Last week, several team members from DAWSON’s Hawaii office attended a one year anniversary celebration for Ka Waiwai, a 5,000 square foot contemporary Hawaiian space where community, culture, and commerce intersect. Ka Waiwai was born from the vision of Waiwai Collective, a group of Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs who share kuleana (responsibility) and a passion for uplifting the lāhui (the collective). In 2017, DAWSON became a founding member of Ka Waiwai.  Aside from Waiwai’s landlord and founding partner, Kamehameha Schools, DAWSON was proud to be Waiwai’s very first corporate member. Today there are more than 150 members.

For Native Hawaiians, the waiwai signifies abundance, prosperity, well-being, value, and wealth— measured beyond just monetary definitions. Much more than a physical space, Waiwai provides a revolutionary model for creating well-being and abundance through its mission, which is  “cultivating a community that takes the creative risks necessary to put collective values into daily practice, affirm shared responsibilities, and learn together to create a more waiwai future.”

DAWSON’s cultural advisor Derek Kekaulike Mar wanted the company to become a founding member because he recognized Waiwai’s strong alignment with DAWSON’s Hawaiian values:  aloha, ‘ohana, kuleana, and kūpono. He also saw the vast potential Ka Waiwai has to be a place that brings together community, culture and commerce, which he says DAWSON already does in its own unique way. “We’re not a hub for that, but we’re very commerce-driven, so that we can provide benefit to community and culture. Waiwai has the same elements as we do, they’re just positioned differently. They wanted to hold a space to allow these elements to mix and flourish. Waiwai is not just the bottom line or the dollars, it’s the strengthening of network and community, and it’s the sharing of our culture. All of those things are waiwai.”

Derek says the primary reason he chose to support Waiwai is because of its potential to drive community advancement.  “We need more of these places that teach the community how to fish,” he says. “NHOs like us can’t be the only fisherman out there generating revenue to the Hawaiian community. It’s a great start, but it’s not sustainable in that we need to encourage the community to be their own fisherman or farmer, and generate abundance for themselves. Supporting Waiwai is a great way for our impact dollar to be magnified in such a way that it creates another economic engine and cultural engine and community engine for Native Hawaiians.”

Although Waiwai is a space that reflects Native Hawaiian values, it is an inclusive space that is not only for Native Hawaiians but for the broader community.  Since opening its doors in October 2017, Waiwai has welcomed more than 16,000 visitors (estimating at least half to be Native Hawaiian). During weekdays, Waiwai is open as a coworking space. It also hosts workshops, panel discussions, and the popular Awa & Ai series, with an awa bar, concerts, film screenings, and events. As a corporate member, DAWSON has had the privilege of hosting several events there, including a PM training. The relationship between DAWSON and Waiwai also extends beyond Waiwai’s walls: a group of volunteers from Waiwai volunteered at Lunalilo Home to help plant the gardens DAWSON built on last year’s National Day of Service.

Waiwai Co-Founder Mahina Paishon-Duarte says, “DAWSON has been a powerful partner to us because they live what they preach. Not only were they the first privately owned company to become a corporate member, they actively use Ka Waiwai to network and and introduce other values-aligned partners to the space, and more importantly to our collective mission. DAWSON is ʻohana not just a corporate member and exemplifies the kind of values and community-driven business leadership that Hawaiʻi needs.”

Reflecting on Waiwai’s first year, Derek also notes that it provides Honolulu’s rapidly changing urban landscape with a much-needed sacred space.  “I’ve witnessed the birth of a kipuka, which is a sanctuary—  like a space of green amongst a sea of lava. It’s a place where various industries and parts of the community can come together and meet.”  The concept of kipuka reflects a traditional cultural practice. “Native Hawaiians had designated sacred spaces where they would go to meditate or meet or pray or to share mana (spiritual essence) or get recharged,” says Derek. “A lot of that on this island has been paved over— literally.” 

Ultimately, Waiwai’s dedication to building “a more resilient, waiwai Hawai‘i” by embodying and amplifying aloha ties back to what DAWSON does in our work every day. “What we’re really trying to do through our mission is create waiwai for our employees and our community by serving our strategic clients,” says Derek.

Watch Waiwai’s 1 Year Anniversary Video