a women’s leadership and peer learning circle

pō‘ai: circle, circuit, hoop, girdle; group, as of friends; to go around, make a circuit, encircle, girdle, coil, wind up; circulating; encircled, surrounded

Wahine Pō’ai is a community-rooted and culturally-grounded leadership and peer support program offered through Ala Kukui. Pō’ai will convene cohorts of 6 women nonprofit executives for a 9-month series (January to September) of sessions that blend peer support and participant-driven learning opportunities.

Applications for the third cohort is now closed. Mahalo nui!

Program Pillars

  • Raising community voices, empowering community vision. Wāhine Pō’ai gathers women who lead organizations dedicated to equity and justice through community driven change. We bring together leaders who embody humility, service and commitment to justice.
  • Connection to place. Every gathering honors traditions of Hawai‘i, the ‘āina where we gather and wisdom from our kupuna.
  • Wisdom in the room. We bring community leaders and mentors into our circle, while also surfacing learning and inspiration from each other.
  • Leadership development. The program focuses on facilitative, collaborative, equity-centered leadership. We share aspirations, learning, resources and support each other on our journeys.
  • Health and well being. We incorporate movement, physical exercise, mental health supports, and spiritual well-being into our sessions and our work.

Program Eligibility

  • This Pō’ai is open to women executive directors living in and leading organizations in Hawai‘i.
  • We will prioritize first time CEOs or Executive Directors early in their careers (up to five years in the role).
  • We ask for commitment to the schedule below and ability to travel to Hāna for the beginning and ending sessions and one location to be determined in May (travel will be paid for).


Who is eligible?

This circle is for first time or early career executive directors of nonprofits in Hawai‘i. We are not accepting directors of grantmaking organizations at this time, but are exploring a future cohort for philanthropy.

What does the application process include?

To apply, fill out this simple questionnaire about what you’re interested in learning and why you’d like to be part of this circle. Applications are due by Friday, September 1, 2023. There is no application fee.

Everyone who applies will be interviewed over zoom by two of the founding Pō’ai members. The founding circle will select the next group, and we hope to accommodate all who are interested.

Is attendance at sessions mandatory?

To accept a spot in the cohort, we ask you to commit to attending all sessions. We understand that conflicts do arise and respect your decisions.

What does the program cost?

Contributions from funders, consultants, mentors and Ala Kukui makes this program possible at no cost for participants.

What is the history of the program?

Wāhine Pō‘ai was co-founded in 2019 by Kina Mahi, Wei Fang, and the first group of participating executive directors: Chelsie Evans, Elizabeth Fujii, Lipoa Kahaleuahi, Kau’i Kanaka’ole, Sarah Menzies, and Harmonee Williams.

What will we cover?

Session topics, content and speakers will be determined by each cohort’s interests and priorities. We will begin exploring these prior to and during our first retreat and will build upon them throughout the year.

What happens after the program?

The first two Pō’ai circles has chosen to continue gathering after our first year together. As we grow our circles, we intend to bring together everyone once a year to connect across Pō’ai groups.