The Island Institute’s interest in collaboration has been inspired and informed by the work of David Chrislip, a consultant in the field of collaborative leadership who notes, “Collaboration is not just another strategy or tactic for addressing public concerns. It is a means for building social capital, sustaining a democratic society, and transforming the civic culture of a community or region.”

Our collaboration efforts are focused in two arenas: civic collaborative leadership initiatives and collaborative partnerships with other organizations and individuals in our community

Collaborative Leadership

At the heart of successful collaboration is this premise: “If you bring the appropriate people together in constructive ways with good information, they will create authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization or community.” The work of carrying out this premise requires a genuinely inclusive process that, in its execution, leads to constructive decisions and successful implementation of agreements.

Though the Island Institute was born in the spirit of collaboration, the Institute didn’t take a formal interest in collaboration until Sitka’s pulp mill shut down in the early 1990’s. Sitka was in crisis and torn by conflict. Long-running environmental controversies over logging in the Tongass National Forest had contributed to closure of Sitka’s pulp mill, Sitka’s largest employer; a crisis was brewing over how best to deal with municipal solid waste; issues of large-scale cruise ship visitation had produced deep division among neighbors and mistrust of local government.


The Island Institute ventured into this minefield with a sense of the urgent need to bring people together to find common ground. We initiated a number of projects toward this end before becoming aware of the outstanding work in this arena of David Chrislip, principal of Skillful Means in Boulder, Colorado. David agreed to work with us—and the community of Sitka—to develop a deeper understanding of the place of collaboration in civic life and democracy, and what is involved in putting it into practice.

We continue to be informed by what we learned in those years, and we remain committed to finding opportunities to promote the spirit of collaboration while working towards stronger community partnerships.

Collaborative Partnerships

An important aspect of fostering community resilience is encouraging people and organizations to work together on projects and goals that benefit the community as a whole. This becomes all the more important when you live in a small island community as remote as Sitka. To that end, we aim to find partnering opportunities when we can that contribute to Sitka’s long-term well being.

Following the 2012 Resilient Communities Roundtable, the Institute partnered with the Sitka Local Foods Network, SEARHC, Sitka Conservation Society, and others on a Community Food Assessment, the first steps in an effort to foster food resilience in Sitka. The Food Assessment Indicators Report will be available here in late February.

Also following the 2012 Resilient Communities Roundtable, ArtChange worked with the Institute and the U.S. Forest Service to produce a selection of short videos filmed during the Roundtable that highlight the challenges of defining and understanding resilience and moving it forward.