Purpose: Although research of entrepreneurial ecosystems has mainly focused on urban centers in developed nations, there is an emergent need to study the complexities of rural, regional and development contexts. Ecosystems in such settings are often characterized by the heightened importance assumed by environmental and social factors. This paper aims to document learning from participatory development and economic planning in the Galapagos, a setting in which the interplay between social, economic and ecological factors is critical. Design/methodology/approach: This case study seeks to elaborate theory with qualitative data from an empirical context. Findings: Reconstructed theory shows that in participatory development contexts, the entrepreneurial ecosystem constitutes a space in which competing interests contrast and conflict. Results from the Galapagos islands highlight the ability of local actors to successfully affect policy during local collaborative planning. The tensions between the economy, environment and society apparent in participatory dialogue indicate that a more nuanced approach to the interaction within entrepreneurial ecosystems is required. Originality/value: This case study demonstrates the value of analyzing the processes and mechanisms for collaboration in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in sustainable development contexts. Results suggest implications for scholars researching entrepreneurial ecosystem networks.