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With this article, we conclude our series—Narratives to Build Collective Economic Power—which NPQ is publishing in partnership with the national racial and economic justice nonprofit, Common Future. In this series, the authors write about their economic justice work and how, in their work, they challenge conventional narratives and offer new ways of thinking about who can be owners in the economy and what community economic development means.
In my “day job,” I am a systems designer consultant. The firm I helped found, Roanhorse Consulting, employs six people, soon to be eight. I am also a co-founder of Native Women Lead, a nonprofit that supports Native women business owners across the country. In my work, I didn’t purposefully set out to build “collective economic power,” yet that phrase describes a lot of the work that my colleagues and I do. Why?
It’s all about my own cultural background and the community I serve. If you grow up Diné (Navajo), collective wellbeing is core to your value system and permeates how you see yourself as five-fingered people, which is how we relate to the world around us through our clanship system. For example, I recently attended a conference in Vancouver. There were other Navajo people in the room of over 1,600 attendees, and when they introduced themselves, I was able to connect with another Navajo woman who had been living in Manitoba for the last 20 years as my granddaughter through our clans. This expression of Ké is a reminder that we are all connected, that no matter how far we go, as Navajo people, we can always find ourselves through this system as part of the broader collective of people. We share an unspoken sense of commonality and responsibility. This “collective” mindset is so integral to everything we do, and it upends the default, stodgy worldview of individualized economic power, which doesn’t actually represent most of us.
So often, in our capitalist system, we are told that our mutuality is not productive or scalable and should therefore be …