CH’ÍHOOTSOOÍ, DINÉTAH (WINDOW ROCK, NAVAJO NATION) – Yee Ha’ólníi Doo announces expansion of economic development programming and support through Innovation Hubs on Navajo Nation. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, these Hubs will advance entrepreneurship, promote greater food security, and strengthen cultural and linguistic transmission for Navajo communities.
According to Yee Ha’ólníi Doo Executive Director Ethel Branch, these Innovation Hubs will close disproportionate equity gaps in communities by fostering local changemakers and problem solvers and rebuilding stronger, autonomous local economies and food systems.
“These Hubs will reinvigorate local economies by giving flight to the rich, natural social and small business entrepreneurship and talent that already exists in our communities but has long lacked adequate support and resources,” Branch said. “In this way we are working to transition our communities to greater pandemic resilience. So, if supply chain disruption occurs in the future, our communities are able to produce the food and essential items that our people need in order to survive in the face of future chaotic events, such as climate change-related disasters. By fostering and supporting local social entrepreneurship we will also have an expanded and stronger NGO community able to respond with rapid assistance.”
Through programming at three Innovation Hubs, Yee Ha’ólníi Doo intends to develop a foundation to support local businesses and economies, foster social and small business entrepreneurship, advance food security, and ensure transmission of language and culture to the youth. It will also nurture business and social creativity and applied skill development with local youth to create a pipeline of small business and social entrepreneurs who have experienced success in entrepreneurism and who can envision a bright future for themselves in their home communities.
In August 2021, Yee Ha’ólníi Doo launched its inaugural Innovation Hub with the opening of the Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgai Community Center in Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation. The Center provides much needed business tools to the community through its Business Center, Shared Workspace, Conference Room, and Library.
Since opening, 423 unique visitors have visited the Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgai Community Center over 1,055 times. Eighty percent of visitors come to utilize the Business Center and its free wifi and business machines, such as computers, a fax machine, and a xerox machine.
Community Center Director Shandiin Herrera said the Center serves as a great resource to bolster opportunities for the community’s entrepreneurs and youth leaders.
“With the Center, we’ve been able to incubate and support the talent and leadership of our people,” Herrera said.
With support from the Kellogg Foundation, Yee Ha’ólníi Doo plans to further develop local entrepreneurship and small business programming at the Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgai Community Center that will include support and supplies to launch a community garden, a local farmers market, a marketplace with internet access that creates a point-of-sale opportunity for local artisans and producers, and vendor space for budding entrepreneurs who want to pilot their business model. The grant will also provide funding to staff, equip, and deliver programming for two new Innovation Hubs designed to help initiate and launch small businesses, strategically situated in Sheep Springs, N.M. and Ramah, N.M.
“One of the most beautiful things to emerge from the pandemic was the strong sense of ownership and leadership local community members displayed in developing and implementing home-grown and highly effective solutions to keep their communities safe,” Branch said. “As the Navajo Nation emerges from the pandemic, our organization seeks to make our communities pandemic-proof for the long term while continuing to honor the fact that the best solutions for our people come from our people.”
Branch thanks the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for investing in these Innovation Hubs that will advance entrepreneurship, promote greater food security, and strengthen cultural and linguistic transmission for Navajo communities. Branch also notes special thanks to Jennifer Duran-Sallee, Theresa Watson, Elizabeth Jones, and Natasha K. Hale, formerly with the foundation, for the invaluable support they provided throughout the application process.
To learn more about Yee Ha’ólníi Doo, please visit www.navajohopisolidarity.org.