Nonprofit Envision Hawaii on a mission to spread social entrepreneurship

Envision Hawaii, a 10-year-old networking and resource organization for social entrepreneurship, is entering a new phase as it starts 2014 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization led by newly-appointed Executive Director Mondenna Jamshidi.

Jamshidi, 29, is the organization’s first full-time employee, and she will be tasked with building the social entrepreneurship movement in Hawaii. She previously worked with the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism’s Energy Efficiency Branch where she helped to redevelop the state’s Green Business program.

“This is really exciting as far as our story goes; We were founded in 2003 by a group of young professionals from different sectors who wanted to get together and do something good for our community,” Jamshidi said. “Out of these meetings came Envision Hawaii, and it has evolved into young social entrepreneurs embracing and helping to grow the social entrepreneurial movement.”

Social entrepreneurship, she explained, is using business to solve social issues affecting Hawaii. It is a term that has come to the forefront of conversations in recent years despite it being around for decades, as PBN explored in a recent cover story.

“It’s a new generation,” Honolulu software and video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers has said of the movement. “In the past, society as a whole — from investors to entrepreneurs — hasn’t had the luxury of saying ‘let’s not do something that’s going to be nasty.’ Young people are catching on to that. They don’t want to do something that just makes money to make money.”

Kimo Carvalho, chair of Envision Hawaii’s board, said the organization plans to take the movement in Hawaii to the next level.

“Historically, when it comes to social movements, you have these early adopters or people that have foresight way in advance, and frankly, Hawaii 10 years ago wasn’t ready for social entrepreneurship,” Carvalho said. “People didn’t understand it, how to identify with it. Our founding directors knew it wasn’t meant to be a nonprofit yet, but would need to be some day.”

After years of networking and raising awareness on the concept, the organization has reached that turning point, he said.

Part of executing its mission involves its established First Tuesday program, a series of collaborative talk story meetings, as well as an annual conference. Jamshidi is also finalizing new partnerships to bring social entrepreneruship into Hawaii’s high school and college classrooms.

Supporting Envision Hawaii is a resource committee of at least 20 volunteers who donate in-kind gifts valued at $100,000, ranging from the donated office space at The Box Jelly to the business cards for Jamshidi.



Highway Inn Mural

Traveling down Highway 1 in Oahu, you will likely notice a colorful mural on the side of the Highway Inn, a favorite local restaurant preparing traditional Hawaiian food since 1947. 

This is not just any mural, but it has a bit of a story and a social entrepreneur behind it.

Cutbacks in school funding in this area of Oahu have resulted in the removal of art courses from the curriculum of many local schools. John “Prime” Hina, a graffiti artist, envisioned a non-profit organization that would mentor at-risk youth in making art. He mobilized youth in the Waipahu area to work on a community-based project exemplifying what was unique about their culture and community.  Students designed and painted a mural depicting the well know landmarks.  The mural depicts the word “Aloha” by using symbols of the past and present in the Waipahu community.

John is the founder of 808 Urban a collective of artists and volunteers who are dedicated to improving the quality of life through innovation in the arts.  The mission of 808Urban is to be a cultural organization that promotes systemic social change.  John’s non-profit organization has grown since it began in 2006 and has created over 50 large scale mural projects as well as hundreds of art workshops.  Through his initiative, he has been able to open a store and an arts hub to support culture and art in the Hawaiian community.