Last week, the FREIIA (Facilitating Resilience Enhancing Islands Innovation Approaches) project team met on the Koster islands in Sweden for two days of intensive meetings and excursions. The Interreg North Sea Programme funded FREIIA project includes researchers and practitioners from a diverse range of organisations in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Germany, with a common focus on the development of better governance for small offshore islands. The Koster islands and Koster National Park are located off the southwest coast of Sweden, close to the border with Norway. They cover an area of approximately 12 square kilometres with a resident population of c. 300 people.
Koster is a very popular tourist destination and hosts thousands of tourists each day in the summer months but nevertheless struggles with issues relating to seasonality of employment and demographic change. The school on the island is no longer open due as there are too few children on the island. Although the school may be reopened should be reopened in the future, it is a matter of concern to the island community as the closure of the school is likely to act as a deterrent to young families who wish to stay or move to Koster. At the same time there is a cohort of young people on the island with creative, entrepreneurial ideas who are invested in the future of the islands.
The FREIIA team can help by assisting community representatives on the island in building better and more strategic relations with the local municipality and other public bodies at regional and national levels and the identification of potential sources of funding. More broadly, the project will foster transboundary learning among the island communities represented on the project. My role encompasses the structured documentation of this comparative learning, taking into account the nuances of national and regional governance systems and cultures and the specific challenges and opportunities pertaining to each island. I look forward to further engagement with the Koster island community and the FREIIA team.