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Útoyggjafelagið: The Association of Outer Islands

Faroe Islands

The association of Outer Islands in Faroe Islands addresses the issue of outmigration from the small islands by providing a platform for social networking and knowledge exchange among people living on the outer islands. A key function of the association is to provide support for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the areas as well as affect decision making in fields such land-use, infrastructure, citizen services relevant for developing the islands. 

Citizens rally to stave-off depopulation  

From 1989 to 1994 the Faroe Islands were faced with an economic crisis that led to the outmigration of approximately 10 percent of the population. Internal migration also occurred during this period, with some residents moving to the outer islands to be closer to family members or to take advantage of their rich natural resources. After a few years it became clear that these areas were also in decline and that if something was not done the outer islands would become completely depopulated. In 1997 residents of Fugloy, a small islands in the North, decided to take action and held a public meeting which turned out to be an important turning point.

A democratic approach to development

The Association of Outer Islands is made up of 250 members – all individuals living in the outer islands. Priorities are determined by an ombudsmans-council which is made up of an elected representative from each island (approximately 12 people total). The overall purpose of the association is to:

  • Work for the development of the small islands and to encourage population growth
  • Impact the political debate and follow-up on recommendations from government-funded projects in the small islands.
  • Organise social, professional and political events that facilitate knowledge exchange and enhance social networking.
  • Link to other Nordic projects engaged with sparsely populated areas.


On the road to recovery

Since the establishment of the association population decline has stopped. Business opportunities have increased along with capacity building opportunities that support community members to capitalise on these. The association has also strengthened links between the small islands and the other parts of the Faroe Islands. This has led to better representation of the islands’ interests in political decision making as well as raising overall awareness of the small islands among the rest of the Faroese society. 

Balancing visibility and action

One challenge for the association has been balancing its efforts between being visible within the small island communities and lobbying government. Initially they focused on being extremely visible, which lead residents to tire of hearing the same opinions repeatedly without seeing any action. The association then began dedicating its resources towards political lobbying at which point people began to wonder why they never heard about them anymore. Eventually a balance was found however this highlights a challenge in the innovation process for small organisations with limited resources.

Small beginnings and a long hard battle

In the two years following the association’s establishment its only resourcing came from membership fees (200 DKK from each member). Following continual, tireless work making politicians aware of the regional inequalities the small islands faced, the association finally made a breakthrough and was granted core funding to support its work. Funding started at 75.000 DKK and, after several years, was increased to 150.000. Eventually a pool of 750.000 DKK became available for projects on the small islands. Approximately 120.000 – 180.000 DKK of this pool goes to the foundation and the rest goes directly to residents of the small islands to support various projects. The coordinator, who works part-time as an academic, continues to run the association on a voluntary basis.

Key learnings for municipalities

At times entrepreneurial activities in the small islands have been limited by the lack of funding available. Small project funding is not always enough for someone starting a business and traditional banks can be risk averse. A publicly run loans scheme to support viable economic activity in remote parts of the Faroe Island could be useful in allowing the establishment of larger enterprises.   


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Page last updated September 2016.