Introduction: What is Hoʻowaiwai?
Hoʻowaiwai—which in Hawaiian means “to enrich”—refers to building the power and voice of families and communities across Hawai‘i in ways that increase their ability to have choice and control over their own future. The essence of Hoʻowaiwai is grounded by the Native Hawaiian concept of wealth—waiwai, or literally, “water water.” In old Hawaiʻi, it was everyone’s kūleana, or “responsibility,” to mālama i ka wai, or to “take care of the water,” because it affected the livelihood of the entire village. Viewing wealth as a collective environmental asset challenges traditional western notions and links the initiative’s wealth creation agenda to strategies that build upon, preserve or advance not only Hawaiʻi’s financial capital but its human, natural, cultural and social capitals as well.
Island Style Asset Building
For generations, Hawaiʻi families have been saving and building their assets in hope of a better future for themselves and their children. Even in the most challenging circumstances, they have saved money, started businesses, utilized credit, bought property, invested in education, and planned for retirement. Like the people of Hawaiʻi’s past, Hawaiʻi families struggling today can build assets and lift themselves and their children to better lives. But, today’s challenges require different solutions. Today, Hawaiʻi families face significantly higher costs of living – including housing, transportation, child care, and food costs – making it difficult for families to make ends meet. Like the rest of the United States, Hawaiʻi’s policies that address poverty tend to be income-based, helping families get by, but not enabling them to save and invest. As a result, even though many of today’s families work hard and sacrifice, they are stuck in a cycle of getting by rather than getting ahead.
Together with better policies and innovative strategies, we can help families build financial security to help withstand difficult times, create economic opportunities for themselves and their children, and leave a legacy for future generations to have a better life.
Our work is inspired by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s belief that family economic success can be achieved when families are able to make progress toward the following three goals:
- Earn It – Working families are earning a living that allows them to survive and thrive in their community by qualifying for a job, finding and keeping that job, and advancing in a career that pays a family sustaining wage.
- Keep It – Working families access a full range of financial services through mainstream bank accounts, tax credits, and training programs that protect their income.
- Grow It – Working families are accumulating and maintaining their assets through higher education, home purchases, small business creation, and other asset leveraging actions.
This approach is also shaped by Hawai‘i’s unique culture and values base. From our island context, wealth is also the ability to share possessions rather than just accumulate them for oneself.
The Hoʻowaiwai Network is a statewide coalition comprised over 130 members of private and public organizations, community practitioners, financial institutions, families, and youth in Hawaiʻi that organize actions to address asset poverty and build the wealth and financial stability of Hawaiʻi’s working families.
Network building is a growing approach to maximize the impact of a collective group of organizations and individuals connected by a common purpose. As Peter Plastrik and Madeliene Taylor note:
A network’s reach can help people separated by geography and other factors to bring together the information, analyses, and ideas they each have, and allow them to reach shared conclusions that might not otherwise be developed. Such connectivity makes each “node” more productive and supports the creation of innovations, which arise from combinations of ideas.
Locally, the statewide Hoʻowaiwai Network is comprised of private and public organizations, community practitioners, financial institutions, and families and youth in Hawaiʻi that organize actions to address asset poverty and build the wealth and financial stability of Hawaiʻi’s working families. Hoʻowaiwai Network members work to build strategies and tools to increase family and community assets within the unique context of Hawaiʻi.