He Aha Kau Hana?


Leina‘ala Ahu Isa, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

Reinventing OHA and where are we going from here…

Back in 2017, former Trustee Peter Apo wrote an article providing some thoughts on leadership proposals regarding OHA’s governance model and the need for a fundamental restructuring which involved seven recommendations.

These were: (1) re-visiting the constitutional intent of OHA; (2) re-interpreting the overarching mission; (3) re-writing the strategic plan; (4) ramping up OHA’s communications with beneficiaries to produce maximum transparency; (5) developing a far more sophisticated set of objectives in building strategic relationships with the broader Hawai‘i community, especially its most important institutions that impact Hawaiʻi’s economic growth and public policy development; (6) establishing a quality of life index that clearly spells out what it means to “better the conditions of Hawaiians and native Hawaiians,” and; (7) constructing our budget based on a set of pre-determined measures of success to accurately measure performance.

OHA’s governance model was antiquated in its management structure and in its approach to policy making, and clearly suffered from blurred lines of authority between the trustees and OHA’s administration. Since OHA’s inception 43-years ago, the ground has shifted under our feet and we have not been able to make crucial, timely adjustments to our governance model and it has finally caught up with us. “OHA’s duality of having to function as both a state agency and a private trust remains a difficult challenge to properly structure the governance model to accommodate two sets of sometimes conflicting objectives.” (Peter Apo, Hawaiʻi Free Press, 2017)

The fundamental governing principles of any elected body are articulated by its policies. These policies become doctrine which serves as the primary guiding instrument that creates the basis for developing a strategic plan which establishes guidelines that dictate how resources are to be allocated.

And Where Are We Going From Here? He Aha Kau Hana?

Now with a new CEO, Sylvia Hussey, and her new administration (2021), the opportunity arises for the Board of Trustees to continue helping to restructure this fundamental organizational structure that will have a profound effect on how OHA moves forward.

What I hope might emerge from our call for OHA to revisit, clarify, and perhaps amend its currently stated vision and mission, is that the process realigns with OHA’s new strategic plan, with an eye toward restructuring our governance model.

For those that still want to gain federal recognition (which might also be seeking independence), there is that center of gravity that emerged from the ‘Aha process in 2016 that yielded a constitution that needs to be ratified by some form of an electorate free of OHA’s influence.

For those who seek independence, and there are at least a dozen organizations competing for the high ground on that political objective, there is little agreement on how best to unify those of that persuasion in order to bring clarity on what a “restored” Hawaiian nation might look like.

Then there is a third alternative, with a significant percentage of Hawaiians in favor of the “status quo.” Some are basically satisfied with their way of life. Others hope to protect millions of dollars in federal entitlement programs now in play that may be threatened by political re-designation of Hawaiians as aboriginal peoples of Hawaiʻi.

Mālama pono me ke aloha pumehana, a hui hou, Trustee Leinaʻala Ahu Isa