"They may not tell us what we want to hear, but they tell us what we need to know."
— a senior tribal government official, in response to a presentation on NNI research
"One of the obstacles we face as we try to solve these problems is a lack of experience, of models to think about. Where are the models? What are other nations doing out there? We need to know if it's working and how we can use it."
— a senior tribal government official at an NNI executive education session
Native peoples the world over are implementing powerful governance and community development strategies that are animated by their respective cultures and circumstances. Yet tribal decision makers often must operate without the kinds of information that policy makers at state and federal levels take for granted.
In conversations with NNI researchers, Indigenous leaders and managers often identify two types of resources necessary for effective policy-making: (1) reliable, rigorous analyses that provide evidence about new approaches to governance and development, and (2) written accounts of Native nations' successes in various policy-making arenas.
These concerns are at the heart of the Native Nations Institute's research and policy analysis. Building on the pioneering work of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, we have affirmed that Native nation building — the restoration and strengthening of Native nations' own capacities for self-determined, culturally resonant governance and development — is the key to successful development in Indian Country. NNI's research and policy analysis efforts seek to:
- identify the conditions under which Native nations successfully initiate and sustain economic, social, and community development
- educate various publics about the issues affecting Native nations, and provide specific policy analysis and advice
- catalog the methods by which Indigenous leaders can continue to improve their tribes' capabilities for self-determination, self-governance, and development.
NNI's research and policy analysis unit makes this information available to Native nations and the public through frequent presentations and publications, and it plays a central role in NNI's education programs.
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