Why strategic planning matters within Indian Country

Strategic planning can be a vital process for tribal nations seeking to achieve economic self-sufficiency and long-term sustainable growth. The practice is utilized as a means to establish a clear vision for the future of an organization. It touches every stakeholder and creates alignment around shared goals — ultimately, serving as a detailed guide with actionable steps to achieve those goals.

Strategic planning is made to be realistic, providing a strong and healthy path to effective nation-building. Within Indian Country, there can be a myriad of offers and opportunities that come along — not to mention scams — with the execution of a strategic plan however, tribal leaders are better positioned to identify and manage such risks.

The makings of an effective strategic plan

Strategic planning is a process, not an event or stand-alone meeting. The process calls us to critically explore, redefine, adjust, or simply create approaches, outcomes, goals, and strategies that create pathways to an ideal vision. The creation of a strong strategic plan will accomplish the following:

  • Define the key values of the tribal organization
  • Identify the organization’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Create alignment with key stakeholders
  • Develop a vision to capitalize on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Honor the unique historical context tribal nations operate in
  • Determine the tactical goals and outcomes to support the vision
  • Set priorities by focusing energy and resources
  • Cultivate the right tools in order for the tribal entity to flourish
  • Recommend ways to strengthen the overall infrastructure: people, processes, systems, and property

Creating a conscientious plan

The impact of historical trauma can have ripple effects through various systems (governance, economy, community). This can impact diversification risk/return potential and the overall portfolio management approach for a tribal nation. Without the components of healing in the planning process, sustainability will be difficult to accomplish. Healing-informed strategic planning does not require consistent reminders of historical trauma, rather it requires mindfulness (the good, the bad, the ugly) of how historical activities have impacted the tribal nation’s well-being as it relates to economic development.

Additionally, it is good to understand the resiliency factors that have helped tribal nations endure and thrive within environments (albeit environments that weren’t created for tribal nations to survive). By focusing on unique stories and core values, tribes can find competitive advantages when it comes to economic development opportunities. A well-crafted and facilitated structure can guide participants through a common understanding of historical impacts (build contexts), connect to current realities facing tribal nations (barriers/opportunities) and build off resiliency factors (strengths/aspirations) can help create a well-rounded and sustainable strategic plan.

In conclusion

Tribal nations have always been excellent planners, evaluators, innovators, and visionaries — all the components needed to have a dynamic planning process. To help harness the vast strengths and resiliency of tribal nations, strategic planning processes should combine healing with planning. When these components are effectively mixed along with a solid facilitated structure, this can create space for the most effective and sustainable solutions. These solutions are already within the tribal nation, waiting to be cultivated; and when they surface, they’ll provide a clearer picture of where/how/when outside resources are needed to fulfill the healthy and ideal vision of the tribal nation.



How DWH can support your tribe

DWH supports tribal leadership with the development of their vision and what it will take to get there. We’ll help you clearly articulate your tribe’s goals and define the action steps needed to achieve your objectives. We believe strategy touches every stakeholder and serves as an actionable way to reach desirable outcomes. To learn more, continue reading about our strategic planning process. To have a conversation with DWH about how we can be of assistance, please reach out. As a native-owned consulting firm, DWH has extensive experience supporting tribes with their portfolio management and economic development objectives.


This post was written by Don Lyons
dlyons@dwhcorp.com | LinkedIn


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