The Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) provides customized executive programs designed to equip tribal leaders with knowledge and tools for Native nation building . These sessions are based on the executive education programs widely available to corporate CEOs, military leaders, members of Congress and other officials. NNI has adapted this model to serve Native leaders wrestling with challenges unique to Indigenous community and economic development.
For more than 20 years, researchers from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and, more recently, NNI, have worked to understand the conditions under which sustained economic development can be successful on American Indian reservations in the United States and among First Nations in Canada. The results indicate that five elements are particularly important in successful nation building:
- Sovereignty. Native nations that have been willing and able to assert self-governing power have significantly increased their chances of sustainable economic development.
- Capable governing institutions. The chances of sustainable development rise as Indigenous nations put in place effective, non-politicized dispute-resolution mechanisms and build capable bureaucracies.
- Cultural match. Institutions that build and innovate upon Indigenous conceptions of authority fare better than those whose form departs from such conceptions.
- A strategic orientation. Successful Native nations tend to approach development not as a quick fix for poverty but as a means of building a society that works.
- Leadership. In successful Indian nations, there is typically a group of individuals who recognize the need for fundamental change in the way things are done and can bring the community along with them in building that future.
NNI's executive education sessions explore the research findings of NNI and the Harvard Project, drawing on cases from throughout Native America and around the world.