Hawaii is hurting. Stay-at-home, work-from-home orders have been extended another month, and businesses are suffering. The reopening of public parks for exercise is small comfort for the unemployed. Yet in the midst of fear and uncertainty, some citizens are stepping up to help others.

Millennials are often stereotyped: lazy, entitled, afraid of commitment. But they are at the fore of a selfless response to the pandemic.

Every1ne Hawaii describes itself as a “collaborative team composed of nextgen influencers from all facets of the Hawaii community, coming together for the purpose of engaging, empowering and activating Hawaii’s next generation.”

The group is in the process of distributing 2 million non-medical blue surgical masks, for free. With help from private funders, Every1ne was able to source and order masks. The group “checked resources locally, nationally, and internationally to discover that China was the only place with the manufacturing muscle necessary to produce a large supply.”

Every1ne Hawaii lined up private funders to pay for 2 million masks it’s handing out for free. Courtesy: Every1one Hawaii

Every1ne is working with community partners on each island to ensure that the most vulnerable and underserved populations receive masks, including kupuna, keiki, limited-income working families, Native Hawaiians and the homeless and incarcerated populations. So far, they’ve shipped nearly 500,000 masks to neighbor islands, with the remainder distributed on Oahu.

If you’ve watched Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s press conferences, you’ve probably seen a few of Every1ne’s core members: Robert Kurisu, Zak Noyle and Nicole Velasco have all appeared, along with Dr. Darragh O’Carroll. These core members are all millennials, but they defy stereotypes. They aren’t focused on recognition, only on getting the job done.

To this end, Every1ne is leveraging a network of social influencers to spread awareness within the community. Pro surfers like Ezekiel Lau and Carissa Moore are on board. UFC fighter Yancy Medeiros is assisting. These are just a few of the dozens of people who have committed to help raise awareness. Each of these members is leveraging their influence to persuade people to #StayHome and wear masks.

How To Win Friends And Influence People

Social influencers may be the most effective medium for the message. Young people no longer rely on television and radio news for information. Print news is slowly dying, as evidenced by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s recent layoffs and decision to suspend Saturday publishing. And trust in mass media remains low.

If you want to influence people, you need to reach them where they are. For better or worse, many people are on social media: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok.

If you want to persuade people to change their behavior and wear masks, you’re best off approaching them through people they like and trust. A fighter like Yancy Medeiros has a better shot at influencing his fans than a random news anchor or politician. Those fans can then persuade their families.

Influencer marketing is projected to be a $15 billion industry by 2022, and it’s far more sophisticated than the old model of celebrity endorsements. Advertisers recognize that social influencers can help them target niches rather than masses. Influencer advertisements are hard to discern from regular posts, a far cry from the George Foreman Grill ads.

Now, Every1ne is tapping influencers for a public purpose, asking them to use their platforms to promote civic engagement.

A Change Of Plans

Every1ne was started with the goal to increase civic engagement and voter turnout. Organizers “were in the midst of planning a community event focused on voter registration with live music and food,” but “planning came to a standstill” as they observed the global efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

The team redirected their efforts to their #StayHome and #Masks4All campaigns. The infrastructure they set up to promote voter turnout was well suited to disseminate information and resources to the public.

Every1ne represents one model for future social organizing efforts. A tight coalition at the center, a dispersed network of influencers, and integration of digital communication at all levels. No salaries, low overhead, and efficient use of resources. Maximum flexibility to respond to changing conditions on the ground.

Every1ne is proof that the public doesn’t need to rely on government assistance in times of crisis. A small team of dedicated citizens can provide millions of masks.

The question moving forward is how to balance between the flexibility of organizations like Every1ne and the stability of local and state governments. As millennials come to occupy positions of power within existing institutions, they’ll be tasked with deciding whether to preserve existing hierarchies or move toward distributed network governance.

How we choose between forms of governance will determine our ability to respond to future crises. Every1ne is modeling one way to get the work done, molding the structure to suit the problem. We should all take notes.

Editor’s note: Before the coronavirus sent us scrambling to report on the rapid spread of the disease in Hawaii and the effort to contain it, we had launched “Fault Lines,” a yearlong reporting and community engagement project aimed at exploring the social and political disconnects in Hawaii as well as promising examples of people and organizations who were trying to bridge those divides. This story shows exemplifies how our community is coming together to help each other in remarkable ways. 

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