January 2019: Exploring Purpose

January 1, 2019
January 2019 Newsletter

Lonoikamakahiki and Happy New Year! As we make our way into the first few days of the new year, our team at EI welcomes all of you to our ʻohana – whether we have spent years working together or a few moments in passing conversation, we are so humbled to have crossed paths with each of you. Our theme for this month centers around Purpose. What is it that drives us to do what we do? What do we spend our time working to accomplish? How do we solve for the happiness and fulfillment in our lives? How might we close the gap between what we love to do and what we have to do?

With this January 2019 newsletter (our third monthly newsletter ever!), we extend to you our best wishes for a truly rewarding and transformative 2019, and hope to see you again soon!”


Education Incubator

Last night,  we were humbled and honored to bring together visionary leaders Nainoa Thompson, Duane Kurisu and Ted Dintersmith for a conversation about how transformation is sparked, grown, and carried out.  The 150+ attendees first engaged in a visual narrative focused on educational transformation hosted by Josh Reppun of @MLTSinHawaii, then heard the stories of the 3 courageous leaders about what inspired their work and accomplish something that seems impossible to others, and closed the evening with a short design activity.  Attendees to identify 1) a problem and transformative solution they would like to work on, 2) opportunities for transformative action they can offer to others, and 3) some ways to lower the barriers to remaining engaged in transformation and more convenings like this.

Mahalo nui loa to @MLTSinHawaii and XLR8HI for co-hosting the event, and for bravely offering your @educatorsofhawaii and entrepreneurship center opportunities alongside EI’s goal to reinvent internships as innovation cohorts.


December was Golden Circle month at EI, where all of our innovation cohorts explored the “why” behind their “what” and “how”.  In our quest to create authentic learning experiences for students, educators often turn to projects as an answer. These projects often pose a “why” to a student, and ask them to derive a “how”.  While this may mark a step in the direction of empowerment for students, at EI we strive to go a few steps further by choosing to dig deep into the “whys” of a problem in an iterative manner. Once a problem is identified (the “why”) and a possible solution derived (the “what” and “how”), we ask our cohorts to step away from their “what” and “how” and dive back into the “why”, seeking root causes and true solutions of societal scale.   Students emerge from the Golden Circle phase of our process with refined project ideas that address a societal “why” that they have personal interest in and dedicated to – a purpose project.

Take a look at our PD section below for more information on Simon Sinek and the Golden Circle.

Voyager PCS students researching and working on their Golden Circle worksheet.

RHS Innovation Cohorts meeting with Community Experts and Clients

Our Roosevelt High School cohorts entered into their first cycle of project idea refinement, meeting with community and content experts and their potential clients.  Thank you to Pono Shim of Oʻahu Economic Development Board, Beth Ann Kozovich of Kahi Mohala, Mike Nahoʻopiʻi of Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, Patricia Halagao of University of Hawaiʻi College of Education, Kalehua Krug of Office of Hawaiian Education, and Molly Mamaril from Blue Zones Project.

Haumana of Hālau Kū Māna helping maintain loʻi kalo at Ulupō nui

The Importance of Place and Culture – Immersion Experiences

An example of diving deeper is the Place-Based ʻIke framework utilized at Hālau Kū Māna, one of our partner schools. In December, our Hālau Kū Māna students got to spend time with the Hikaʻalani stewards at Ulupō nui; they learned about the heiau, took a walking tour and learned moʻolelo of the place and region, and helped prepare and maintain the loʻi kalo.  As our students at Hālau Kū Māna deepen their relationships with different ʻōiwi organizations and their purposes, they are able to dig deeper into their innovation projects rooted in place and culture.

Highlights from Kinai ʻEha’s December huakaʻi, taken from our Instagram post. Follow us!

Our youth from Kinai ʻEha also dove deeper into culture and place, integrated into construction-based learning.  Through huakaʻi to Marine Education & Training Center, Dawson, Oceanit, and Sultan Ventures, our students learned about maritime construction and machine operation, federal contract work, high tech research and innovation, entrepreneurship and investment in Hawaiʻi’s economy, and the spirit and work behind Hōkūleʻa, Hawaiʻi’s beloved cultural icon and inspiration for collective good.

Sharing our Knowledge:

Word cloud of the responses to “Does your work WHY align with your core WHY?”

Our founder and CEO Miki was the keynote speaker for an online mini-conference TCCfx2018, a 1-day online conference hosted by the UH Mānoa Department of Learning Design and Technology that aims to empower the educational technology community through connection, collaboration, and the generation of innovative ideas for teaching and learning. Miki’s keynote was focused on sustaining education through innovation; more specifically, asking participants to consider their WHYs for what they do and what they love. Here are some snippets from her keynote that we found powerful for us to learn and grow from.

Miki asked participants to submit up to 3 phrases or keywords to answer the question “Does your work WHY align with your core WHY?”  Participants were asked to consider the gap between what they love to do and what they have to do, and pause to imagine a world in which there might be perfect alignment between the two.  Here are some of their answers (larger font size indicates multiple people submitted the same answer):

Miki then asked “What do you need to close your WHY gap?”.  Participants were asked to submit up to 3 phrases or keywords that describe the resources, supports, opportunities, characteristics, and changes in the world needed to create more alignment between core values and efforts at work.
Word cloud of the responses to “What do you need to close your WHY gap?”

Have you thought about your WHYs as they relate to HOW and WHAT you do? Watch this short video to get you into that headspace, and check out our PD section below for the link to the extended version.

