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Research Division (RD), Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)






The Chronicle of Research at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs


The 1980-81 OHA annual report states that during January 1981, the Planning and Development Division (PDD) was created and staffed with one officer and a clerical support staff from the Administrative Section. Their tasks were to prepare testimony to the Legislature, monitor all State Functional Plans’ hearings, provide support to four (4) Board Committees, and conduct special studies as required.

During January 1983, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) submitted its budget request to the State Legislature for general monies to defray the operation and program costs. Until 1983, planning and research activities were mostly done by program divisions. To expand the roles and activities of planning and information dissemination throughout the Office, a request was made to expand the Public Information Division (PID) and the Planning and Development Division.

The enactment of Act 202, SLH 1983 appropriated out of general revenues of the State of Hawai‘i a sum of $1,087,467 for fiscal biennium 1983-85. The appropriation would pay for 33 FTE positions, which included a staff increase for the Planning and Development Division.

After six (6) years of continuous operation since 1980, OHA’s Trustees recognized the rapid growth rate and changes within the organization over the years. This had precipitated Trustees at that time to be concerned about whether OHA was operating efficiently and effectively. To find answers to their inquiries, OHA contracted Arthur Young and Co. in 1986 to conduct a management audit of its management, organization and operations. The management audit was also needed to develop a basis or benchmark to evaluate future actions.

On November 26, 1986, the Contractor submitted its final written findings and recommendations to OHA and gave an oral presentation to the Board of Trustees. The report brought forth issues relating to the roles and responsibilities of the Board of Trustees, OHA’s administration and management, and program implementation. With respect to OHA’s administration and management, one of their findings was the fact that there was no formal planning process established for the Office.

Arthur Young and Co. recommended that OHA establish an effective planning process that: 1) enhance and re-orient the focus of the Master Plan; 2) develop separate program plans (division/office plans); and 3) develop operating plans with a planning mechanism for updating them on a regular basis. By 1988, OHA updated its Master Plan or strategic plan and established a planning process to update the Plan. During 1991, OHA promulgated its Functional Plans which gives divisions guidelines to develop specific operational and program plans. The OHA Master Plan defined the role and responsibilities of the Planning and Research Office (PLR), as well as its goals and objectives. The OHA Functional Plan outlined the activities and timelines to accomplish the goals and objectives.

In Section 3.0 “Administration and Management” of the Management Audit report, the Contractor stated that evaluation roles and functions should be part of the Planning and Development Division. It is the role and responsibility of this Division to review, assess and evaluate future planning activities. Although no specific recommendations for an evaluation position was ever mentioned in this section, several implications were made about its function and importance to the planning process. The use of the word “evaluation” in this section mostly emphasized controls in the planning process rather than evaluating programs.

In Section 4.0 “OHA Programs” of the Management Audit report, specific references were made regarding program evaluation. The primary focus of program evaluation is to measure the effectiveness of programs. Particularly, the report called for an evaluation to measure the effectiveness of all its programs, since only four divisions (Administrator, Health and Human Services, Economic Development and Education) had developed them as part of their planning process during FY1985-86. The other six divisions/offices did not have any way of measuring the effectiveness of their programs, but in certain situations measured only activities. Specific recommendations, relative to evaluation, were enunciated in the following sentences:

“We recommend that OHA develop and standardize appropriate measures of effectiveness to properly monitor and evaluate implementation and performance of all programs. These measures of effectiveness should also monitor results rather than activities.” (However, this recommendation did not qualify any requirements for evaluation in that, programs and operations must have measurable objectives and/or outcome indicators in their plans before they can be measured.)

During the 1987 legislative regular session, H.B. 287 was submitted by OHA for continual funding of its operations. The findings and recommendations of the Management Audit report were also disseminated to both the State House and Senate Committees for review and consideration.

In conclusion, the Committee strongly recommended that the board reaffirm its role as a policy-making body serving the Native Hawaiian community, formulating a policy-making process, and improving external relationships. The Committee also received testimony from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, which stated “that it intends to comply with the recommendations made by the Management Audit.” The Committee then recommended an adequate amount of funding.

Later In 1987, H.B. 287 was signed into law and became ACT 218, SLH 1987. According to Section 7 of the budget proviso, it stated that the “Office of the Administrator (OHA 100), shall develop appropriate measures of effectiveness of the purpose to properly monitor and evaluate implementation and performance of all programs; provided further that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs shall submit a detail report of the program expenditures by types of funding and the accomplishments of each program to the legislature not less than 20 days prior to the convening of the 1989 legislative sessions.”

Part of the funds from Act 218, SLH 1987 were used to contract a consultant (Arthur Young and Co.) to define targeted groups and their scope, develop appropriate strategies and measurement of effectiveness, revise the organizational structure, update all position descriptions, and recommend revisions to procedures where applicable. This activity was in consonant with the Management Audit and legislature in that, efforts would be made to expurgate itself from major problems. The results of the Management Consultant Services Contract were reported to OHA’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees and its Administrator.

During 1990, a planning process was set into motion to formulate goals, objectives and strategies for OHA’s Functional Plans. During the early part of the process, data from Native Hawaiians statewide, community leaders, representatives and staff from other Hawaiian agencies were gathered to develop the focus, direction and framework of these plans. The Functional Plans is also intended to provide staff and service providers clarity of the visions of Hawaiians affairs and conditions, and provides the basis for stability, continuity and cohesion to work towards the betterment of Hawaiians.

During 1991, the Planning and Research Office (PLR) assisted OHA to complete its final version of the Functional Plans by which all divisions and offices were to adhere. The OHA’s Functional Plans were modeled after the State Functional Plans.

