BY KALOWENA KOMEIJI FOR THE HAWAII COMMUNITY FOUNDATION – The Hawai’i Community Foundation announced today the first recipients of its new Island Innovation Fund, which was created to serve as a catalyst for innovation within the nonprofit sector.

A total of $461,119 was awarded to five recipients for projects that will: promote group buying with socially-responsible businesses, with proceeds benefitting partner nonprofit organizations; organize the harvesting, collection and processing of excess food in rural communities to distribute back to its residents; create a shared database of real-time information of Hawai’i’s native forests to coordinate and promote conservation efforts; establish a shared registry of electronic medical records that will improve the quality of care for diabetes patients; and launch a mobile phone application connecting consumers with Hawai’i farm products to advance the local food movement. Recipients were selected from a group of 11 finalists that all share a common purpose to uncover new ways to tap into the power of emerging technology, collaborative problem solving and strategies to address changing workforce needs and demands.

“As our state looks to emerge from this difficult economic period it becomes increasingly important to create a culture for innovation,” explained Kelvin Taketa, president and chief executive officer of Hawai’i Community Foundation. “The Island Innovation Fund was designed to foster new ways to solve the various problems that our state faces, by working together and building upon each others’ great ideas.”

The Island Innovation Fund was established in 2010 as part of the $50 million commitment from Pam and Pierre Omidyar to the Hawai’i Community Foundation. Pierre is a celebrated entrepreneur and innovator who spent many years in Silicon Valley, and is best known as the founder and chairman of eBay. The Omidyars are also highly regarded for their pioneering work in philanthropy globally, in addition to their contributions at home in Hawai’i.

“It has been exciting to see the creativity and resourcefulness from within our island community.  We received more than 180 ideas that were submitted for consideration and it was a daunting task to select the grantees,” said Kina Mahi, senior program officer at the Hawai’i Community Foundation in charge of the Island Innovation Fund.  “All of the entries can be read on our website, IslandInnovation.org and we will also share progress of our initial grantees over the course of the year. We look forward to seeing the effect of these thoughtful ideas and solutions and how they are able to change the lives of many within our island community.”

This is the first of three award rounds planned over three years. The Hawai’i Community Foundation expects to distribute more than $2.5 million to fund innovations over those three rounds. The first round recipients of the Island Innovation Fund include:

Better Corporate Practices and Nonprofit Engagement Through Group Buying (Kanu Hawai’i) – $100,000
Kanu Hawai’i’s Better Corporate Practices and Nonprofit Engagement Through Group Buying initiative will foster good social and environmental business practices and increase public engagement with Hawai’i’s nonprofits, at scale. The program will allow consumers to connect and participate in group buying with socially-responsible businesses, with proceeds to benefit partner nonprofit organizations. Kanu Hawai’i started in 2005 as a local movement to maintain Hawai’i’s unique culture, foundation and way of life. The nonprofit focuses on island-style activism and values based on individual residents empowering themselves through positive choices.

Community Harvest Hawai’i (North Kohala Community Resource Center) – $82,415
The North Kohala Community Resource Center’s Community Harvest project focuses on an idea intrinsic in Hawaiian culture – that of preparing and sharing food together – to create a process that makes use of food that is going to waste. The project will bring together members of the community to harvest and collect food that would go to waste, process and preserve the food then distribute it back into the community. The North Kohala Community Resource Center assists residents and organizations write strong proposals to garner funding, turning ideas into well-planned projects that benefit the North Kohala community.

Hawai’i Conservation Technology Initiative (The Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i) – $78,784
In its mission to protect ecologically important lands for nature and people, the Hawai’i Conservation Technology Initiative will create a centralized database of information for conservation efforts and tools, providing real-time information to help resource managers protect Hawai’i’s endangered native forests. The Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i is part of a worldwide initiative by the leading conservation organization to protect more than 200,000 acres of critical nature lands in the islands.

Improving Population Management through Disease Focused Registries (Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health) – $100,000
Through a collaboration with Bay Clinic in Hilo and Waimanalo Health Center the health center will launch Improving Population Management through Disease Focused Registries to establish an accessible registry of electronic medical records that will improve quality of care for diabetes patients, particularly in rural communities. With a growing number of community health centers utilizing health information technology, health care practice has highlighted the critical importance of tracking and efficiently producing quality disease-focused registries. Information from the registries will be enable doctors and health centers to provide more proactive care and treatment to diabetes patients. The Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center has provided more than 27,000 patients in the Wai’anae district with complete comprehensive health and related human services, including dental care, pharmacy services as well as primary, emergency and specialty care.

Lei Fresh: Connecting Farmers to the Community (Hawai’i Agricultural Foundation) – $100,000
The Hawai’i Agricultural Foundation’s Lei Fresh: Connecting Farmers to the Community projectaims to develop and launch a mobile application which will advance the local food movement by connecting consumers with Hawai’i farm products, giving specific locations and availability of locally-sourced items. The project will allow users to interact with a social-geo check-in application which will reinforce sustainability messaging and provide new fundraising opportunities funding farmer education programs. The Hawai’i Agricultural Foundation’s mission is to promote awareness and appreciation for agriculture in Hawai’i and ensure the long-term viability of the industry

“This process has been a fantastic way to show innovation in Hawai’i in solving some of our thorniest issues.” said Suzanne Case, executive director for The Nature Conservancy. “Hawai’i is well situated to be a trial in this because of our appreciation for innovation and our ability to work well with each other.”

The Island Innovation Fund will begin accepting concepts for the second round of grants July 1, 2011. Details on the Island Innovation Fund are available at www.islandinnovation.org and the Hawai’i Community Foundation website, www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org.

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