PD is Only
a Click Away

Professional (and Personal!) development is not limited to what you find at conferences and in courses – check out this sampling we’ve gathered this past month. If you have some to share, we would love to hear from you – email your suggestions to [email protected]


Simon Sinek

Check out his full-length TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, where Sinek takes a deep dive into the concept of The Golden Circle, a unifying pattern he has observed in many great leaders.  The Golden Circle is rooted in the “why” of a project, job or idea. According to Sinek, the “why” is the purpose, cause or belief that lies at the heart of every successful idea.  Most ideas are born in the outer ring of “what”, leaving the “how” and “why” to be filled in later.  Yet, when the “why” speaks clearly to our inner values and beliefs, we fully embrace the “how” and will often go above and beyond to accomplish the “what”.  Sinek’s theory is grounded in the science of human decision making and the effect why has on human behavior.



SoulPancake is an organization dedicated to making “stuff that matters” and sharing it across a variety of platforms.  The heart-warming and often hilarious content created by the SoulPancake team “explores big questions, celebrates humanity, and champions creativity.”  Check out these videos from two of their more popular YouTube playlists.  The first is What is your purpose? from the 0-100 series, which asks individuals who range in age from 0 to 100 the same question and then pieces together their responses in a short, but often inspiring video.  The second is from Big Questions, Little Kids, another SoulPancake series which asks young children deep philosophical questions.  Check out What is Our Purpose? and be inspired by the wisdom and grace of young people


Life on Purpose Podcast

For those of you who often find yourself wondering how you can live your own lives with more purpose, we present the highly acclaimed Life on Purpose Podcast.  Produced and hosted by Gregory Berg, Life on Purpose features in-depth conversations individuals from around the world who are living their everyday lives with purpose.  Each episode offers inspiring ideas and concrete examples for listeners looking to inject more purpose into their lives. Guests include creatives, academics and visionaries who are all working to help people bring more purpose and meaning into their lives.  Check it out today wherever you get your podcasts!

EI Book


This month, our EI team found ourselves sharing a lot of articles and book chapters with each other – we even created a Slack channel to help us streamline the sharing!  Here are a few of our top picks for the month, and why we chose to share them.

Miki: The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement

As a teacher and a parent, I have many times found myself in need of guidance and support from the rich diversity of experts in our community – our healers; our leaders in education, economy, environment and culture; our kupuna and our keiki; and others like me just trying to move the needle towards voice and choice in our schools and communities.  Often, the biggest challenge we face in leaping into the great unknown of creating a new opportunity for transformation is perspective. This article helped guide me in my reflection and conscious action around the words and perspective we choose, such as strength vs. deficit, growth vs. fixed mindset, individual vs. collective, and in this case, healing-centered vs. trauma-informed.

Maggie: Why Identity and Emotion are Central to Motivating the Teen Brain

Finding the “why” in the work we do at EI is deeply tied to our student’s identity and the things they feel passionate about in the world around them.  The adolescent brain is biochemically and physically primed for innovation, and yet this is often a time in a student’s educational experience where the systems of “school” begin to dampen creative expression and ignore social and emotional needs.  This article sheds light on current research relating to how we can better support adolescents, who are often viewed as a problematic age group, in developing a sense of identity and an understanding of their emotions to help drive motivation.

Hye Jung: Purpose is Good. Shared Purpose is Better

“Customers are no longer just consumers; they’re co-creators. They aren’t just passive members of an audience; they are active members of a community. They want to be a part of something; to belong; to influence; to engage.”

To me, replacing the word “customers” with “students” defines the work that we do at EI. This article helped me reflect on our work in supporting our students in the process of creating meaning and changing community. Mahalo to my team at Project Wayfinder for sharing this with me!


January 23



Please join us for an evening focused on understanding the principles and current efforts to create a sharing economy here in Hawaiʻi. Hear from founders and leaders of some of Hawaiʻi’s model sharing economy enterprises, including HNL Soup, Kokua Market, and Friends with Farms.  Come prepared to think about how and why sharing is important to our local and global communities, and how we might make the sharing choice the easy choice in our industries, enterprises, and daily lives. Also feel free to bring a snack or something else to share with others – we will have light refreshments and deep conversation waiting for you!

February 6


Join Blue Zones Project and Education Incubator for an evening of exploring your life purpose, passions and gifts. Participation is free and all are welcome. Since this event is over the dinner hour, we also invite all participants to bring a healthy, plant-based dish to share. After the workshop, attendees will be able to join a 10-week potluck moai (group) if they are interested in continuing to meet and diving deeper into purpose in their own lives while also supporting others. Sign up here!

Holiday Wrapping!

In December, we shared some ways to lower our environmental footprint during the holidays by creating simple, DIY ornaments, gifts and gift wrappings – we had so much fun sharing these ideas with our friends at Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, XLR8HI and Rooted.684 at our Simplify the Holidays event!

Now that we are winding down from the holidays, here are some ways you can reuse those wrappings and ribbons you kept:


Futaba Hayashi

As part of the incredible support offered to us by one of our first funders, Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, we recently embarked on an interactive, iterative process to design a new logo for EI.  Through Catchafire, a platform that matches skilled professional volunteers with nonprofits to help them achieve their missions, we found designer Futaba Hayashi.  Futaba has designed for companies and organizations such as Nickelodeon and Childhood Rescue Project, and turned her creative energies and mentoring towards EI to help us channel our thoughts into images.  Stay tuned for the launch of our Earth to Ocean innovation sprint in April to see some of Futaba’s finished EI products – Mahalo nunui e Futaba!