100 years

Strengthening Hawai‘i’s Communities
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Brent Kakesako isn’t used to being in the spotlight. As executive director of Hawai‘i Alliance for Community Based Economic Development (HACBED), his team has worked on a wide variety of high-profile projects, and yet the organization largely stays behind the scenes. And that’s how HACBED was founded to serve the community.  
“Because we serve in an intermediary role, we’re often in the background,” Kakesako says. “If we do our job right, the spotlight is on and benefit comes from the organizations, and it’s hard to tell what we did and what our impact was.”  
For almost 30 years, HACBED has been a facilitator, empowering and bringing together community members and organizations to support collective action across the state. This work can take a variety of forms. HACBED might help an organization internally with “capacity-building” on one day—from leadership coaching to strategic planning to board development—and facilitate dialogue between community members and institutional partners the next.  
The common thread: supporting and connecting community-based groups–oftentimes ‘āina-based groups—working to regain choice and control in their communities.  
“Choice and control means resources staying in the community,” Kakesako says. “Communities want to be able to choose what gets built or not built, and have control over resources tied to the community, so they stay in the community and are not extracted outward.”
That mission became more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the summer of 2020 it became clear that many of the organizations HACBED serves were struggling to keep up with the overwhelming scale of the crisis.
“They were trying to figure out how to support each other and also support themselves, and they were getting burned out; it was really high stress,” he recalls.
Funded by a grant from the Hawai‘i Resilience Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, as well as support from the Frost Family Foundation, Swayne Family Fund, Consuelo Foundation, Uplift Hawai‘i, the Ho‘i Wai Fund, the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund, and an anonymous contributor, HACBED helped organize a series of four convenings in November and December 2020. The virtual meetings brought together 17 organizations focused on different forms of resilience. Participants included grassroots organizations, governmental agencies, unions, and other groups.  
The gatherings helped participants build connections and relationships, and were a chance for the groups to talk about shared goals and identify opportunities for collaboration and collective action. Out of this effort emerged three subgroups focused on: creating a place-based experiential learning pilot to influence policy, convening a cross county coalition aimed at better coordinated community engagement efforts centered in equity and integrating culture, and lifting up an ahupua‘a approach to agriculture site visits to lift up food system issues.
HACBED also supports follow-up actions, such as providing additional research, making connections after meetings, or helping group members plan and coordinate shared tasks. “Folks are busy with their individual work, but to do shared or partnered work takes extra energy,” Kakesako said. “That’s an area HACBED can support.”
Kakesako said it’s rewarding to see what HACBED’s partner organizations and institutions can accomplish with internal facilitated spaces to reflect and intentional opportunities to collaborate. “It’s similar to a coach seeing their athlete doing well,” he says. “Yeah, maybe we helped a little bit, but it’s that athlete’s achievement. I think it’s a similar satisfaction.”

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