Informed by the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report, a group of Hawaiʻi Island community change leaders came together to learn more about Collective Impact as a strategy to dismantle silos and increase cross sector collaboration. The Small and Mighty group met with community leaders to learn more about the lived experience of those experiencing poverty, and participated in network meetings islandwide to learn what was being done to end poverty and assist the working poor on Hawaiʻi island. What they heard from community members can be captured within this quote:
"We might be the worst when it comes to income, but we are the best when it comes to ʻohana. None of us are making it on our own. All of us are making it because of ʻohana." Lauaʻe Kekahuna, Resident of Puna, Hawaiʻi.
2019 JUNE - JULY
Statements like this - and many others shifted the SAM's guiding question from "How do we end poverty?" to "What is our community's definition of wealth?".
The SAM group convened community sessions in Hilo, Puna, Waimea, Kona, and Kaʻū. Participants represented business, philanthropy, government, education, social services, faith, and community-based champions. Each person shared their vision of a vibrant Hawaiʻi through drawings and personal stories. Themes emerged, becoming the vibrant Hawaiʻi indicators, and participants gave these indicators a baseline score of its current state.
A Leadership Council was formed, comprised of representatives from the community convenings. The Leadership Council synthesized community ideas and created the Vibrant Hawaiʻi Grounding Statement to guide how we demonstrate the values of a vibrant Hawaiʻi and established the Economy, Education, Health and Wellbeing, Housing Coalition, and Resilience Hub Streams as strategies to achieve our vision of a vibrant Hawaiʻi.
Vibrant Hawaiʻi officially launched with 200 residents from all districts and sectors of Hawaiʻi Island committed to collective action toward a common vision of a vibrant Hawaiʻi. On that day we began to discover the answer to our question, "What is wealth?"
We learned that Hawaiʻi Island residents deeply invest in their human capital: the skills, knowledge, and experience that enables a person to contribute to community, and deepen their relationships, networks, and sense of belonging to Hawaiʻi and to each other.
Within 10-days of the initial shutdown, Vibrant Hawaiʻi led a community-driven mask distribution campaign, and over the next 8 months provided 472,400 surgical and cloth masks to communities islandwide. With a $1,700,000 CARES award from the County of Hawaiʻi, Vibrant Hawaiʻi established a network of Resilience Hubs that collectively served 41,733 households and 108,214 individuals with restaurant prepared meals, access to laptops and wifi, and programming to build community resilience, and graduated 46 instructors in Mental Health First Aid who certified over 300 community members within an 8-week period.
With generous support from a few residents on the Kohala Coast, Resilience Hubs continued to serve communities providing a safe space for students to access distance learning and families to access restaurant prepared meals through May 2021. Through Hubs 2.0, 28 3D printers were donated, and over 3,000 community members participated in 3D printing workshops. Over the summer, Vibrant Hawaiʻi participated in Kaukau 4 Keiki and brought together over 700 community members across the island who packed and distributed fresh produce and shelf stable food supplies to 4,000 children over a 6-week period. It was during these intense few weeks that Vibrant Hawaiʻi also received its non-profit status.
Additional 2021 highlights include the publication of the Vibrant Hawaiʻi Economic Development Strategy - a yearlong initiative that engaged over 300 community members who conducted a SOAR analysis and developed an Asset Based Community Development plan for each of the 6-highlighted sectors. Vibrant Hawaiʻi Social Service Navigators program launched, connecting over 400 individuals with Emergency Rent Assistance, Broadband Benefits, Child Tax Credit, and SNAP assistance.