New Ideas from Young Thinkers - The SEEDS Project
Social Empowerment through Economic Development Strategies
When Lakota Youth Development (LYD) was facing lack of funding for youth programs and also looking at the unemployment challenges facing Lakota youth, they turned to their own youth members to participate in creating solutions. The Mato Tasunka Wakinyan Okolakiciye, Bear Horse Thunder Youth Society (Society) was formed in 2011. This group has grown to over 20 members of both genders, ranging in age from 12 to 25 years. All members are key stakeholders and their purpose is to empower each other and other youth through awareness and promotion of Lakota culture. This work is on-going and continually growing.
Knowing that they needed to look beyond bake sales and raffles to fund their own activities, the Society began discussing actual business ideas that could fund programming to fit their needs and desires and not be beholden to the funding organization. The Society wanted to develop their own social enterprises that reflect work they are interested in and capable of doing to support activities they design and desire. Out of these discussions the Society, with LYD's consensus, came up with 3 realistic and feasible ideas: Cultural Tourism, Bee Keeping and honey sales, and a Medicinal Herb Trail and sales.
All members of the Society will participate in the development of these social enterprises and 3 apprenticeships will be available to Society members ages 16 to 24. All participants will discover vital skills of business and service alongside seasoned staff, mentors, and Elder advisors and learn how to be good employees, how to run a bee/medicinal herbs/tourism business, and what it takes to sustain their Society activities. Keeping sustainability in mind from the beginning, LYD will have 3 members of the Society serving as apprentices for 18 months. Though all Society members will be involved in the enterprises, these 3 apprentices will have added responsibilities and duties. The apprenticeship will provide the opportunity to gain skills in: writing, computer and media technology, and fiscal management. The training program will require hands on work while participants are teamed with experienced mentors from within the organization and its circle of partners.
The implementation team is made up of a board member/elder advisor, staff and youth society members. They work with community and statewide resources to develop and implement a business plan that includes becoming a local supplier so that interested youth and families can start their own Hobby bee project while providing honey for our camp programming and nurturing our environment.
Our partners: Small Business Administration, the South Dakota Department of Tourism, and the Bee trainer, have the project's success in mind. Everyone recognizes the struggles of reservation life and are happy to play a role to help the Society succeed.
Medicinal Herb Trail and Product Sales
We Intend These Key Outcomes:
- Society commitment will increase, our youth become more involved when there is more to be a part of and these enterprises are proposed by them, for them, with them.
- Society Members knowledge of business will increase.
- Society Members employability will increase.
- Increased employability will mean better chance of finding jobs outside the Society enterprises.
- Workforce development opportunities will improve for all local Lakota youth as the enterprises grow.
- With successful businesses, at the end of 18 months, we anticipate the Society will have an increase in funding for their activities.
- Increased funding will equal increased access to opportunities for personal growth, arts, trainings, out of state meetings, gatherings, etc.
- Increased opportunities will increase the Society Members quality of life.
- As funding increases, the Society can be expanded and more Lakota youth can participate.
- LYD will be reaching more youth and doing more work with the Society.
- Ultimately, LYD hopes to be able to look to Society for future LYD employees
(To view a 2 minute introduction to the Honey Lodge project, click on the video at left.)
Traditional Doll Making
Youth Created - Developed - Operated
"Nothing About Us Without Us"
When Lakota Youth Development (LYD) was facing lack of funding for youth programs and also looking at the unemployment challenges facing Lakota youth, they turned to their own youth members to participate in creating solutions.Through social enterprises which they conceive, lead and operate with Lakota cultural values, our young entrepreneurs learn practical business and employment skills that help prepare them for financial independence as young adults.
With the support and guidance of the LYD leadership, Elder advisors and skillled business mentors, these hard working youth are practicing vital business skills, learning how to be good employees and creating sustainabilty for their enterprises as well as for their youth programs.