Newfoundland and Labrador, Conference Co-Chair
Zita Cobb is CEO of the Shorefast Foundation, a registered Canadian charity, and founder and Innkeeper of the Fogo Island Inn. Growing up on Fogo Island, a remote fishing community off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Zita developed a deep belief in the inherent value of place and a profound respect for the human ways of knowing that emerge from respectful relationships with nature, culture, and community. At age 16, she left to study business and became a senior finance professional in the high-technology industry. Most notably, Zita worked at JDS Fitel (subsequently JDS Uniphase) in Ottawa from 1981 to 2001, where she helped build one of the most successful high-tech innovators in history.
Cobb retired from her business career in 2001 and returned to Fogo Island where the cod fishery had collapsed and the population had fallen from the 5,500 of her youth to 2,500. Feeling compelled to act, she founded the Shorefast Foundation (www.shorefast.org) with her brothers Anthony and Alan Cobb. Shorefast Foundation is a registered charity of Canada, and operates as a social enterprise that employs business-minded means to achieve social ends. Recognizing that traditional charity in the form of monetary handouts would not contribute to long-term cultural, social, and economic resiliency for Fogo Island, the Foundation’s goal was to leverage an initial investment to create culturally-rich, community-owned economic assets. Shorefast’s most significant projects to date are the award-winning Fogo Island Inn (www.fogoislandinn.ca), Fogo Island Arts (www.fogoislandarts.ca), and, most recently, The Fogo Island Shop (www.fogoislandshop.ca). These diverse projects draw on the traditional talents of Fogo Islanders to help generate the social, cultural, and economic capital necessary for Fogo Island to thrive in the 21st century and beyond.
Above all, Zita believes that the key to resilience for rural communities lies in the specificity of place: re-discovering intellectual heritage and cultural wisdom, and fostering the talent, knowledge, and abundance of possibility that already exist naturally in our communities. She remains guided by her belief that nature and culture are the two great garments of human life, and that business and technology are the two great tools that can and should serve them.