Building Community from the Sea Up

The Island Institute works alongside Maine’s island and coastal leaders to build community sustainability in the state’s 120 island and coastal communities and share solutions for addressing our coast’s most critical issues—among these diverse communities and beyond.

Today, under the leadership of president Rob Snyder, the Island Institute’s work remains rooted in Maine, but has expanded through partnerships with similar communities off the coast of the Carolinas, Alaska, Maryland, and elsewhere. With more than 150,000 year-round islanders in the United States, there is no shortage of interest in the Institute’s work or partners for our programming.


Our Story

The Island Institute was founded in 1983 by Peter Ralston and Philip Conkling. Throughout its history, the organization has addressed a variety of needs in Maine’s island and coastal communities and focuses on helping them tackle the most pressing environmental and socio-economic issues they face. We do this by focusing on the following areas:

  • Building Resilient Communities: From our dedication to enhancing Maine’s marine livelihoods and supporting island and coastal small businesses, to our work with community leaders on critical issues like broadband, sea level rise, and climate adaptation, we work alongside Maine’s 120 island and coastal communities to help them address the unique challenges they face, so that they can thrive and lead as examples of sustainability.
  • Fostering Collaborative Learning: The work we do with communities fully collaborative. By working together and leveraging knowledge and experience, as well as a deep passion for Maine’s coastal communities, we can build models of progress that can be used to help address issues throughout the state and beyond.
  • Empowering Courageous Leaders: We recognize that leadership comes from within. Through our work with island and coastal schools, our leadership training, and our Fellows program, we help Maine’s coastal communities address the most pressing issues they face and partner with them to make sure they have the tools they need to thrive in a changing world. We are also committed to advancing conversations, understanding, and action around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice—in our local communities and beyond.

Our Mission

The Island Institute works to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities, and exchanges ideas and experiences to further the sustainability of communities here and elsewhere.

Our Vision

We envision that Maine’s year-round island communities will thrive and lead as examples of sustainability.


Strategic Plan

View the Island Institute’s goals and program objectives in our current Strategic Plan.

Impact Dashboard

View our strategic impact goals for 2020/2025 and a coastal map of where we work in our Impact Dashboard.


Annual Report

View the Island Institute’s program accomplishments and financial information in our latest Philanthropic Report.

Our Values

  • We respect the diversity of islanders’ perspectives, cultures, and heritage.
  • We celebrate island communities’ initiative and innovation, and see the islands as models for others.
  • We take an entrepreneurial approach to new opportunities.
  • We set the highest standards for our performance.