The First Innovations Initiative at Arizona State University (ASU) recently received the President’s Award for Innovation for supporting American Indian sustainability through entrepreneurship.
“First Innovations connects with the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of American Indian people in order to develop long-term solutions to the needs of Indian country,” Dr. Eddie Brown (Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham), American Indian Policy Institute executive director, said in a press release. “Some students come to the university wondering whether entrepreneurship is a cultural match with Native values. The First Innovations Initiative directly addresses this issue by focusing on the four pillars of American Indian sustainability: economic, social, environmental and cultural. Innovation and entrepreneurship have been essential to American Indian peoples and are critical to the future of tribes and tribal communities.”
The Initiative currently offers a two-course sequence, which features readings, discussions and presentations by Native entrepreneurs, and information on the challenges of economic development in Indian country.
The first course has students identify those challenges and then puts them into teams to create prototypes of products or services. The second course has students continue to development their prototype while also developing a sustainable business model in a tribal context.
At the end of the courses students write a paper about their experiences. “Listening to the guest speakers turned on a light in my own mind of how I could make a change in my community, make my ideas real and implement them for the betterment of my community, tribe and society,” one student said in the press release.
A summer internship—being held July 5 through July 29—is now also being offered. “Students in the summer internship will engage in problem-based learning working directly with tribal organizations. Students will focus on developing creative solutions to address needs,” according to the course information.
Internship applications—available online—are due by May 31.