Meet a (K)new Futures student: ”Plant ulu, save the planet”
Nine students from 4 UH campuses completed the inaugural cohort of the University of Hawaiʻi’s (K)new Futures Challenge this April. Students completed an 8-week co-curricular program offered in partnership with the Purple Prize, a locally-based indigenous enterprise incubator, to deploy ancestral frameworks to solve pressing contemporary issues related to our changing climate.
The students participated in a virtual Kilo Hoku to present ideas they developed together to build community resilience and restore ecological health in our islands. Erin Meezan, Chief Sustainability Officer at the multinational company Interface Flooring provided opening remarks, while the Castiglione a Casauria Foundation provided over $13,000 in cash awards to students.
Hawaiʻi and other island communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, bearing witness to coral bleaching, native plants going extinct, beaches disappearing, and flooding destroying built infrastructure and locals’ livelihoods.
“The Indigenous peoples of Hawaiʻi had calibrated systems that created abundance for current and future generations,” said Kamuela Enos, Director of Indigenous Innovation for the University of Hawaiʻi and co-facilitator of (K)new Futures. “"We are so grateful to the many talented kumu (faculty members) who helped us reach out and identify the thoughtful, reflective, and creative students who make up this inaugural cohort.”
The (K)new Futures Challenge seeks inspiration from indigenous ancestral knowledge systems to develop solutions for contemporary contexts, with an explicit focus on developing enterprises optimized for the repair, restoration and regeneration of peoples and places.
“Regeneration is a response to the urgency of the (climate) crisis,” said Paul Hawken, respected thought leader and founder of Project Drawdown.“Regeneration describes another set of tipping points, ones that can lead to a reversal of global degeneration, changes in ecological, social and economic systems that slow, forestall and transform the climate crisis.”
Upon completion of the program, participants are eligible for as much as $10,000 in awards to support further development of their ideas in the 2020 Purple Prize, which has helped UH-originated projects, like Mauka Marketplace, Hohonu, and Coral Cam, take their ideas to prototype and seed funding stages.
“We feel very fortunate at the Purple Maiʻa Foundation to have the opportunity to work with a group of inspiring undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Hawaiʻi system,” said Alec Wagner, Director of The Purple Prize. “Throughout this process, I’ve been impressed by the quality of innovation and depth of thinking from these students and have sincerely enjoyed working with them all. My team and I are eagerly looking forward to selecting those individuals that exhibit the most potential to create impact, and working with them over the next six months to accelerate their projects and build traction on their way to launching (k)new indigenous innovation companies.”
The (K)new Futures Challenge is brought to you by the UH Office of Indigenous Innovation in partnership with the UH Office of Sustainability, the UH Mānoa Native Hawaiian Place of Learning Advancement Office, and The Purple Prize.
“We might think of “Indigeneity” as referring to the continuity to ancestral knowledge systems that many peoples in the modern world have been severed from, with devastating results,” said Matthew Kamakani Lynch, Director of Sustainability Initiatives for UH. “Restoring & nourishing our intimate relationships with specific places is necessary to repair, restore and regenerate the damage that has been done to our places and peoples - and the (K)new Futures program can incubate ideas about how to do that.”