Small risks to transform communities.
Change Labs will foster the creation of successful Native American small businesses that provide a social benefit to tribal communities.
Tribal America has no deficit of challenges – from the lack of infrastructure, to rampant and persistent poverty, to under-performing public education. Despite our sovereignty, we remain dependent on outside forces to address these problems by providing needed jobs, sustaining our governance, and thereby driving our economies. However, by enabling and supporting Native small business operating within our communities, we can begin to make steps towards economic self-sustainability.
To achieve this, we must invest in the necessary elements of the ecosystem required to support and sustain entrepreneurial activity.
Change Labs was designed to create a safe place for entrepreneurs and and community members to explore and develop their ideas. We provide the infrastructure, expertise, and support structures for the first three years of the entrepreneurial journey. Many homes on the reservation don't have physical addresses, making it difficult to apply for a Tax Identification Number. The majority of communities on the reservation do not have internet access. By providing these things, as well as desk space, software access, classes in website design, financial planning, leadership development, and so on, Change Labs will take measurable steps towards increasing the number of Native-owned small businesses operating in Native communities.
How we got here
Heather Fleming, Jessica Stago and Natasha Hale began working collaboratively in 2013 to launch a series of prototype initiatives addressing what we believed to be the biggest gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem on the Navajo Nation. Our evaluation partner, Causal Design, studied each initiative to help us understand what is effective and worth doing. What we are proposing for the future is based on the first four years of foundational iteration and evaluation of the following: