Hilo Social Enterprise Awarded $10,000

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Kū-A-Kanaka LLC, a native Hawaiian women owned and operated social enterprise headquartered in Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island was awarded $10,000 by the Hawaiʻi Peopleʻs Fund to design, test and launch ʻĪpuka EA, an innovative, culture-based Indigenous Learner Management System designed to manage learners attending EA Ecoversity, a tuition-free, culture-based higher education and career training program for Native Hawaiian youth. In addition to EA Ecoversity learners, ʻĪpuka EA will allow other Native Hawaiians and interested Hawaiʻi residents to earn diverse culture-based micro-credentials, certificated by esteemed native Hawaiian language, culture, and industry experts and verified via a digital e-portfolio. The goal of ʻĪpuka EA is to make earning culture-based micro-credentials, designed to increase employability and job security, seamless and non-threatening, especially to those without post-secondary degrees.

 ʻĪpuka Ea builds on decades of action research by Dr. Kahakalau in Indigenous Education, and more recently Indigenous online learning, learner management and micro-credentialing.  “This funding gives EA Ecoversity the momentum to fully develop a uniquely Indigenous Learner Management System, which is designed from a wholistic Indigenous worldview,” explains Krisha Zane, EA Ecoversity Administrator. “Our micro-credentials will help employers to identify job candidates who have the skills they are looking for, and open up career pathways for Native Hawaiian youth previously inaccessible without a college degree.”

For decades Native Hawaiians have had the highest rates of poverty and unemployment of all major ethnic groups, due to over 70% of Native Hawaiians having no post-secondary degrees, compared to 40% statewide.  EA Ecoversity aims to address this inequity by offering dozens of culture-based micro-credentials, as well as four digital badges focusing on Foundations in Hawaiian Language and Culture, Aloha ʻĀina, Career Exploration and Training and 21st Century Lifeskills, with the end goal of receiving an EA Ecoversity diploma that certifies them as educated 21st century Hawaiians. The micro-credentialing process, which will be managed by ʻĪpuka EA, will allow young Hawaiians to enter living wage careers of their choice and set them up for success in life.

EA Ecoversity was launched in 2020 by Kū-A-Kanaka CEO Dr. Kū Kahakalau in an effort to support young Hawaiians ages 15-30 to reach their highest potential and thrive as 21st century Hawaiians. This includes a focus on kanaka entrepreneurship building on the creativity and ability to innovate innate in Native Hawaiian youth. “Our youth have incredible potential.  Sadly current post-secondary institutions are not tailored to their learning styles, their cultural preferences, or their financial realities,” Dr. Kahakalau explained. “This is why we created EA Ecoversity.”  While EA Ecoversity is tuition free, learners are expected to reciprocate through service learning and assisting Kū-A-Kanaka in generating income to run EA Ecoversity.  


EA Ecoversity is fiscally sponsored by Kū-A-Kanaka LLC,, a Native Hawaiian social enterprise specializing in culture-based products and services which revitalize Hawaiian language and culture, reconnect native Hawaiians to ancestral knowledge and practices and restore a Hawaiian way of life through ʻāina-based living. As a for-impact organization, Kū-A-Kanaka reinvests all profits into EA Ecoversity in an effort to contribute to the recreation of a thriving Hawaiian nation.


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