Educating Emerging Leaders to Create Effective Governance
NCFNG partners with educational institutions across Canada to provide current and future First Nation leaders and managers with the practical skills required to develop self sufficient, culturally relevant governance.
“I look across the country and I see well-educated and experienced people who want to be part of building the future for their Nations,” says Satsan (Herb George), President of the National Centre for First Nations Governance (NCFNG). “But they need hardcore skills – they need knowledge of financial management, resource management, legal issues and more. We want to open up avenues for them to take an active role and be a force for positive change.”
One of the best ways to support these emerging leaders is through education. It’s through education that First Nations citizens can develop the competencies and knowledge needed to rebuild their Nations. For the last three years, NCFNG has been helping universities and other post-secondary institutions to understand the skills that are needed to create strong, stable and culturally relevant First Nation governments.
Building effective governance is a significant undertaking. Current and emerging leaders need training to prepare them for implementing effective laws and policy. First Nations governments have a duty to protect the rights and interests of their citizens. To do this effectively, leaders, managers and administrators need to understand their own roles and tasks, as they relate to strategic planning, project management, human resource management and fiscal responsibility, in accordance with the aspirations of their people.
“Our workshops are tailored to support effective, culturally relevant governance” says Anisa White, NCFNG’s Manager of Professional Development. It’s all about managing the divide between business and politics. “We want to see the elected leadership setting culturally relevant policy direction without micromanaging the work of administrators and managers. More importantly, we want to see leadership engage their citizens in the development of their laws and policies”. These themes are explored in all the materials offered by post-secondary institutions NCFNG partners with and in the workshops the Centre offers to communities.
Working for any level of government requires a significant level of public administration training and competency in order to address the full spectrum of needs. Arguably, Aboriginal governments have the most difficult and complicated jobs in Canada. “In the majority of cases, we find First Nations governments are tasked with addressing extraordinary social and economic challenges with inadequate resources.” states White.
To help restore their nations, emerging leaders and administrators must learn to develop meaningful relationships with the Crown and industry, create sustainable resource management regimes and develop thriving economies. Future leaders must also learn to develop governance that is meaningful to their citizens. They will have to promote the wellbeing of their citizens in a manner that is consistent with their nation’s distinctive belief systems.
The Centre’s national scope puts it in a unique position to collaborate with educational institutions across the country. NCFNG brings the experience of their work in First Nation communities across the country. By partnering with universities, colleges and other organizations, the Centre is helping to create relevant academic programs.
These programs range from a certificate in governance essentials to a four-year bachelor’s degree in public administration. The goal is to work with post-secondary partners to develop academic programming that provides students with employable, transferable and practical skills.
“For us, it’s very important that the curriculum development be driven by the needs of First Nations,” says White. “The course content and curricula must embrace the fundamental notion that Indigenous people of Canada have the right to govern themselves fully. All the skills that flow from the curricula need to support this vision, and all competencies that the students develop must be driven by principles of effective governance. First Nations need to hold the pen on nation rebuilding. That’s when success happens.”
A good example of this is NCFNG’s partnership with Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. This partnership has produced a five-day certificate program in First Nations Governance Essentials and has provided students, including a number of chiefs, a deeper understanding of the importance of effective governance. This certificate program has been offered twice and students return to their home communities with enhanced knowledge and skills.
In March 2010, the Centre signed a memorandum of understanding with St. Thomas University in Fredericton, a university with a very strong reputation in the liberal arts. The agreement creates a framework for NCFNG and the university to work together to develop and deliver governance programs in public administration, governance, financial management, resource management and other key governance fundamentals – ultimately leading to a four-year Bachelor’s degree in First Nations governance and administration.
There are other partnerships in the works as well. NCFNG is developing a certification program with the University of Victoria for band administrators and managers. And with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, the Centre is developing a Corporate Director’s Course to strengthen the skills of Aboriginal board members so that they are better equipped to make meaningful and positive contributions to corporations and boards.
“As a national organization, we have a deep understanding of the needs of First Nations communities in each region of this country,” says Satsan. “This allows us to be proactive as we build relationships with institutions who have expertise and credibility in particular areas – relationships that will ultimately lead to the development of academic programs that meet the needs of our people.”
While it may take some time, establishing partnerships with post-secondary institutions so that their programs better meet the needs of First Nation citizens is absolutely critical to support emerging leaders. “Our people need practical, tangible skills that will enable them to rebuild their Nations according to the vision and needs of their community members,” says Satsan. “When we have the expertise and knowledge to take back responsibility for ourselves we can create governance structures that reflect our values and culture. We get to decide our future path. And that’s how we’ll ensure a good future for our children and grandchildren.”
The National Centre for First Nations Governance is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting First Nations as they develop effective, independent governance. Centre staff are trained, experienced Aboriginal professionals. Visit fngovernance.org for information on the Centre’s research and services.