Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Sovereign

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One-line solution summary:

A digital tool that democratizes data for Indigenous activists and scholars seeking to increase Native representation in American politics.

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Pitch your solution.

Datasets on representation stats in US government (state legislatures, Congress, courts) exist for almost all minority groups in the nation. However, there has been no central effort to track this data for Native Americans/Indigenous electeds and appointeds. Any data collected has been sporadic, geographically limited, and not published for open access. Sovereign is a digital tool that collects this critical data and publishes datasets proactively for acivists, scholars and Indigenous communities to use toward increasing Native representation in US politics. Sovereign will enable users to quickly and easily identify where gaps exist in Indigenous representation at the state and federal level, and by tribe. The datasets made available will also encourage greater inclusion of Native Americans in political analysis within the academy and acknowledge the great political power Indigenous people can and do hold in US elections. 

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What specific problem are you solving?

Indigenous peoples have been persistently disenfranchised from American politics. Even when Native candidates have run for office, they have rarely been reported on in the media as compared to other candidates. In recent years, outlets like Indian Country have highlighted the increase in Indigenous candidates to run for state and congressional office. We also saw how blocks of voters, especially on reservations, can help swing an election (see Navajo, AZ, 2020, Presidential). Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) recently became the first Native appointee to a federal cabinet position. And yet, we still do not have a good source for data pertaining to representation in US political systems. Tribes and Native-led community action groups need good data to inform strategy and identify where to put energy into growing Indigenous representation toward policy change. Tribes are not monoliths and have a wide array of political and legislative aims. As such, they need representation in multiple political bodies including the executive, judicial and legislative. Some aims must be handled at the state level, while others require federal intervention. Indigenous voices must be represented throughout American political instutions, and should represent the diversity of tribal interests. 

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What is your solution?

Sovereign is a web-based platform that houses primary records and datasets pertaining to the political history and current political power of Native people in the United States. The platform looks a lot like a mix between Oyez (https://www.oyez.org/) and Native Land (https://native-land.ca/).  We envision a platform utilizing R and RShiny to allow users to interact with datasets and increase the usabilility of available data (think: https://fivethirtyeight.com/). The platform would include interactive maps of states and the US with contextualized data visualizations based on tribal lands, population clusters of Native peoples, and representation data by political body for those regions. The site would also include easily downloadable dataset files, formatted for analysis in most statistical packages. We hope to publish regular blogs and short-form articles to further assist Indigenous users and allies in actualizing the data provided.

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit?

Sovereign is meant to serve all Native nations within the United States. Native-led community action groups have been on the ground working directly with tribal members to identify needs and priorities moving forward. The Indigenous Futures Project (IFP), a joint project between the Center for Native American Youth, IllumiNative, and the Native Organizers Alliance, published a report ahead of the 2020 election that outlined the need for dynamic representation - to be seen as diverse communities and not as a monolith. Priorities from the report include improved mental healthcare, caring for tribal elders, addressing systemic violence, and preserving tribal languages. All of these priorites are impacted by legislation and public funding, with most decision-makers deeply uninformed about tribal needs. The most direct way to impact these outcomes is to ensure Native voices are elected and appointed. We will continue to seek guidance from Native leaders to inform the project.

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Which dimension of the Fellowship does your solution most closely address?

Other
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Because increased political representation typically leads to higher alignment with a community's policy priorities, Sovereign has the potential to impact all of the challenge areas. The most intractable social issues impacting Indigenous communites must be met with a combination of cultural understanding and resources. Perhaps of greatest importance, addressing these social challenges successfully depends on retained and respected soveriegnty. Tribal sovereignty has been systemically diminished since the first promises were made, and continues to be disrespected by state and federal action each year. Without representation in US political systems, tribes will continue to take one step forward, and two back.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Atlanta, GA, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Concept: An idea being explored for its feasibility to build a product, service, or business model based on that idea.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

I have been working to collect these datasets, but the platform itself has not yet been built yet. I have also had informational interviews with Native scholars and Native-led organizations about the project and would like to invite them to be collaborators on the project. 

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Elise Blasingame

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your primary delegate.

Osage

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Is your primary delegate a member of the community in which your project is based?

Yes
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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology
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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Big Data
  • GIS and Geospatial Technology
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Does this technology introduce any risks? How are you addressing or mitigating these risks in your solution?

