Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI)

The Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) is a leading Indigenous organization dedicated to working with partners to foster Indigenous economic development in New Brunswick. Founded in 1995 as a tripartite partnership, JEDI provides its clients with a variety of Indigenous business and workforce development services including enhanced digital and financial literacy, as well as trades training for machining and heavy equipment operation. In 2009, JEDI was incorporated as an independent, non-profit organization and over the years JEDI has grown into an Indigenous organization focused on working closely with its partners from Indigenous communities, organizations, government, and the private sector to foster Indigenous economic development in New Brunswick.

JEDI aims to build long-term success that’s sustainable for entrepreneurs and create opportunities for clients to find long-term gainful occupations to support their families and communities. We realize our success when entrepreneurs gain knowledge, the Indigenous workforce advances, and when our clients find employment. We believe that the most important aspect of our work is breaking down barriers and creating opportunities through youth engagement to showcase opportunities like career paths and training. Our approach is centered on collaboration as a means of fostering long-term success.

COVID has been a significant barrier to the growth of the Indigenous economy, but also an opportunity for communities to look inward for opportunities. It’s a chance for Indigenous communities to consider what businesses and services can be provided in-house. Indigenous people are diversifying skills and services. Business transitioning to online means being able to access a larger market than local retail.

Barriers to economic reconciliation look different depending on the facet of our work. In business, the challenge looks like access to capital and building up capacity to access capital and supply chains. When we consider the workforce, the challenge is having employers accommodate HR changes for indigenous employees. Employers need to understand the need for cultural acuity and decolonizing business practices. This looks like making space and resources for grieving, systemic racism, providing mentorship, creating relationships with near communities, including elders in their work, Indigenous procurement, and building up the individual members of their team.

Relationship and partnership building can unlock routes to success. Colonization has seeded a lack of trust towards non-indigenous entities. There needs to be a benefit to the indigenous community that enhances opportunities and is in line with cultural values. It is essential for partners to understand when working with Indigenous businesses to not make promises without delivering and or end the partnership as soon as the work is done. The relationship needs to be more than transactional. Organizations need to build meaningful pathways for inclusion.

When considering the future growth of the Indigenous economy it is important to look to traditional strategies for development by being mindful of how today’s decisions affect the next seven generations. We need to uplift our youth by investing in them and including them in our structure and our decision-making processes. The future of the Indigenous economy is also dependent on strong leadership. We believe that leadership in the emerging Indigenous economy should prioritize Indigenizing the business world, all aspects are important both the western and native approaches have value. We need two-eyed seeing, opening our viewpoint to multiple approaches to success. Our leaders should be invested in creating and enhancing opportunities for Indigenous people and the community. This is our leadership approach in the emerging 100 billion dollar indigenous economy.