Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (also known as HPAIED or Harvard Project) was founded in 1987 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. It administers tribal awards programs as well as providing support for students and conducting research.The Harvard Project aims to understand and foster the conditions under which sustained, self-determined social and economic development is achieved among American Indian nations through applied research and service.
Overview of the Harvard Project
Founded by Professors Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt at Harvard University in 1987, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) is housed within the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Through applied research and service, the Harvard Project aims to understand and foster the conditions under which sustained, self-determined social and economic development is achieved among American Indian nations. The Harvard Project’s core activities include research, education and the administration of a tribal governance awards program. In all of its activities, the Harvard Project collaborates with the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. The Harvard Project is also formally affiliated with the Harvard University Native American Program, an interfaculty initiative at Harvard University.
At the heart of the Harvard Project is the systematic, comparative study of social and economic development on American Indian reservations. What works, where and why? Among the key research findings:
Sovereignty Matters. When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, they consistently out-perform external decision makers on matters as diverse as governmental form, natural resource management, economic development, health care, and social service provision.
Institutions Matter. For development to take hold, assertions of sovereignty must be backed by capable institutions of governance. Nations do this as they adopt stable decision rules, establish fair and independent mechanisms for dispute resolution, and separate politics from day-to-day business and program management.
Culture Matters. Successful economies stand on the shoulders of legitimate, culturally grounded institutions of self-government. Indigenous societies are diverse; each nation must equip itself with a governing structure, economic system, policies, and procedures that fit its own contemporary culture.
Leadership Matters. Nation building requires leaders who introduce new knowledge and experiences, challenge assumptions, and propose change. Such leaders, whether elected, community, or spiritual, convince people that things can be different and inspire them to take action.
For over two decades, the Harvard Project has undertaken hundreds of research studies and advisory projects. Results of Harvard Project research are published widely. Summary treatments are available on the Harvard Project’s Research and Publications page.
The Harvard Project also administers Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations, a national awards program that identifies, documents, and shares outstanding examples of tribal government problem-solving. It helps expand the capacities of Native nation builders by enabling them to learn from each other's successes. The high public visibility and news coverage of Honoring Nations also permit non-Native policymakers, the media, and the general public to see what Native nations are actually doing in the drive for self-determination. Established in 1998, Honoring Nations’ experiences are the foundation for the teaching, advising, and policy analysis from the partnership between the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) and the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona.
At the heart of Honoring Nations is the principle that tribes themselves hold the key to positive social, political, cultural, and economic prosperity—and that self-governance plays a crucial role in building and sustaining strong, healthy Indian nations. Honoring Nations serves as a vehicle for shifting the focus from what does not work to what does, fostering pride and confidence in the ability of American Indian governments to make positive contributions to the well-being of their respective communities and citizens. The program is also founded on the idea that Native nations can benefit from having greater access to innovative ideas and effective governing approaches. Honored programs serve as important sources of knowledge and inspiration, and our experience shows that they are drawn upon by communities throughout Indian Country and far beyond.
Honoring Nations invites applications from American Indian governments across a broad range of subject areas: education; health care; resource management; government policy development and reform; justice; inter-governmental relations; and economic, social, and cultural programs. A Board of Governors composed of distinguished individuals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors guides the evaluation process, in which up to ten programs are selected for “High Honors” or “Honors.” All honorees receive national recognition. At each stage of the selection process, programs are evaluated on the basis of effectiveness, significance to sovereignty, cultural relevance, transferability, and sustainability. To facilitate the dissemination of best practices, honorees receive financial awards to share their success story with other governments. The Harvard Project also produces reports, case studies, and other curricular materials that are disseminated to tribal leaders, public servants, the media, scholars, students, and others interested in promoting and fostering excellence in governance.
To date, Honoring Nations has recognized 102 exemplary tribal government programs, practices, and initiatives and held four tribal government symposia.
Other best practice awards programs
Honoring Nations is also a proud member of a worldwide family of "governmental best practices" programs in Brazil, Chile, China, East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda), Mexico, the Philippines, Peru, South Africa, and the United States.
- "The State of Native Nations: Conditions under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination".Oxford University Press, New York. 2008.
- Jorgensen, Miriam. "Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Gorvernance and Development". The University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 2007.
- "The State of Native Nations: Conditions under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination".Oxford University Press, New York. 2008. pg. xiii