Indigenomics is constructive, generative Indigenous economic design. It is a word that serves to bring into our awareness the rise of Indigenous economic empowerment and reconciliation — locally, regionally and nationally. Every day we are witnessing the uptake of Indigenous economic empowerment, as seen through the Canadian media, from small entrepreneurs and Indigenous economic development corporations to multi-million, and sometimes billion-dollar, Nation-based partnership deals across many sectors. It is time to collectively see Indigenous peoples as having functioning, generative Indigenous economies and shift our lens from problem to opportunity.
It is time to design a template for Indigenous economic strength.
The growth of the Indigenous economy requires structure, resources, investment, tools, institutions and leadership.
In 2019, the Indigenomics Institute defined target objectives looking at the potential of the emerging $100 billion national annual Indigenous economy.
It is time to both invest in and measure the cause of Indigenous economic strength.
Investing in the socio-economic gap versus investing in the structure of Indigenous economic growth and empowerment are two very different things. Especially within the context of post-COVID economic response, it is essential to highlight the tools and structures of Indigenous economic growth.
Changing the Narrative
Shifting the local narrative towards functioning Indigenous economies requires a systemic approach and Indigenous economic design. There are 12 levers, or enablers, to support the growth and design of the economically mixed Indigenous economy. They demonstrate areas of increased Indigenous economic activity — hotspots where stakeholders should begin to invest and build. A sample of these enablers include: equity ownership, trade, capital, infrastructure, procurement, clean energy and entrepreneurship.
There is progress around the structure of Indigenous economic inclusion and reconciliation in the Victoria region. Some of the key local players to build actionable pathways towards Indigenous economic reconciliation include the South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP), the Central Region District, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Victoria, to name a few.
A great example is one that comes from the work of SIPP’s Rising Economy Taskforce, which was conceived to address economic planning in response to the pandemic. The group brought together over 12 sectoral partners, local governments and Indigenous peoples, highlighting the need for the Indigenous economy to diversify, increase overall resilience, begin to take advantage of economic opportunities and better withstand financial shocks.
Part of the outcome of this pandemic response planning was to collectively pursue the development of a regional Indigenous Prosperity Centre. An Economic Development Office for South Vancouver Island will be Indigenous-led and directed. This initiative sets the stage for regional Indigenous economic design. While this is an idea still in its infancy, this is the kind of leadership needed in the emerging $100 billion national annual Indigenous economy.
This is Indigenomics
One of the core premises of Indigenomics is that the growth and design of the Indigenous economy cannot exist within either a government or a program. It is time to shift our lens from problem to opportunity, and to do that means understanding that the success of the Indigenous economy is now intrinsically linked to the local, the regional and the national successes of our economies. Indigenous peoples are not a cost to the system — we are an economic powerhouse. It is time to build the structures, systems and relationships of Indigenous economic design.
It is time to start seeing Indigenous peoples as having functioning, generative economies that strategically position Canada economically for a post-COVID response. As this country faces a significant financial squeeze with debt levels in the proximity of a trillion dollars, the economic imperative we must collectively face is the design of Indigenous prosperity.
Clear, tangible, structural economic pathways, such as modeling the 5 per cent federal Indigenous procurement target, can create significant Indigenous economic activity regionally.
We are at an intersection: Are we going to measure the effect of the lack of Indigenous economic design or create the cause for Indigenous prosperity?
It is time to invest in Indigenous economic design. This means addressing the systemic economic inequalities, and it means investing in the strategic design of Indigenous prosperity.
It is time to start investing in the tools, resources, structures and institutions of Indigenous economic growth.
It is time for local and Indigenous economic leadership.
It is time to start measuring Indigenous economic strength, reconciliation and inclusion.
Carol Anne Hilton is the CEO and founder of the Indigenomics Institute and a recognized First Nation’s business leader and adviser. She is of Nuu-chah-nulth descent from the Hesquiaht Nation on Vancouver Island and the author of the best-selling book Indigenomics: Taking a Seat at the Economic Table.
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