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In 2011 ONABEN embarked on a broad scope initiative with Northwest Area Foundation to challenge a cohort of nine nonprofits and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) working in Indian Country to search for impacts through the lens of social entrepreneurship. The project was structured in an efficient way to ensure that the time, effort, and expense of individual projects delivered by Native CDFIs and other economic engines at the tribal level created more profound outcomes for the communities they served.

Through the initiative, cohort members determined that they build all of their projects upon these underlying principles:

  • Entrepreneurship is essential for sustainable and diversified economic development at the tribal level.
  • Entrepreneurship is one of the most effective tools for building assets and creating wealth among low income people.

And that they deliver all of their projects with these common goals:

  • Increase knowledge, capacity and leadership development
  • Strengthen existing and new relationships
  • Increase progress toward broad and enduring change

This challenged all of the cohort members to collaboratively develop a social entrepreneurship framework and then apply it to the work they each did in their own communities.

As professional development and technical assistance is critical to the sustainability and growth of any organization, it was a key element of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative. Each cohort member organization received tailored training and technical assistance relative to the unique needs of their organization, and every face-to-face meeting was designed to facilitate the continued opportunity for professional growth and organizational capacity building.

With the assistance of our partner, Craft3, we provided cohort members over 800 hours of technical assistance designed to strengthen the effectiveness of program staff and operations of the organizations.

What did that mean for Indian Country?

  • 1,115 Youth Introduced to Financial Literacy
  • 314 Jobs Created in Native Communities
  • 38 Partners Engaged
  • 32 Business Loans Deployed
  • $809,435 Dollars Leveraged within Indian Country

Our Social Entrepreneur Initiative has had a lasting change on Indian Country in the way that Native CDFIs and other nonprofits deliver their programs. Even years later, they continue to apply much of what was learned through the two-year initiative to the work they are doing today. Cohort members also had the opportunity to create lasting relationships with peer organizations, learn from each other’s challenges, and build from one another’s successes. Proven as a successful model through the initiative, we paved the way for increased development of peer learning exchanges.

Michael Bridges

Michael Bridges

Michael is a proud U.S. Army Veteran and a member of the Cherokee Nation. With 10 years of service as an Infantryman, Michael implements the core values of integrity, honor, and selfless service into his leadership of the company. With over 20 years of experience, Michael began working with building websites and graphic design in 1998. A family-oriented man, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife Kristina and their three children. He is a proud and active member of Jenks Lodge #497 A.F. & A.M. and an advisor for the Order of DeMolay.