Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Stakeholder meetings are instrumental to us achieving our goals. The tribal organizations that we are trying to get buy in from have directors who are interested in the activities that are specific to our grant objectives so they have a stake in its success. Keeping our stakeholders informed is the best way to keep them engaged and up-to-date on topics that have a potential impact on their programs. We want to involve our stakeholders in the decision-making process and communicate with them regularly through meetings and other outlets, it will be easier to get their approval for new ideas and their support if problems do arise. We have used stakeholder meetings as an effective resource and will do so throughout the duration of the grant. We have had three meetings to date and with each meeting we built a sense of trust amongst the stakeholders as well as a sense of direction. We have also sat in on some of their meetings to help us identify the need within their respective programs so that we can incorporate this into the overall scope of work.
Research is another a critical component that we are utilizing. Research is important when considering services for our stakeholders for two reasons. First, we can show what types of public works entities have been shown to be effective. Second, for something to actually be effective, it has to be used and shown to work effectively. We can use the research to demonstrate public works entities that have been used effectively. It helps if everyone believes it can work because this will help the staff with the day to day activities. Processes that are deemed effective are more likely to succeed. Through research we have been able to study materials and organizational structures from other public works entities already in existence. This will help us establish facts and possibly establish an overall entity that works and incorporates some of these processes that are already in place, thus improving the overall outcomes of the public works entity. We also want to use the research to formulate appropriate strategies and identify deficiencies. To date we have researched five other tribal public works entities and a couple of urban municipal public works departments.
Focus groups are another outlet that we will incorporate into our planning sessions. We want to gather qualitative data from groups of people within our service area. Their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes toward our idea is critical. If our focus groups are well executed it will help us create an accepting environment for our purpose. We have contracted with an organization that has successfully administered focus groups and they are planning to hold a series of focus groups on behalf of our project.
Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving
To date we have used the inclusive element to get a sense of direction and to get stakeholders engaged. The three meetings we have had with our stakeholders have been very informative and helped us identify the need so that we can collectively create a system that will help alleviate the problem. This process also helped us identify that the inadequate infrastructure affects not just the tribal programs involved but on a larger scale the entire tribal population. All interested parties that have been directly involved agree and support our concept and have been instrumental in sharing their visions of this “entity” and what their expectations are. We have been open about the entire process and now that we have an increased understanding of this issue we want to know incorporate some focus groups to include those directly affected by the problem. This is the next phase of the project that we will aggressively pursue. We understand that all three elements are instrumental throughout the entire process and have basically touch on all of them at some point in time.
Other key elements of Community Innovation
There are a couple key elements that will help us progress. First, we have brought on former Bush recipients as consultants to help us stay innovative. This has allowed us to be a part of something bigger. The Bush Foundation has a great network of innovative people and we are trying to tap in the resources they have to offer. Of the three consultants two of them have a Bush connection. Our Legal Consultant, who happens to be a Bush Fellow, is knowledgeable in tribal government so his input is valuable. Thunder Valley CDC which is doing our focus groups is a Bush grantee also. We have informally established a Bush team and collectively we will pursue our objectives. Having an outside perspective is very helpful. Our Bush partners also have suggestions and ideas that they can bring to the table. The tribe getting a Promise Zone designation during the grant cycle also is another key element that will have an impact on the outcomes of our project. Most of the stakeholders have been involved in these interagency meetings that the tribe has been having and these efforts have linked the tribe with the federal programs.
Understanding the problem
Our process has solidified what we had initially presumed. The tribe is in need of the type of entity that we have defined and all stakeholders agree that they could benefit from this type of department. The problem lies within the organizational structure of the tribe. They need to departmentalize their entire system so that they can run more effectively and efficiently. On the reservation the dynamics of the tribal government it is rather cumbersome and it is hard to make changes. We have been trying to build working relationships with the tribal officials that can support us as we pursue the necessary changes. We remain optimistic. We see that the tribal programs do not have the resources to fulfill their obligations so the infrastructure continues to deteriorate. We have also identified other potential innovations as we continue to research and work with the Tribe. One project we are pursuing is a tribal planning office. Another endeavor would be to set up a Tribal centralized data management system that can be used by all the programs that need access to these types of data especially maps and other descriptions of infrastructure.
One last thought
Prior to working on this grant I had not heard about the Bush Foundation. I was born and raised on the reservation but moved away for 18 years. I came back to the reservation to see how I could help and since I have been back this is the second grant that I have been administering on behalf of the tribe. I have been to a few of the Bush events and have read a lot about the Bush Foundation. The network that the Bush Foundation has established is one of the best workgroups that I have encountered. Other participants have been so willing to help and are so resourceful. We go back to our jobs after attending a Bush event and I feel invigorated and rejuvenated. It helps take the monotony out the workplace and gives me the opportunity to learn and share and then I am able to bring back valuable information that I try to incorporate into my workplace.