Decolonizing Partnership Model

Eighth Generation’s Decolonizing Partnership Model is the gold standard for how companies collaborate with Indigenous cultural artists and entrepreneurs. Proven effective through hundreds of collaborative projects, the model disrupts exploitative business practices carried forward from times of extreme power imbalances by promoting true ethical partnerships—culturally responsive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial. Established brands that approach cultural artists or arts entrepreneurs with our Decolonizing Partnership Model in mind are exhibiting a desire to support, not exploit, cultural artists.

In 2021, Eighth Generation worked with Starbucks utilizing the Decolonizing Partnership Model to create a community capsule collection that highlighted the work of Native artists in a respectful and equitable way. “Starbucks represents the first global business to join us in a Decolonizing Partnership,” said Eighth Generation Founder and CEO Louie Gong (Nooksack). “Meeting these progressive standards required Starbucks to flex or change fundamental components of their processes for product development, sourcing, and distribution.” Our work with Starbucks proves the viability of the model for major corporations wanting to make a switch to ethical Native partnerships. A Decolonizing Partnership with global sports brand Brooks is currently underway, with product launch scheduled for Fall 2022. 

The model is anchored by five core principles outlined below. 

Eighth Generation receives NCAIED Small Business Empowerment award for empowering small businesses

Our Decolonizing Partnership Model is anchored by five core principles: 

  1. Artist Ownership: A Decolonized Partnership recognizes that cultural artists are the best stewards and caretakers of their art. Cultural art carries the name, beliefs, history, and unique stories of the Tribal community in which the artist is from. A decolonized approach to working with cultural art incorporates understanding that cultural art should not be taken or owned in perpetuity by brands or companies outside of the cultural communities it originates from.
  1. Compensation: Art is work. An artist should be paid for their time and creations like any other profession. A Decolonized Partnership requires compensating cultural artists and recommends a range of creative ideas for supporting business capacity development for artists partners.
  1. Participation in Retail Sales: Cultural artists are entrepreneurs who often have the ability to sell directly to consumers. A Decolonized Partnership requires that artists have the right to purchase collaboratively developed products at wholesale prices to sell through their own retail channels. This will help create long term sustainability for the artist.
  1. Access to Industry Knowledge: For too long, industry knowledge has been actively withheld from Indigenous arts entrepreneurs. A Decolonized Partnership with cultural artists and entrepreneurs includes an openness to mentorship and a genuine willingness to facilitate access to industry knowledge.
  1. Control Over Storytelling: Cultural art carries a responsibility to tell true stories. Companies must be willing to share this responsibility and allow the cultural artist to vet all related content to ensure responsible storytelling. 

A Decolonized Partnership respects cultural art as a natural resource—one that must be protected and invested in.