It is not every day Ken Gauthier gets an invitation to Fogo Island – an offshore island off of the northeast coast of Newfoundland, home to the world-famous Fogo Island Inn. Invited by the Smith School of Business to the Queen’s Centre for Social Impact Workshop, Ken had the opportunity to visit the Fogo Island Inn – a social enterprise that uses business-minded ways to generate profits that are reinvested into the larger community of Fogo Island.

In 2003, in response to the diminishing fisheries and overall population of the island, Zita Cobb along with her brother Anthony Cobb created the Shorefast Foundation in an effort to revitalize the culture of the island. Since its inception, the Shorefast Foundation has successfully launched initiatives on the island to create an international destination for arts and heritage including the Fogo Island Shop and Fogo Island Arts.

The Fogo Island Inn created an opportunity for Zita and the Shorefast Foundation to use business design to strengthen the culture of the island, while enhancing the economic prospects of the community. The employment opportunities created by the Inn has allowed locals to acquire new skills to promote sustainability for the years to come. In maintaining the heritage and tradition of the island, the furniture and textiles inside the Inn were primarily created by working with local artisans. Additionally, the Fogo Island Inn was designed by a local architect whose goal was to “find new ways with old things” – striking a balance between preservation and new cultural production.

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Fogo Island Inn

These days community development is often deficiency-based where the solutions are focused on filling in the missing gaps. The transformative power of Fogo Island represents an asset based thinking approach, which builds upon community strengths as a primary building block of sustainable community development.

Many social entrepreneurs are grappling with how to create a social local economy where community reinvests in itself. Well past theory and possibility, the Fogo Island Inn and the Shorefast Foundation serve as a model that is rooted in community assets and practical outcomes. The Shorefast Foundation has provided clear evidence of the transformative power of social enterprise to invigorate culture and act as a catalyst for the economic revival of the island.

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