Omidyar Fellows applications taken

Applications for the second class of the Omidyar Fellows program that aims to enhance the skills of “emerging leaders” in Hawaii are currently being accepted, and officials appear to be particularly interested in seeking applicants from Maui County.

The first class of 15 “up-and-coming local leaders” from business, government, labor and nonprofit organizations did not have any Maui County members.

Colton Ching of Hawaiian Electric Co. was the closest Maui connection. The vice president of system operation and planning at HECO currently resides in Kaneohe, on Oahu, but is a 1985 Baldwin High School graduate.

He began the program with the rest of his class in October and will complete the 14-month program in November. He has had to put in a total of 16 hours a month, including a full-day meeting.

“Through the Omidyar Fellows program, I have learned important lessons on leadership and developed lifelong friendships with my cohort that will be invaluable in my professional career,” Ching said.

Unlike more formal degree programs at an institution, Ching said he can take what he learns in the Omidyar sessions and apply them the next day in the workplace. He added that the program focuses on the specific leadership qualities need to be successful in Hawaii.

For example, networks are “far more important” in Hawaii than elsewhere, he said. Producing results doesn’t mean only focusing on the transaction but on getting “everyone feeling they are winners,” he said in an interview at The Maui News last week.

The program is the first initiative of the Hawai’i Leadership Forum and is a “rigorous leadership development program designed to equip emerging leaders from across the state with the skills they need to forge Hawaii’s future,” a news release about the program said. This includes executive coaching, conversations with current leaders and opportunities to “participate in personal growth.”

The forum receives funding from the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund through the Hawai’i Community Foundation. It is supported by Pierre Omidyar, best known as the founder and chairman of eBay. He also is the chief executive officer and publisher of, a Honolulu-based online news service.

There are four fellows from the Neighbor Islands in the first class, one from Kauai and three from the Big Island. Fellow officials said they want to increase the geographic diversity of the next fellows class and are encouraging Maui County leaders to apply.

Travel expenses for Neighbor Island fellows are covered by the program.

The competition is stiff. Out of the 150 applicants, only 15 were chosen. That is the perfect size for this kind of program, according to the developer of the curriculum Bill Coy, director of leadership learning for the Hawai’i Leadership Forum.

Among the attributes sought in candidates are a demonstrated courage, commitment and passion to get things done, having solved complex problems, having developed a style that incorporates problem solving, original thinking and collaboration, having earned leadership responsibilities beyond his or her years, having a record of community service and having an understanding of Hawaii’s cultural, social and political contexts.

The deadline to apply is June 30. Applications are being accepted and may be obtained online at