KAILUA-KONA — Micah A. Kane has big shoes to fill.
And those shoes have been worn by only a couple of people before him.
Kane was recently named CEO and president of the Hawaii Community Foundation – the state’s largest and oldest foundation that works with agencies and individuals to improve communities — making him only the third CEO in the institution’s 100 year history.
On a visit recently to Kailua-Kona as part of a statewide meet-and-greet, Kane said he is looking forward to continuing the foundation’s charitable legacy.
As the second largest scholarship provider in the state, HCF has distributed around $1 million to 200 Big Island students.
But just as important for the organization is for it to continue working as a facilitator that brings together groups from different sectors to tackle large-scale issues.
“There’s capacity in the community,” Kane said of their method to bring local people together to solve local problems. “We think the solutions sit in the community.”
So far, that blueprint has achieved some success.
The foundation, HCF, has spearheaded working groups that strove to find permanent homes for chronically homeless families, to a group that is aiming to establish 100 million gallons of new fresh water a day.
Those tasks could seem daunting, couldn’t they?
“Not at all. They’re solvable problems and I think the neighbor islands can play a role in all that,” Kane said. “You can get your arms around these things.”
Kane pointed to the HousingASAP network as a recent example.
HCU brought together 12 funders that resulted in $4 million to create the program that helped move 714 homeless families into stable housing and kept them there. The Big Island experienced an increase by 45 percent for placing homeless families into permanent homes.
“And we’re really proud of that,” he said.
But initially, getting the groups together to solve a common problem seemed almost a novel approach. That was because the agencies were used to competing for things such as grants and people.
“Now, we’re telling them, ‘Pause. We’re going to help you guys work together and transition together and, as a result from that, be more successful,’” Kane said.
The message sunk in and the statistics indicated the blueprint worked. Homelessness is still a major topic for the foundation as earlier this month they hosted an invite-only summit in Hilo for stakeholders to continue what they started.
But HCF is tackling other big issues as well.
It’s involved in around 10 initiatives, ranging from its fresh water network to working in a mentorship group that matches adult mentors with middle school students, a program that’s flourished at Kealakehe.
Prior to taking on the role in July, Kane served as HCF’s president and COO. Other experience includes working as chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, a 200,000-acre native Hawaiian land trust. A graduate of the Kamehameha Schools and Menlo College, Kane received his MBA from the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He currently is a Kamehameha Schools’ trustee.
Now, as CEO, Kane’s also exploring whether there’s a role for his organization to bring groups together to find a way to enhance civic engagement.
Voter registration and voter turnout numbers are too low, he said. Often times a small populace chooses the decision-makers, meaning too much influence is resting with too few.
“That’s scary,” he said. “That’s too easy.”
Still, the challenges ahead seem surmountable. Working with the islands’ branches — including Hawaii Island’s, which has helped 175 nonprofits over its 27-year existence — HCF will continue in its role as donor and facilitator.
Difficult, he said, but definitely not daunting.
“I’m an optimist by nature,” Kane said.