Developing Scotland’s island communities

Posted: 01 February 2021, in News

Isle Develop CIC didn’t exist this time last year. I’m only now sitting down and trying to make sense of it.

Last January the thought of running Isle 20, a marketplace website for the Scottish islands, spinning up two sister ideas, and having my digital creations become the catalyst for a social enterprise would have been utterly terrifying. 

Which is funny, because it is still utterly terrifying. I can’t quite believe that it exists. Every time I think about the enormity of it, I look around for the adult who’s going to tell me what to do next.

So, what’s the short version? March 2020 saw the creation of the isle20 directory, in April it morphed into a shopping site, July brought a similar food focused site, August was when Isle Develop CIC was born as the parent company. October was when we tested a jobs board for the islands, Christmas and the run up was a total blur, and January? Turns out January is when we start the hiring process.

We’ve been fortunate to get a grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for a part-time post, as well as Firstport start up funding. The goal now is make sure we keep growing and learning, whilst we take our first steps into the really meaty bit of the idea.

The isle20, isleEats sites? They are in-house projects. They serve island communities and create impact whilst helping us generate revenue. I’m sure other projects will join them! That revenue is what we plan to use to build the other part of Isle Develop. 

That longer term goal is to incubate and support new ideas in the islands. Helping design experiments to see if things will work, helping people work through ideas before they get  anywhere near needing to write a cashflow forecast. Creating concepts and confidence. If it fosters innovation and one day plays even a small role in creating jobs and helping families and young people live and work in the islands, then that would be incredible. 

The trouble is how to start and where to stop. I’m not very good at saying no, and I can’t resist exploring an interesting idea but, if I break it all down rationally there are two key strands for the year: growing the isle20 site and our similar ones so that we have a steady source of income and getting version 1.0 of the incubator concept up and running.

I don’t know what that second strand looks like quite yet. Hiring a Social Media and Vendor Manager means that I should get a bit more time to figure it out. Maybe I should add a third strand about learning to be an employer.

Anyway, I fully expect the chaos that formed Isle Develop in 2020 to continue in some form or another. We’re not going back to normal anytime soon and for me, the key to survival is to keep experimenting and adapting. If any of my plans are the same in even 3 or 4 months time, I’ll be amazed.

Rhoda Meek,
Founder, Isle Develop CIC