing the leadership capacity of community members, leaders, and groups within the community; and working toward the long-term sustainability and well-being of the community.

For more information on the Community Development Society or the annual CDS Awards, visit For more information on the Island Fellows program and the Island Institute’s work with island and coastal communities, visit