Call for Contributions

The deadline for submitting abstracts is February 19, 2024. Click here to submit an abstract


For the first time, the North Atlantic Forum (NAF) bi-annual international conference will take place in Connemara, Ireland, June 17-21, 2024. Founded in 1998, the North Atlantic Forum is a “collegial assembly” which builds on a network established by the North Atlantic Islands Program at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada. It remains an informal network of researchers, regional policymakers, and practitioners from the North Atlantic region who share research and best practices and support community, business, and government exchanges across the North Atlantic region for increased collaboration and partnerships.

The conference provides the main networking event and focal point of communication for the extensive NAF network. The conference has been hosted in various North Atlantic regions such as Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada,; Hólar, Iceland; St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada; Bornholm, Denmark; Shetland Islands, Scotland, Sydney; Nova Scotia, Canada, and others.

In addition to policy advisers, practitioners, and researchers from Ireland, these highly participatory conferences have drawn international contributors. The event features a combination of inspiring presentations on new development policy initiatives, and new and ongoing research, as well as a rich array of development practices. These conferences always have a very strong applied focus, and the conference programme, developed by a local planning committee, includes a number of community tours and other in-field events. These hands-on experiences provide an opportunity to explore how communities and regions advance solutions to address local issues, and to compare and share parallel experiences from other development contexts.

The multi-day conference provides a very rich and highly resourced hands-on experience for policymakers, practitioners, community organisations and activists, social enterprises and local businesses, students, researchers, and others. Conference outcomes usually include a book, other publications, a rich wave of practitioner sharing and networking, student projects, and other initiatives.

The formal partners for the 2024 Irish conference are host community Connemara West and academic partner, Atlantic Technological University.


The objectives of the North Atlantic Forum relate to the imperative of integrating development policy, research, and practice. We hope to move beyond the rhetoric, which too often accompanies such intent, and integrate these into the real lived world of concrete and applied contexts of rural and remote communities, including those in island settings. Through ongoing communications, conferences, publications, workshops, and other initiatives, NAF promotes an iterative or recursive process whereby development policy is directly informed by practice and research, and research itself is informed by the realities and experiential knowledge of practice. And practice in the community is enriched and facilitated by insightful and relevant research, and evidence-based and informed policy. NAF is committed to, and has served to enhance, this three-way symbiotic relationship.

Conference 2024 Theme

The overarching theme of the NAF Ireland 2024 conference is Sustainable Livelihoods: Regenerating Integrated Development through Innovative Communities.

Couched within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is the 2030 Agenda, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. It sets out some 17 comprehensive and interrelated goals encompassing all aspects of life on our planet. These goals converge in rural societies, communities, and their ecosystems, and set the bar for a life that is humane, just, peaceful, economically viable, healthy, creative, productive, and sustainable in every sense of that word (e.g., culturally, ecologically).

The conference theme situates rural communities, individually and as networks of communities, in the very real contemporary realities and challenges of the climate crisis, rapidly changing technologies (e.g., AI), shifting conditions of globalization, uncertain geopolitical developments, post-pandemic societal adjustments, evolving issues around food security, international migration, and more. Within this flux is the ongoing, at times contentious, but central theme of “development” itself: its divergencies of definition, its association with the visceral issues of identity, its intrinsic association with power and the distribution of power, and its challenges to the very notion of local and community agency and well-being.

The creation, sustaining, and indeed, at times, regenerating of livelihoods, broadly defined, in rural communities suggest conference themes around the evolving nature of the rural and regional economy and its intrinsic interrelationships with changing and sometimes very uncertain ecological circumstances, and with changing societal values and expectations around cultural, gender and other conceptions of equity, including spatial equity. And these will have to be cross-referenced to shifting political and policy perspectives.

Livelihoods transcend social, economic, environmental, and cultural considerations. Traditional rural livelihoods have intrinsic economic and socio-cultural values, and they are now increasingly appreciated for the role they have played in ecological conservation. Enabling rural communities to safeguard the resources, which they have sustained for generations, requires making positive and enlightened policy and investment decisions. It also requires tapping into local knowledge and expertise,and embedding co-decision-making in governance systems. And governance itself suggests a sub-theme of new ways of decision design and decision-taking. Where is innovation taking place on this front? What are the lessons to be learned?

