Introducing A New Vision For Hawaii At This Critical Time - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Dee Nakamura

Dee Nakamura is an outreach specialist at ALEA Bridge, a provider of services to homeless populations in regional communities of Oahu. She is a member of Uplift Hawaii’s informal advisory committee.

Dawn Lippert

Dawn Lippert is CEO of Elemental Excelerator. She is a member of Uplift Hawaii’s informal advisory committee.

This is a time unlike any other, presenting hardship and suffering but also an opportunity for a reimagined, brighter future for our islands. But rebuilding a different future requires us to apply resources, time, and funding to new directions, not reinvesting in the systems that got us here.


We have the expertise here in our community to put forth a new vision that honors the strengths of our community — our diversity, our connection to the land, and our relationships to each other — to put forward new designs for our future.

As our state takes steps toward recovery after COVID-19, coalitions have formed and put forth a vision that encourages decision makers at all levels to design a more resilient and equitable Hawaii. Aina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration includes a set of four principles that “will calibrate our course not only to recovery but rediscovery of our potential as a unique people and place,” and A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19 put forth five recommendations on how to allocate recovery stimulus funds in ways that advance equity in gender, race, indigeneity, and class.

According to Uplift Hawaii, Hawaii can realize “a culturally grounded, sustainable tourism model that benefits local residents’ quality of life. Such a model will prioritize health and prevent overcrowding, root experiences in Native Hawaiian values, and strengthen — not just market or deplete — our natural resources.” Uplift Hawaii

More of these visions already exist and our hope is that many more emerge from diverse voices.

Reports containing important recommendations and data have led to tangible change and can guide us to our new future. In 2017 Aloha United Way published ALICE: A Study of Financial Hardship in Hawaii, foundational data from which is guiding policy discussions from minimum wage to affordable housing.

Troubled Waters: Charting a New Fiscal Course for Hawaii, published last year by the Hawaii Executive Conference, showed that our islands bear more than $88 billion in unfunded liabilities to “build and maintain infrastructure, prepare for natural disasters and sea-level rise, and meet public employee pension and retiree healthcare obligations.”

Hawaii Strategy Lab is also collecting and publishing stories which illustrate and embody these reports — stories such as that of our own advisory committee member Dee Nakamura, who was homeless for six years until this February. When COVID-19 hit, she lost both of her jobs. She was devastated when she found out the city was going to shutter public bathrooms so that people couldn’t congregate in parks.

So, she got involved with Hui Aloha and ALEA Bridge, cleaning bathrooms to ensure that they stay open, and then got a job with ALEA Bridge as an outreach specialist. For her, this work is about providing opportunities for everyone to grow and thrive no matter what lifestyle you live.

Seeking Feedback

Uplift Hawaii is following the lead of the coalitions, social movements, and individuals that are envisioning a better Hawaii. Our intention is to highlight and amplify these efforts, encourage community engagement, and build bridges of dialogue across silos. This moment opens a door to build back differently, more equitably, and more sustainably.

We are seeking additional signatories and feedback on our set of broad principles and have created an economic recovery platform inviting organizations, individuals, coalitions, and other recovery initiatives to contribute their input. The platform includes dozens of resources for decision makers and more than 130 signatories aligned with five principles designed to uplift:

  1. The health and well-being of all island residents
  2. A healthy relationship with our natural environment
  3. A diverse island economy with more local business and a new model for tourism
  4. Economic equity and community engagement processes
  5. State and local government leadership

Our goal is to provide a tool for decision makers to align their actions with the needs of communities which have been hurt by policies and an over-dependence on tourism that have driven up our cost of living. Poverty is pushing residents out of Hawaii and COVID-19 will only aggravate this problem if the systems in place remain. We can work together to build a more equitable and just future for all of Hawaii.

Uplifting Hawaii will not happen on its own.

Using the principles, recommendations, and data to guide us, it is up to each of us to make our visions for Hawaiʻi a reality. For our government and business leaders: we know that our decisions now and in the next few months have the power to shape the future of Hawaii for generations to come.

Uplifting Hawaii will not happen on its own. It will only happen if we play an active role in designing a future that uplifts us all.

Our advisory committee has begun the work of identifying principles and priorities drawn from community voice and input, but we know they’re not complete.

So, we now invite our communities to provide feedback. We are encouraging everyone to sign on to support the effort and share any ideas, policies, and initiatives that will advance each of the principles from now until June 20. Visit to learn more.

Read this next:

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About the Authors

Dee Nakamura

Dee Nakamura is an outreach specialist at ALEA Bridge, a provider of services to homeless populations in regional communities of Oahu. She is a member of Uplift Hawaii’s informal advisory committee.

Dawn Lippert

Dawn Lippert is CEO of Elemental Excelerator. She is a member of Uplift Hawaii’s informal advisory committee.

Latest Comments (0)

With the upcoming launch of a historic space flight by SpaceX/NASA and President Trump's creation of the Space Force, Hawaii can play an important role in space. The earth spins fastest at the equator going about 1,000 mph. This acts like a slingshot propelling rockets to escape velocity much faster than anywhere else in the world. Hawaii is not only strategically located, but we have clear skies all year round. We need forward thinking visionaries to lead us past our fixation on tourism. Unfortunately, we don't have such people in power. Nobody like that for as far as the eye can see. We have lots of political hacks who are beholden to the unions and our one political party. The names and faces may change, but it's the same old, same old. So talk about change and diversifying our economy will remain that...just talk.

Hoku · 3 years ago

Everyone is calling for concrete answers that keep my present reality stable and the same.  Like an initiation rite we are in a dilemma because you can't stay the same and change at the same time.Death of  old certainties comes with all initiations.  Something new is trying to be born and Covid has been the shaman forcing us into this unwanted death/rebirth. Wisdom it seems comes from suffering.  Our consumerist culture (80% of our economy) could only lead to planetary catastrophe.  We have to leave the train sooner or later--better sooner for our children and grandchildren. We can't change economies and futures without a corresponding change in consciousness ala Ghandi's call for high thinking and low living (small footprint): "I shop therefore I am." is the maxim of the culture that gives us both Amazon and Waikiki. No outward change without corresponding innner change.

JM · 3 years ago

Ethics and values are notably missing, and should be the glue uniting the noble principles. Yes, these have been paraded about for years, but that’s shouldn’t be an excuse for not embracing new optimism and a collective sense of purpose and responsibility. The problem with the philosophy of "keeping all the money local" is the fattening of those already in need of a diet. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the two extraordinarily wealthy foundations generously opened their purse strings to the needs of both the ka’amaina and Hawai’i’s guests in lieu of more development?

Shaka1962 · 3 years ago

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