The Harvard Project is the recognized leader in practical research, teaching, leadership development, policy analysis, and pro bono advising for Native communities. Since 1987, the Project has worked to uncover and support the conditions under which sustained, self-determined political, social, cultural, and economic strengthening can be achieved by Indigenous communities. It has been awarded by tribes themselves for its pioneering work fostering the Indigenous renaissance that has taken hold in the US and beyond.

Read more About Our Programs & Initiatives

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development is based at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Through research, teaching, service, and collaborations with those seeking to empower Indigenous peoples to chart their own futures, the Project focuses on what works to strengthen Indigenous communities—and what doesn’t work. In pursuing answers to these questions, the Harvard Project does not stay in the ivory tower. Instead, with Indigenous peoples so long shut out from access to world-class and relevant educational and economic opportunities, the core mission of the Harvard Project is to arm Indigenous people themselves with the tools needed to govern effectively and to strengthen their economic, social, and cultural fabrics.

What works, where and why?

Indigenous peoples are undergoing a remarkable renaissance. This resurgence is powered by the nation building movement among the 574 American Indian nations of the United States and companion exercises of rights of self-determination around the world. Harvard Project research repeatedly finds that success in this transformation is founded upon:


Sovereignty Matters

When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, they consistently out-perform external decision makers on matters as diverse as governmental form, natural resource management, economic development, health care, and social service provision.

Culture Matters

Successful economies stand on the shoulders of legitimate, culturally grounded institutions of self-government. Indigenous societies are diverse; each nation must equip itself with a governing structure, economic system, policies, and procedures that fit its own contemporary culture.

Institutions Matter

For development to take hold, assertions of sovereignty must be backed by capable institutions of governance. Nations do this as they adopt stable decision rules, establish fair and independent mechanisms for dispute resolution, and separate politics from day-to-day business and program management.

Leadership Matters

Nation building requires leaders who introduce new knowledge and experiences, challenge assumptions, and propose change. Such leaders, whether elected, community, or spiritual, convince people that things can be different and inspire them to take action.

Staff & Affiliates

Meet the staff and affiliates of the Harvard Project

Meet Our Staff and Affiliates

Services, Resources & Collaborations

Photo courtesy of John Rae - NYC


The Harvard Project provides a variety of research and advisory services at the request of tribal nations.

Photo courtesy of John Rae - NYC


To support nation building efforts, the Harvard Project contributes practical tools for tribal leaders and practicioners as well as peer-reviewed research.  

Photo courtesy of John Rae - NYC


The Harvard Project collaborates with key organizations and universities in service to Indian Country.