The Framework That Leads Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Racial Equity Work

The Framework That Leads Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Racial Equity Work

Plum graphic with ube purple and blueberry blue blob shapes in the corners. The title reads "The Framework That Leads Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Racial Equity Work". Headshots for Michelle Ka’uhane and Mary Leong Saunders are in the center.
Natasha Lane | Guest Contributor, Spark & Thrive Communications

Hawai’i Community Foundation’s (HCF) journey with racial equity began in 2017 with the formation and launch of their CHANGE Framework, the lens through which the foundation executes its grants and supports community programs. Michelle Ka’uhane, senior vice president of community grants & initiatives at HCF, provides background on this unique framework.

“The CHANGE Framework came first, highlighting data in six sectors of our community. The data articulates both gaps and opportunities for HCF to collaborate with donors and other partners across sectors to improve the well-being of Hawai’i’s people and places,” says Michelle. “The CHANGE framework is a foundational tool for HCF to speak to our donors and partners about the most critical challenges in Hawai’i while offering an opportunity for collaboration to achieve impact.”

Mary Leong Saunders, vice president of philanthropy at HCF, explains how this framework has impacted their foundation. “Our CHANGE Framework is a priority for HCF. It’s such a great lens for us to view current community needs and to make sure our initiatives are having a high impact in solving our greatest community issues,” Mary says. “For example, our House Maui project focuses on affordable housing. When the Maui fires hit last year, this initiative took on even greater significance.”

Shortly after implementing the CHANGE Framework, HCF transitioned into trust-based philanthropy grant work. They examined their grant-giving practices and recognized several barriers affecting potential grantees. “Following the launch of the framework, HCF initiated our first CHANGE grant program implementing trust-based philanthropy principles. We simplified our application process to reduce the barriers to applying, did interviews with each of the applicants via Zoom and provided multi-year general operating grants,” says Michelle.

As part of their continuing journey toward racial equity, HCF joined the Nexus of Equity & Opportunity Nationwide (NEON) Cohort, a U.S.-based group of community foundations that hopes to deconstruct systemic racism and achieve equity within their communities. “We were selected to participate in the NEON Cohort to join community foundations from across the country interested in dismantling systems embedded in racial inequities,” says Michelle. “One of the biggest takeaways as a member of the NEON Cohort is the power of collective action and a unified voice - both required for meaningful systems change.”

Most recently, HCF has developed an anti-hate policy, which they plan on launching in the near future. “Hawai’i has a long history of cultural diversity, and we strongly believe in an equitable Hawai’i for all people,” Mary says. “We’ve lost a donor who informed us they could not be on our equity journey. Hearing someone from our own community say that was really surprising.” Despite this, Mary believes new donors have been receptive to the organization’s anti-hate policy and are excited about the foundation’s work moving forward.

To learn more about HCF’s CHANGE Framework, please visit their website.