In 2003, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) secured funding for a national tribal research and policy center that would focus on issues facing tribal communities. This center was developed under an advisory council of tribal leaders, Native scholars, tribal organization heads, regional Indian policy center directors, private sector researchers, and state policymakers. The work of the NCAI Policy Research Center is to facilitate research that has direct implications for tribal communities and opportunities for improving the quality of life of Native people. It is critical for tribal communities to drive the research agenda and have direct influence in policy research and agenda setting. NCAI maintains a spiritually rooted and holistically minded focus and honors tribal ownership of data and the role of the community in research to produce initiatives that are tribally driven and credible.
Through collaborations with researchers and Native American tribal members, the NCAI Policy Research Center supports community-based participatory research with the goal of supporting Indian Country in shaping its own future. One of its recent collaborations with the University of Nevada-Reno, and supported by a Native American Research Center for Health grant, relied on community-based research to co-develop a community-based participatory research evaluation toolkit called Holding Space: A Guide for Partners in Tribal Research Toolkit. Through the community research project to develop the kit, the partners found that governance, trust, and culture were key to successful community science partnerships and incorporated them into their own work. Governance in particular is practiced through co-leadership and co-ownership throughout the research project and through tribal ownership of the data, results, and other products generated through the work.