PHOCUSED Joins Forces with Hawai‘i Appleseed Center

November 16, 2019, 11:16 AM HST
* Updated November 17, 5:34 PM
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Board members and staff from both organizations gather for a ceremony to officially recognize PHOCUSED as a program of Hawaiʻi Appleseed. Photo: Will Caron, Hawaiʻi Appleseed.

Last week, the advocacy group PHOCUSED (Protecting Hawai‘i’s ‘Ohana, Children, Under-Served, Elderly, and Disabled) joined forces with Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice to support and strengthen local communities.

PHOCUSED is now a project of Hawai‘i Appleseed, bringing a coalition of social service providers and the populations they serve to inform Hawaiʻi Appleseed’s public policy advocacy work. Together, the organizations will jointly pursue policy changes that benefit Hawai‘i’s most vulnerable populations.

“When half the families in our state are struggling to get by, it’s clear that Hawai‘i’s problems are systemic,” said Gavin Thornton, executive director for Hawai‘i Appleseed. “These systems are difficult to change, and to do so requires a range of tools and strategies, as well as a broad network of support. We need thoughtfully crafted data- and research-driven policy choices that are informed and embraced by the communities these policies will impact. By making PHOCUSED a part of Hawaiʻi Appleseed, we are integrating our “grasstops” tools with PHOCUSED’s grassroots connections to better achieve the positive changes Hawai‘i’s residents need.”

Both Hawai‘i Appleseed and PHOCUSED have worked toward the same goals—ensuring that systems meet the needs of the people they serve—but used different strategies. Working together, the organizations hope to maximize their efforts.

“PHOCUSED was created to help lift up the voices of people who are medically, socially, economically, or otherwise disadvantaged,” said John McComas, chair of PHOCUSED’s Board of Directors. “To be meaningful and successful, policies and system changes need to be informed by the populations they impact. Hawaiʻi Appleseed has built a strong foundation with its data-driven policy work, and will provide fertile soil in which PHOCUSED can thrive and achieve its potential.”


As a project under Hawaiʻi Appleseed, PHOCUSED will gain a separate project director/organizer and an advisory council. The model will mirror two other Hawaiʻi Appleseed projects: the Hawai‘i Budget & Policy Center, which conducts data-driven research on state budget and tax issues; and Lawyers for Equal Justice, which carries out impact litigation to overcome barriers to equity and justice.


“We are thrilled about this union of PHOCUSED and Hawaiʻi Appleseed,” said Joyce Lee-Ibarra, president of Hawaiʻi Appleseed’s Board of Directors. “More and more people—in nonprofits, businesses, government, and community—are coming to a shared understanding of the issues facing Hawai‘i, and have recognized the benefits of working together to develop solutions. We hope this powerful combination of PHOCUSED and Hawaiʻi Appleseed will help to usher in a new era where well-designed policies and systems meet the needs of our communities and promote a shared prosperity for all people in Hawai‘i.”

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