Future Search The Method

Printer FriendlySpeaking with the Ancients

Ho'opono Ko'olau Loa

The future search took place in February 1996. It was called 'Ho'opono Ko'olau Loa: A Community Effort to Restore Community Values." The Queen Emma Foundation and Queen Lili'uokalani Trust provided the resources. Participants included high school students, teachers, native Hawaiian healers, providers from local hospitals, clergy, community associations, social and cultural agencies, business people, activists, and residents of all ethnicities. Every participant received a lei made by local residents. Auntie Malia opened and closed each session with a Hawaiian prayer.

During two-and-a-half intense days, 73 people reviewed their personal histories, and that of the society and the community going hack many decades. They explored shared concerns about education, drugs, the decline of family, the clash of traditional and Western values, collaboration and partnerships, land ownership and development, the disenfranchisement of youth, and unemployment. People talked about what they already were doing about their concerns, and what they wanted to do in the future.

Then, they "dramatized" the community they all wanted to live in, acting out scenarios of local life in the year 2020. By the third day, participants were astonished at the degree of unanimity: They agreed they would seek to maintain the rural nature of the community, integrate traditional and Western medicine, start a community-controlled wellness center, develop schools as lifelong learning centers, set up a pu'uhonua (place of refuge) and a cultural center in each town, and initiate community-based development projects.

In traditional planning meetings, people often narrow down to a few priorities In future search, with all aspirations and potential projects on large chart pads, we ask, "Who wants to do what?" Then people vote with their feet.

When the question was asked in Ko'olau Loa, a critical dialogue on the Foundation's role followed. Would the Foundation continue to lead? Would they fund  whatever was needed?

At last, a respected resident said, "Let's see what we can do for ourselves, and then we can see what help we need. We cannot keep on relying on everything from outside the community." Many heads nodded and several spoke up, acknowledging the need to reshape their relationship with outside organizations. The Foundation agreed to help with the transition if citizens would take the initiative.

Volunteers formed six task forces. One would link existing community associations; another would initiate a health and wellness program integrating traditional and western medicine. Still others signed up to create a master plan to address social, economic, and environmental issues for the district; initiate community-based education; involve youth in civic affairs; and build a pu'uhonua in each town.

With the Foundation's help, they started a newsletter for all residents, and the original planning group expects to expand and apply for nonprofit status so that they can raise their own funds.

Eight months after the conference, we called several residents to find out how they're doing. The cooperative spirit released by the future search continues to ripple through Ko'olau Loa. The implications for community health are far-reaching.





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