I’m building a thing… One year on.

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That was the tweet that started one of the crazier years of my life.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about isle20. About the teabags and the business directory and the ecommerce platform which became a social enterprise and spawned a whole new set of challenges. (If not, start here)

I have worked harder than I knew I could to make this thing work. I have nearly totally lost the plot on a couple of occasions and had to be talked down before I sent an email I would regret. I might also have sent some emails I regret…

I have hunted seals in the postal system, explained the workings of the Colonsay ferry more than once, and developed a twitch in both eyes. I’ve written countless social media posts and nurtured an all consuming hatred of facebook advertising settings. I’ve apologised and refunded and humoured. I’ve broken the site more than once. And a keyboard. Possibly a mouse.

I’ve been in tears – mainly of frustration and exhaustion. I’ve over-reacted and under-reacted. I’ve been terrified of what I have created and what could go wrong, and how the heck do you do the paperwork and why does nobody tell you how employing someone works in practice… and if your annual gross pro rata puffin is more than the enhanced analytics point of sale sequence divided by two sgadain can anyone but the cats hear you scream?

Honestly though? I have loved it. There is plenty I would change about this past year, but creating isle20 and then Isle Develop CIC is not one of them.

I got to catch a wee wave and have a hockey stick graph – both of which in startup terms are Good Things™ – so as a tech geek, I can die happy.

And I am genuinely fascinated to see where we are in a year’s time. I’m never entirely sure what the next thing is. Whilst I’ve usually got an idea, or an experiment or part of a plan brewing, the what is always up for discussion.

The why is not.

Why did I create isle20 and then Isle Develop CIC? Why will I keep trying things until I find the right projects to help us support small businesses or community led projects in a meaningful way?

Because people are what makes a place. People are what make our island communities. People are the rocks, the roots, the history – past, present and future. They are the business owners, the bus drivers, the volunteers. They are the parents, the teachers, the nurses, the doctors. They are the crofters, the fisherfolk, the care workers, and the posties – even us IT folks! In 2020 our island communities pulled together and made incredible things happen – from massive online raffles to fundraise for hospices, to creating networks of volunteers who are still doing shopping and collecting prescriptions for vulnerable folks a year later.

As islanders, we live in remarkable places. But our island homes are more than a photo opportunity. We can’t eat the view and contrary to popular belief, time doesn’t stand still. We’re facing climate change, depopulation, a housing crisis, economic uncertainly, and the loss of indigenous dialects, language and culture.

The goal is not just for our communities to survive, but to thrive – all year round.

That’s the why.

The what next? We’ll see!

– Rhoda

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