The 4th Sector


It’s been a busy two weeks for Dean and me. Last week we presented to a room filled with 200 funders, investors, and budding social enterprises. 25 enterprises that have completed the Hawaii Investment Ready cohort shared in panel presentations how our organizations are creating a collaborative movement across the state for social impact and change. It’s been dubbed across the globe as the 4th Sector and is the fasted growing sector in the market today. Conventionally the sectors of commerce have been divided between government, the private business sector, and philanthropic NGO’s or foundations. Now, with this new movement, all sectors are converging and creating new models of doing business in a healthy, robust way. For the past 2 years, our organizations have been meeting in 5-day modules quarterly to dissect and retool our businesses. Topics included: business models, governance, policies and procedures, HR, metrics and evaluation, leveraging capital, branding, and communications. It was an intensive time for all of us to “get under the hood” and take a realistic look at where we are, where we would like to be and what strategy we will take to get there. The most beneficial aspect of our time together was the peer-to-peer mentoring that occurred. We had the opportunity to sit at the table with some of our most respected peers in the field to glean encouragement and wisdom. We have all “graduated” but the work has just begun. It has been fun to watch maturity emerge in our organizations and individually as directors. Another powerful aspect to emerge is the possibility of future collaborations with new partnering organizations like Kākoʻo ‘Ōiwi, NRDS, Holoholo Store and their new endeavor, The Red Barn Farmstand, Hoʻoulu ʻĀina, Roots Café, MAʻO Farms, ʻŌiwi TV, Oʻahu Fresh, etc.


In the meantime, if you’ve been following us lately on social media, you have probably seen a bunch of different activities going on. Let me give you a glimpse of the daily itinerary for executive directors of a mom and pop shop organization…

Monday we had presentations at 3 pm – dry run at noon. After dropping off kids at 3 different schools, Michele heads to rehearse with the cohort while Dean crawls into a bee suit and transfers a swarm of bees into a hive he just built. (a newly learned skill from our bee expert Leah Drinnen) It had to be done that day because apparently timing is everything when transferring bees! Perhaps the bees could sense that Dean was in a rush. In less than 3 hours he would be standing up on a stage not with his bee hat but with his ED hat to talk about resilience and legacy. The bees gave him just a few stings as a reminder of what resilience really means.


Wednesday was supposed to be a normal day for us to run our weekly Kūkuluhou mentoring program. I guess our plate wasn’t full enough – let’s add a visit from our favorite funding partner to observe our program, a meeting to discuss future funding possibilities, a construction crew installing 18 photovoltaic panels, runs to the hardware store and kid pick ups in the midst.

This is a perfect glimpse of our lives for the past 9 years and the many hats we wear. There is no time for taking courses or reading manuals. We just have to work as a team, get it done and learn as we go. I wish we could say we had it all planned out with the perfect model and the perfect training to implement. What we do have is the resilience to go with the flow and the openness to embrace the new as it comes.


That’s how is goes for many 4th sector enterprises. They run on lots of passion, are understaffed, over-worked and under-resourced but tough as nails and changing the world one small idea at a time.

For now, we still have the energy and the commitment to stick it through to the end – to finish the race well. But I have to admit, Dean and I both dream of the day when we can sit in our hammock swings and gaze out upon Kapalai, all projects done, reflecting on the good ‘ole days when we were on the fly.