This conference provides an opportunity to take stock of good practices from across the North Atlantic Rim and beyond. It will afford participants a vehicle for exchanging ideas and promoting visionary approaches, so that all spaces and sectors operate within and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The new-found and renewed foci on the biosphere and on communities’ quality of life confers particular advantages on rural spaces and places, and notably the relatively recent realization of the centrality of place-making. New and emerging alliances and collaborations between rural and urban communities reflect changing dynamics that recognise that rural areas have an increasingly significant role to play in enabling all of society to attain greater social and spatial equity. What creative and innovative policies and practices are evident in the crosshairs of the climate crisis and shifting societal practices (e.g., work at home, lifelong learning)? Can we scale up from individual community entrepreneurship? This conference provides a platform on which citizens, communities, practitioners, researchers, entrepreneurs, farmers, fishers and other workers, groups, associations, networks, policymakers, and service providers can collaboratively share and document practices from across the North Atlantic and beyond, and work together to optimise research, policy, and practice.

Ireland as a contextual envelope for this international event presents an extremely rich backdrop. As a young, growing society still in the process of rapid structural transformation, economically, culturally, socially, and otherwise, it is a product of both purposeful development policy (Lemass, Whittaker), radical societal change (e.g. abortion, same-sex marriage), and a relatively new active development planning culture (e.g., National Planning Framework; Project Ireland 2040) that is attempting to address systemic change (e.g., Climate Action Plan, 2023), including that of rural society, environments, and community (e.g., Our Rural Future – Rural Development Policy 2021-2025). Ireland’s intimate and trusted working relationship with fellow EU members in all aspects of rural development, and its comfort level in globalized contexts, presents a very appropriate and potentially productive opportunity for all participants.


A community’s stories, memories, ancestral artefacts, poetry, dance and songs, and its language, foods, sacred places, physical images, and more go to make up the distinctive cultural identity of people and place. How have these elements of identity been drawn into the development dynamic of rural and other remote communities? What barriers have been identified, what opportunities in creative process have been observed? What does the research suggest in terms of challenges, strategic opportunities, appropriate process, and normative issues?

Economic development, even in its most permissive depiction, can leave many people out, may not adequately address the distribution of benefits and costs, can create episodes of stressful transition, and challenge if not undermine the social integrity of communities. How have communities innovated and addressed these complex challenges, how have they addressed inclusivity, equity, and ensure that fundamental social values are honoured and, indeed, advanced in the development project? What do rural communities in different contexts have to tell us on this matter? Have we seen breakthroughs in public policy or innovative practice? What does the academy report on the conceptualization of inclusion, and its activation?

For long, the term “integrated development” has been a watchword, a foundational norm and then assumption in international, national, regional, and local development. It is an unquestioned assumption that oftentimes passes as rhetoric. How are communities moving beyond the rhetoric, and finding ways to integrate competing development concepts, disciplinary and professional perspectives, new resident/Indigenous values and priorities, entrenched power structures, public policy and community practice, and other on-the-ground challenges of development at the community level? Does the research provide new insights here? How has public policy and government intervention addressed the implementation challenges?

Not all development initiatives work. Many fall far short of their design objectives and proponent’s aspirations. What are the lessons to be gleaned from these real-world experiences? How has “failure” been internalized? What does it take to harness the hard-won lessons? What can we learn about inappropriate process? What about the development organization itself or the match between public policy, programmes, and day-to-day implementation? What about embedded cultural and social factors, and how power relations play out? Where did design and implementation diverge, and how and why? What does public policy evaluation and the research community tell us about the valuable regeneration opportunities and “transferables” that might be available to other communities?

