Investment, innovation and respect

Jennifer Astone and Steven Heim

Money is often not the most important element of investments in Indigenous communities, taking a backseat to building long-term partnerships

Indigenous communities, foundations and entrepreneurs have launched creative structures and approaches to access financial capital, link to markets and promote the well-being of their communities, traditions and lands. They have been spurred on by the unequal burdens of climate change, the rich knowledge, traditions and land base of Indigenous Peoples, and persistent wealth inequities. All of these investments are founded on fostering long-term partnerships in which money takes a backseat to economic justice and engaged participation in setting the terms and conditions of investment. They require creative financing structures and demand that foundations and investors bring a fresh mindset to the role of capital.

Funders should respect Indigenous Peoples’ determination of their own priorities. While donors may have funds, they don’t have the ideas, people and energy to make an investment real.

There is no one model for success to foster sustainable livelihoods. Support for local Indigenous governance and self-determination can use different vehicles based on tribes, cooperatives, entrepreneurs or individuals. Key is helping to create non-extractive, renewable and resilient livelihoods that focus on local markets and needs while being sensitive to Indigenous cultures and local conditions.

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Nora Tzec, Verónica Fernández de Castro and Alejandra Garduño