On September 24, 1993, PLR began administering OHA’s Grants, Subsidies, Purchase of Services and Donations Program (GSPD). GSPD program provided support and assistance to Native Hawaiians through grant awards related to the cultural, educational and socioeconomic circumstances.

During FY 1992-93, Operation ‘Ohana (O‘O) moved from Education Division to Planning and Research Office. Operation ‘Ohana was a Native Hawaiian registry program designated to locate, identify and register Hawaiians worldwide.

The decade ended with PLR adding a Uniform Information Practices Act specialist to its staff, to manage the increasing number of information inquiries to the agency. Moreover, since programs and projects continued to increase in size and complexity, the development of a new evaluation unit was started.

The next decade was a decade of numerous organizational and structural changes. During January 1999, there was a major reorganization was started within the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The evaluation activities were transferred to a new Evaluation Unit and the grants activities became its own section.

The Planning and Research Office transformed into the Research and Development (R&D) Group. Research and Development served as the planning, research and development arm of OHA, providing information, community demographics and statistics to the trustees and staff. Within R&D was a sub-unit named the Data Management Unit (DMU). The Data Management Unit (DMU) developed and maintained a Native Hawaiian statistical database management system.

A year later, the Data Management Unit (DMU) split from the Research and Development (R&D) Group and took on the task of identifying OHA’s beneficiaries and the development of a Native Hawaiian database, Hawaiian ancestry verification program. Operation ‘Ohana was absorbed into the “Hawaiian Registry” Program. Research and Development continued to serve as the planning, research and development arm of OHA, by providing technical assistance, contracting and coordinating Native Hawaiian research and information. In 2001, R&D initiated and staffed the OHA Strategic Planning Process.

In April 2003, in the early stages of OHA’s structural reorganization, OHA’s evaluation function was remerged with the Planning, Research and Evaluation (PRE) division. The Planning, Research and Evaluation Division was designated to systematically create an organization-wide planning, research, evaluation and reporting system that provided updated and meaningful information on all OHA activities, programs and projects, to gauge their integrity, impact and significance to the Hawaiian community.

The role of research was to change again a few months later. The Office of Board Services (OBS) was created at the beginning of FY-04 to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OHA policymaking, programs and operations, and to manage information needed to reach decisions that would address OHA’s mission and goals. The Research program area was added to OBS in November 2003 with a principal goal of assisting in program development and better preparation of action items.

What remained of the Planning, Research and Evaluation Division became the Planning, Evaluation and Grants (PEG) Division. The Planning, Evaluation and Grants Division was designated to monitor the implementation of OHA’s Strategic Plan, while at the same time improving the efficiency and effectiveness of OHA operations and programs using evaluations and reporting. In addition, PEG administered the OHA Grants Program.

Research remained in OBS until 2007 when the Planning, Research, Evaluation and Grants Hale (PREG) was established. The Planning, Research, Evaluation and Grants Hale was responsible for improving the effectiveness of OHA programs and operations by administering research and planning process, evaluation and reporting practices to monitor progress toward agency goals, and an efficient grant making process.

In 2009, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs conducted an organizational assessment of how OHA establishes agency goals and objectives, allocates resources, determines priorities, assess needs, develops policy, evaluates activities, measures progress, and maintains accountability.

On September 10, 2009, the Board of Trustees adopted a new Strategic Plan covering the period from 2010 to 2016. The Board of Trustees adopted Strategic Priorities in six (6) key areas. These six Priorities are inter-related and are expressed from the perspective of OHA’s beneficiaries.

The plan was a dynamic and powerful new initiative for OHA and has resulted in OHA not only being clearer and more focused on achieving systemic change for Native Hawaiians, but also allows for the transformation of OHA into a more streamlined and performance-based organization.

Since the adoption of the Strategic Plan in September 2009, OHA has embarked on a concerted research effort to provide baseline information on the 10 Strategic Results and to also set target measures that can be monitored as the Plan is implemented.

Further, OHA’s Strategic Plan provides greater clarity in its role toward fulfilling its mission. Specifically, to achieve its Priorities and Strategic Results, in order to, implement the Strategic Plan, OHA underwent a major organizational realignment throughout the remaining fiscal year. This realignment involved the establishment of functional Lines of Business (LOB) that are consistent with the roles of the organization: Research, Advocacy, and Asset Management. This new structure replaces OHA’s previous structure of topic-specific “hale” with functional lines of business and programs. A major aspect of this structure is to create an organizational environment that is reliant upon and supportive of collaboration and coordination among the staff.

In the past OHA maintained one researcher to support the research effort of the entire agency. Under the new structure research became a separate division.

Research has the responsibility to compile and gather data to identify gaps and issues; inform OHA’s advocacy efforts; and ensure that OHA’s actions and initiatives are based on the best information available. Under the new structure research comprises of three sections:

    Demography: provides population and other special research data and analysis services to validate decisions based on quantitative and social demographic information.

      In 2018, the Demography section was downsized to a single staffer. The remaining staff was transferred to support the other research programs.

    Land, Culture & History: provides quantitative, qualitative, and comparative research on land, culture, and history using credible historical analysis, ancestral knowledge regarding traditional cultural practices, customs, and beliefs.

    Special Projects: provides an applied research services which factually identifies issues and trends to inform advocacy, policy, and operational initiatives.

In 2012, the Program Improvement Program (PIP) was transfered from the Executive Office (EO) to Research.

    Program Improvement: provides evaluation services primarily for OHA’s Grants Program and other OHA funded initiatives.

      On July 1, 2020, Program Improvement was transfered from Research to the newly created Systems & Performance Management Office located in the Executive Office.