Most rural and remote communities, maritime, island-based and others, conduct their development agendas in what can be a contested milieu of externally generated policies and programmes, and local implementation. Processes of dynamic adjustment, adaptation and “fit” have to be crafted. What have we learned from contexts where this has been done successfully through creative melding of the external and the internal, through innovation and progressively negotiated and mediated collaborations? Where does the research take us? How has public policy learned and adapted?

Community development takes place through an organization, and oftentimes a network of interrelated organizations, each with their own history, mandates, legitimacy, reach, resources, and champions. Development takes place through a varied and shifting complex of formal and informal processes. What lessons are available to us from contexts where there has been significant invention and innovation in organizational design, in the development of the organization(s) itself, and in the challenging processes of community organizing for the development project? How has research addressed organizational (re)design here, and the recursive processes of organizing? Has public policy innovation been evident?

More often than not government is an integral component of the community and area development process, with its trappings of policies, legislation, funding modalities, and established programmes and protocols. Many rural communities operate within the context of multi-tiered governmental structures (e.g., local, regional, national). Governance as an innovative process of collaborative decision design, resourcing, and implementation, has received considerable attention since the 1990s. What lessons are available from community development contexts where innovation in government, governing, and governance has concretely contributed to the process of regenerating integrated development? Has government, at different levels, been a major player here? How has the research community made sense of the challenges and opportunities?

It is generally accepted now that rural community development is taking place in the context of an existential crisis, which pivots around human-induced planetary climate change. There are jarring contradictions between certain social values, aspects of market capitalism, some long-established production technologies, the enshrined value of “growth”, the absorptive and resilience capacities of our ecosystems, and much more. All of this lands in the lap of the community and its designs for a development that will not only be sustainable, viable, but sustaining of the community itself. What might we learn from the research, community practice, policies and otherwise, how rural communities can design for sustainable development, and manage implementation through measurement and rigorous adaptation? 

Food is the footing of community viability. Safe, clean, affordable, available, and secure food sources are integral to the very concept of rural community development, regardless of the context. And yet this life-source is threatened by climate change, the despoilation of marine and other ecosystems, the catastrophic loss of biodiversity, habitat encroachment, shoreline loss, monocultural agronomic practices, corporate monopolistic structures, and other factors. Are there emergent insights, lessons, and pathways available from innovative communities, socio-economic sectors, alternative production/distribution/ownership configurations, the research literature, progressive public policies and programmes, technological adaptations, and otherwise, to address this pivotal dimension of the development agenda?

Migration has always been a fact of life in rural communities. Now through geopolitical upheaval, climate change, rapid economic change, and other factors, migration is a global phenomenon. It is layered upon more local or regional processes of urban-to-rural counter-urbanization relating to lifestyle and other choices. What are the experiences from rural communities in the challenges around the processes of reception and settlement? What about active integration? What models or explanatory concepts emerge from the research here? How have government and the private sector responded? What are the core lessons in preparation, planning, adjustment, social equity and justice, care, organizing, and monitoring and evaluating practice here?

Community economies are more than the narrowly defined system of “economistic” structures and market processes. Individual, household, family, and individual well-being go well beyond material and pecuniary assets, and those matters commonly encompassed by economic metrics. Rural community development looks to holistic conceptions of mental, emotional, physical, and other aspects of well-being. What does the research suggest here as new conceptual frameworks or other insights? How has progressive public policy addressed the breadth of interrelated perspectives here? How have communities, or networks of communities expanded the framework of “economic” development to encompass a more complete and holistic design for development?

How to submit an abstract

We want to share stories and learn from each other. We encourage academic papers, panels, roundtables, posters, and non-traditional presentations (e.g., storytelling, interactive sessions) from all disciplines and perspectives, from researchers, professional practitioners, community activists, policy advisers, and others. We welcome submissions that look at the dynamics of integrative development for sustainable communities on a case-by-case or regional basis. We are also keen to engage with presentations that adopt a more comparative framework or methodology in their critical analysis. Abstracts of 150 words are now invited on any of the identified conference themes, identified above. These should be accompanied by the full name and institutional affiliation of the author/s.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is February 19, 2024. Click here to submit an abstract