Building Community from the Sea Up

The Island Institute works alongside Maine’s island and coastal leaders to build community sustainability in island and coastal communities and share solutions for addressing our coast’s most critical issues.

While our work remains rooted in Maine, it has also expanded beyond our state through partnerships with coastal communities across the country and the world. With more than 150,000 year-round islanders in the U.S. alone, we see an opportunity to build a vast network through which we can exchange ideas and solutions to help address the challenges we all share.

The critical needs of our coast are priorities that require coordinated resources and leadership over the coming decade and beyond. The Island Institute is well prepared to influence the greatest needs of our communities as we help propel the coast’s toughest conversations forward around economic, climate, and social resilience.


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 socioeconomic issues they face. We do this by focusing on the following areas:

  • Strong Leadership: We recognize that leadership comes from within and is key to maintaining social resilience in times of change. Through our investment in education, workforce pathways, and leadership training, as well as our Fellows program, we help Maine’s coastal communities address today’s pressing issues and partner with them ensure they have the tools they need to thrive in a changing world. We are also committed to advancing conversations, understanding, and action around inclusion and equity—in our local communities and beyond.
  • Resilient Economies: We work alongside 120 Maine island and coastal communities to help them address the unique challenges they face. By enhancing Maine’s marine livelihoods, supporting island and coastal small businesses, investing in our state’s creative economy, and working with community leaders on critical issues like broadband, we help build economic resilience so these communities can thrive and lead as examples of sustainability—now and in the years ahead.
  • Climate Solutions: Maine’s islands, coastal communities, and working waterfronts are on the front line when it comes to facing the negative environmental impacts of climate change. With a strong history of helping island communities in weatherization and community energy projects, we are exploring and investing in clean energy solutions and sea level rise adaptation as important paths to increasing climate and economic resilience for our coast.

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.


Our Impact

Our new strategic framework focuses the organization’s work on where we are best positioned for real-world impact and outcomes. Learn more about the contribution we seek to make in Maine and beyond through 2030 in the Our Impact section of the website.


Annual Report

View the Island Institute’s program accomplishments and financial information in our latest 2020 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.