HONOLULU, Hawaiʻi — Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice and PHOCUSED (Protecting Hawai‘i’s Ohana, Children, Under-Served, Elderly, and Disabled) announced today that they have joined forces to lift up Hawaiʻi’s people and strengthen our communities. PHOCUSED is now a project of Hawai‘i Appleseed, and brings its coalition of social service providers and the populations they serve to inform Hawaiʻi Appleseed’s public policy advocacy work. Together, they will jointly pursue necessary changes to create a Hawai‘i where everyone can thrive.
“When half the families in our state are struggling to get by, it’s clear that Hawai‘i’s problems are systemic,” said Gavin Thornton, Hawai‘i Appleseed’s Executive Director. “These systems are difficult to change, and to do so requires a range of tools and strategies, as well as a broad network of support. We need thoughtfully crafted data- and research-driven policy choices that are informed and embraced by the communities these policies will impact. By making PHOCUSED a part of Hawaiʻi Appleseed, we are integrating our “grasstops” tools with PHOCUSED’s grassroots connections to better achieve the positive changes Hawai‘i’s residents need.”
Both Hawai‘i Appleseed and PHOCUSED have worked to ensure systems meet the needs of and value all people, but have used different approaches. By coordinating their efforts and sharing resources, the organizations seek to maximize their effectiveness in achieving this common goal.
“PHOCUSED was created to help lift up the voices of people who are medically, socially, economically, or otherwise disadvantaged,” said John McComas, Chair of PHOCUSED’s Board of Directors. “To be meaningful and successful, policies and system changes need to be informed by the populations they impact. Hawaiʻi Appleseed has built a strong foundation with its data-driven policy work, and will provide fertile soil in which PHOCUSED can thrive and achieve its potential.”
Hawai‘i Appleseed celebrates 15 years of advocacy this year. The organization has focused on conducting research to identify best practices or potential areas for systems improvement, followed by the creation of policy-level strategies to achieve those improved outcomes.
PHOCUSED was created 10 years ago to bring together social service organizations and the people they serve to uncover systemic problems that impact vulnerable communities, to understand how people are impacted by those problems, and to organize stakeholders to successfully advocate for changes that will address those problems.
In becoming a distinct project at Hawaiʻi Appleseed, PHOCUSED will gain a separate project director/organizer and an advisory council. This model will mirror two other Hawaiʻi Appleseed projects currently in existence: the Hawai‘i Budget & Policy Center, which conducts data-driven research on state budget and tax issues; and Lawyers for Equal Justice, which carries out impact litigation to overcome barriers to equity and justice that cannot be resolved through other means.
“We are thrilled about this union of PHOCUSED and Hawaiʻi Appleseed,” said Joyce Lee-Ibarra, President of Hawaiʻi Appleseed’s Board of Directors. “More and more people—in nonprofits, businesses, government, and community—are coming to a shared understanding of the issues facing Hawai‘i, and have recognized the benefits of working together to develop solutions. We hope this powerful combination of PHOCUSED and Hawaiʻi Appleseed will help to usher in a new era where well-designed policies and systems meet the needs of our communities and promote a shared prosperity for all people in Hawai‘i.”