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In 2001 the University of Arizona, in partnership with the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation (a federal agency) and with support from the Ford Foundation, launched the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) as a research and outreach unit within the university’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. NNI’s stated purpose was to serve as a self-determination, governance, and development resource to Native nations in North America and beyond.
Over the last fifteen years, NNI has pursued this purpose through rigorous research on “what works” in Indigenous governance and development. NNI does this through educational programs designed to assist Native nations in reclaiming control over their lands, affairs, futures, and through hands-on work with Indigenous peoples and organizations that are engaged in rebuilding Native nations.
Conceptually, NNI’s origins lie in the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, a program of research and service to Native nations founded by Professors Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt at Harvard University in the late 1980s. NNI has built on and expanded Harvard Project work and, in particular, has extended that work to a number of countries outside North America. NNI and the Harvard Project continue today as partner organizations that share core goals and some staff.
NNI also maintains a close working partnership with the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program in the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. The two entities jointly run the Indigenous Governance Programs, a set of executive education and university credit courses taught by an internationally renowned faculty and designed for professionals and students working with Native nations and organizations.
Core financial support for NNI comes from the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation and from the University of Arizona; additional support comes from diverse foundation, governmental, and other grants and contracts for research and outreach activities, including some from Indigenous nations and organizations in the United States and elsewhere.