Chasing Paper: Forms over Function in First Nation Administration

Northern Policy Institute’s latest commentary found that First Nations face hurdles when it comes to applying for and reporting on funding.


Chasing Paper: Forms over Function in First Nation Administration, by Caitlin McAuliffe explores a major obstacle for First Nations who receive funding: reporting. On average a First Nation submits over 130 reports annually about the funding they have received. Creating a burden on the already stretched Band staff. Many of these reports duplicate information but vary in format. Meaning more work for the First Nation but little added value for the funder. There is also a disconnect between the community and funder in regard to reporting. Sometimes the community’s goals for the project don’t match the outcomes that the funder wants reported. Meaning that the true impact of the project is never assessed or even communicated.


When applying for funding, there are other hurdles that must be overcome. Many funders will only fund large capital projects, leaving few funding options for smaller (but still vitally important) projects. Another technical barrier is that new innovative funds often require an incorporation number, which causes a problem since a First Nation is not technically a business, municipality, person, or non-profit organization.


Another issue that the commentary mentions is how the reported data is used (or not). The data collected could be very beneficial to First Nations to see what is working in other First Nation communities. The data from all reporting First Nations is not, however, compiled and published in an easily accessible and easy to understand way. This makes the data unusable by those who could benefit from it the most, the First Nations themselves.


Some key recommendations from the report are:

  1. Strengthen relationships and mutual accountability frameworks by creating a joint body governing relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown, driven by self-determination.
  2. Implement a data governance and privacy framework with funding bodies.
  3. Culturally Relevant Data Collection and Management Tools.
  4. Impact Reports and Data Stories

Want to learn more, read the report here:

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