New Jersey web designer Dante Moore said he was “crazy in the middle of a pandemic” when he saw a catchy headline in a web post in December that promised a free flight for a month’s remote work in Hawaii.
“That was a totally selfish reason at first. I thought, ‘Man, I want to get out of here,’ ”he recalls.
However, when 55-year-old Moore learned more about the Mover and Shakas program and its volunteering requirements, and how COVID-19 was devastating Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy, he found the proposal even more attractive and applied for one of 50 places in the founding cohort that was recently completed.
“I have some skills that I may be able to bring to the table, and I have what it takes to work remotely because I’m in technology. Maybe there was something I could do to help because the whole mission was besides tourism, how else can we build resilience to the Hawaiian economy, ”Moore said in a phone interview from his home in Burlington, NJ
He was one of the almost 90,000 applicants for movers and shakas who want to accept applications for their second cohort in midsummer in autumn. Notwithstanding free flight and hotel discounts, participants are expected to cover all other expenses, including accommodation, to further contribute to the economy, and to volunteer for local nonprofits and business start-ups.
During his 30-day residency, Moore worked with the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association and the Native Hawaiian Chambers of Commerce to develop a mobile-friendly online directory of Native Hawaiian-owned businesses expected to launch this month.
Moving company and Shakas director Nicole Lim said a free ticket to Hawaii may have caught their attention, but attendees were overwhelmingly motivated by the opportunity to help rebuild the Hawaiian economy and share experiences with like-minded people.
The temporary remote working program was launched in response to the pandemic by a group of local business leaders who “want to explore ways to build resilience in the economy” and “attract dedicated remote workers and kamaaina to contribute to the community,” he said Website.
It is an initiative of the nonprofit Hawai’i Executive Collaborative, with additional funding from the CPB Foundation; FCH Enterprises, Zippy’s parent company; the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation; Inkine Executive Search; iQ360; Island holdings; and kWh Analytics, with support from other companies and the State Ministry of Economy, Economic Development and Tourism.
The first group arrived in late February and March for a minimum stay of 30 days. Members were between 24 and 60 years old and had jobs in a variety of fields including technology, finance, education, and healthcare. According to Lim, a ‘Iolani School graduate with 15 years of international finance and technology experience who was a bit of a nomad in her own career, 65 percent returned Kamaaina and 75 percent have families in the state.
Addressing concerns that mainland residents would be stealing jobs from local residents and competing for scarce, affordable housing, Lim said they need to keep their existing jobs and mostly stay with family and friends or in hotels and vacation rentals.
The cohort members attended cultural education workshops and also signed a pledge to Our Keiki to uphold community values and volunteer at least 15 hours a month. Weekend excursions took them to the Bishops Museum, Iolani Palace, Kaena Point and other cultural, historical and natural sites. The participants also took part in the taro patch from Kako’o ‘Oiwi in Heeia and in an 808 cleanups event at the Huilua Fishpond in Kahana Bay.
Depending on their skills, they also worked with local groups on projects related to human resource development, education, entrepreneurship and similar areas, and assisted in the development of websites, marketing and other aspects.
For example, participants worked with the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and the State Department of Education on the Hanai-a-Classroom program, which aims to develop project-based curricula for students to explore industry-related topics and careers.
Others helped the PA’I Foundation create an artist accelerator program and worked with the Girls Scouts of Hawaii on a virtual badge program for science and technology subjects and a capital campaign for the new STEM Center for Excellence at Camp Paumalu.
While staying in a Makaha vacation rental, Moore got up at 3:30 am to work as a web designer specializing in user interfaces for Morgan Stanley on the east coast. He then turned his attention to working with the local Hawaiian business groups on their Kuhikuhi.org directory.
Moore called it “a perfect marriage” and was particularly impressed by the comments made by the groups as the Black Lives Matter movement “started talking about the importance of supporting minority-owned businesses and how this phenomenon is used as a backdrop to the problems.” of Native “inspired Hawaiians,” he said.
“I’m a black entrepreneur and I help black companies and run mine and understand the difficulty of getting visibility and all these things, I think, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ They wanted to create a directory, a Yelp for indigenous Hawaiian businesses, and I design and build apps for a living. “
While here, Moore also found time to take surfing lessons with Danny Boro of Waianae, a native Hawaiian whose business is on the directory, and explored Oahu with two of his daughters, ages 21 and 23.
Moore said he spent 20 to 25 hours a week on the Kuhikuhi project and continues to confer regularly with local partner groups as the launch approaches.
“This is the first time I’ve done pro bono work that I actually liked better than my day job and that I didn’t mind working for free,” he said.
Ilihia Gionson, communications director at NaHHA, said the association had been contacted by Movers and Shakas to offer cultural training to cohort members. At the beginning of their discussions, Lim Gionson said she had the ideal candidate to work on the directory.
“Our project was so in keeping with his values and the things that are important to him that he has gone far beyond the requirements of Movers and Shakas. I am so grateful that we made such a great new friend, ”said Gionson, who called Moore“ a wonderful Braddah ”.
Applications for the second cohort of Movers and Shakas open in midsummer, with the selected ones arriving in early autumn. Lim said there will be some “plot twists” as she likes to call it. Mainland will have a “personal anchor point” here and local talent can benefit from a wider professional network.
Movers and Shakas will also move towards team-based volunteering to tackle more substantial, larger projects, which Lim said, “Hawaii is uniquely positioned to lead.” That includes sustainability, agriculture and farm engineering, renewable energy and housing.
Other storylines for the second group may include finding a community setting with an Olympic village-style atmosphere that allows for casual interaction, and possibly engaging entire work teams that end up as case studies for remote work centers and new models for tourism could, said Lim.
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