Cherokee Woman Selected as Sole U.S. Candidate for Recognition of World's Most Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs

Oct 27, 2004, 01:00 ET from First Nations Development Institute

    FREDERICKSBURG, Va., Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Rebecca Adamson, President
 and Founder of the First Nations Development Institute, has been selected as
 one of the world's most "Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs" by the Schwab
 Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.  One of only thirteen outstanding
 social entrepreneurs selected internationally for this recognition in 2005,
 Adamson and the organization she leads were the only award recipients selected
 from the United States.
     In its fourth consecutive year of highlighting the work of the world's
 foremost social entrepreneurs, the Schwab Foundation for Social
 Entrepreneurship has sought out practical, results-oriented innovators who
 assist impoverished individuals and communities in becoming agents of change
 and self-determination.  Social entrepreneurs use business and innovative
 revenue models to stimulate social inclusion. The work of these individuals
 and their organizations spans various fields, including economic development,
 health, housing, transportation, micro-finance, environment, and trade.
     "I am delighted and humbled that the First Nations Development Institute
 has received the recognition of the Schwab Foundation for its work in
 facilitating entrepreneurship within Indigenous communities in the U.S. and
 internationally," said Adamson.
     The selected social entrepreneurs underwent a rigorous assessment process,
 including third party evaluations and due diligence site visits to assess the
 transformational impact being achieved by the candidates.
     Rebecca Adamson, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, founded
 First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) in 1980 to assist Indigenous
 peoples to control and develop their assets, thus directing their economic
 futures in ways that fit their cultures. While First Nations distinguishes
 between eight different asset categories, it now concentrates on land and
 natural resources as key lynchpins of effective asset management for
 Indigenous Peoples.
     "In 2005, First Nations Development Institute will celebrate its twenty-
 fifth year as a leader in supporting culturally-appropriate, asset-based
 economic development within Native American communities," commented Adamson.
 "In the years since we began, First Nations Development Institute has played a
 significant role in moving tribal communities toward ever-increasing levels of
 community self-determination, and providing access to capital for
 entrepreneurial ventures important to creating thriving tribal economies."
     In order to support small entrepreneurs, First Nations pioneered the
 Lakota Fund in 1985, the first micro-finance loan fund on a US reservation.
 Previously, tribal members in reservation communities could only deposit
 money, and rarely had access to credit.  Based on Lakota's success, FNDI has
 initiated similar funds on numerous reservations through small grants. FNDI's
 Financial Education Program developed with the Fannie Mae Foundation has also
 succeeded in teaching families how to save, acquire homes, and invest.
     In 1994, FNDI established the Eagle Staff Fund, the first national,
 culturally appropriate, Native-controlled grantmaking collaborative.  Over the
 past ten years, the Eagle Staff Fund has issued over 380 grants totalling more
 than $11 million, making it among the largest sources of philanthropy in
 Native American communities.  A range of one-on-one technical assistance and
 training workshops are also offered to grantees.  An estimated 40,000 people
 have directly benefited from First Nations programs in the last 10 years
     First Nations has formally established a Native Assets Research Center
 dedicated to researching issues around Native assets and developing policy
 recommendations.  A subsidiary of First Nations, the Oweesta Corporation,
 focuses on financial assets and has taken over the development of community-
 based financial institutions and loan funds.   In 1997, Rebecca Adamson also
 set up First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) to work with Indigenous populations
 around the world.  FPW seeks to further develop its corporate engagement
 strategy to bring Indigenous groups and corporations to the table to negotiate
 on equal terms regarding investments made on Indigenous land. Other programs
 spearheaded by the organization include the Native Agriculture and Food
 Systems Initiative, which supports tribes in developing agriculture-related
 businesses, encouraging organic farming and the preservation of seeds and food
 traditions. The Food Initiative also focuses on the beneficial health impacts
 of a return to traditional food systems, and has been instrumental in
 reversing diabetes rates in tribes where more than 80% of the population
 suffered from this life-threatening disease.
     Rebecca Adamson established First Nations in 1980 with her unemployment
 check and a $25,000 grant, recognizing that existing government entities and
 private organizations were only increasing the dependency of Native Americans
 on public funds rather than empowering them. Before starting First Nations,
 she was instrumental in developing and securing the enabling legislation for
 tribally operated schools, spending time in jail for this work because of the
 controversial nature of interference by tribal members in educational affairs
 at the time.
     Ms. Adamson has also served as a trustee of The Calvert Group for over 14
 years. She championed the creation of "Community Notes" which have brought
 over $189 million in capital to community financial institutions. On her
 recommendation, in 2003 the World Bank introduced the First Global Indigenous
 People's Facility Fund to make small capacity building grants to Indigenous
 communities throughout the world.
     First Nations Development Institute is a nonprofit organization founded in
 1980 to assist Indigenous peoples to control their assets and build the
 capacity to direct their economic futures in ways that fit their cultures.
 First Nations provides technical assistance, grants, and an array of other
 services to reservation-based and rural Native American-controlled projects
 that mobilize culturally appropriate entrepreneurial activities. For
 additional information, contact

SOURCE First Nations Development Institute