I am unaware of any risks associated with the project as proposed. 

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What is your theory of change?

Activities:

  • Create strategic and operational plan for 1-3 years and scaling (include SWOT analysis and key informant interviews with Native scholars & community action groups to identify priority data needs)
  • Bring in Native scholars, tribes and community action groups into a working group for consistent project feedback, testing and networking.
  • Collect and format datasets pertaining to Native/Indigenous representation in US political instutitions (begin with State/Federal - include local as we grow)
  • Create Sovereign platform (wireframes, user-testing, beta phase)
  • Create interactive data visualizations using the datasets
  • Publish short-form articles contexualizing the data visualizations and datasets for public understanding

Outputs: 

  • Publicly accessible datasets formatted for analysis
  • Data visualizations for public interaction with data
  • Articles contextualizing data and visualizations
  • Sovereign platform itself (which can grow and expand dataset types related to analyzing Indigenous political power in US political institutions)
  • Central working group of Native data scientists and allies informing the work

Short-Term Outcomes:

  • Tribes and activists use data to inform political strategy and efforts to increase representation in US political institutions 
  • Scholars use data to increase representation of Indigenous people in peer-reviewed research and publications 
  • Journalists use data to grow public awareness of Indigenous political power, interests and priorities
  • Native data scientists and allies are connected toward creating innovative new datasets and analysis for public use

Long-Term Outcomes: 

  • Native-led efforts are successful in increasing political representation across political bodies (judicial, executive, legislative) and at all levels (local, state, federal)
  • Native voters are better represented both in states with greater Native and tribal population density (e.g. Arizona) as well as in other states and urban areas where many tribes are represented with less density
  • Journals that publish peer-reviewed research concerning American politics and processes have more proportionate representation of work focused on the power of Indigenous people
  • Native leaders feel informed and prepared via Sovereign data to make decisions regarding elections and appointment proceedings
  • Media, Native-led community action groups and other stakeholders use Sovereign as a trusted datasource for commentary and analysis on Indigenous political power in US political institutions
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In which state(s) do you currently operate?

  • Georgia
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In which state(s) will you be operating within the next year?

  • Georgia
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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Not registered as any organization

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

I would truly appreciate the structured support and benchmarking that comes with a program like this. I would also benefit from greatly from advice from outside my professional networks, and from other Native colleagues in the program. I would love to connect with data scientists who can help me become a better data scientist, specifically through building the Sovereign platform. I think the program would make Sovereign 100x better on the other side based on the talent I would be exposed to alone.

Political representation for Native people is complex. Native opinions on voting, on American political instutions, and on tribal priorities are varied. I want the project to reflect that in every element - from the data we collect, to the stories we tell with it. I want Sovereign to be successful, and I want it to attract Indigenous talent to sustain and grow it sustainably, and thoughtfully. Most of all, I just want this data to exist and for the people who need it most to have access to it. I want us to have more Indigenous representation in American political instutions, and I really believe it starts with knowing where we came from and where we are in this moment. 

Regardless of whether you find Soverign to be a good fit, I want to thank you for making this opportunity available. The connection between grand challenges programming, STEM and Native-led initiatives can have such an amplifying effect and I am really grateful you are facilitating this work.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

I would love to work with Aaron Slater specifically. His experience in both tribal elections and GOTV with Native communities, alongside his understanding of the network would be very beneficial to this project. 

I have reached out to and would like to work with Illuminative, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

I have not spoken with anyone at the Native Organizer Alliance, but would like to include them as well, especially in the design phase of the project.

I would also really like to be connected with any other R-users and/or data scientists who could help bring this project to life. 

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ASA Prize for Equitable Education? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The ASA Prize for Equitable Education to advance your solution?

It is our aim that Sovereign will rovide tools and interactive data visualizations that would be appropriate for secondary education, as it is designed to be accessible for the largest possible audience. Indigenous political history is rarely taught in most US schools, and Soverign could prove a very useful tool for bringing primary documents and data to life for students to explore these typically erased elements of our history, as well as our contemporary political systems. The funding from the ASA Prize would allow us to implement this concept in collaboration with Native-led community action organizations and scholars. 

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI For Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Solution Team

 
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