Challenge: A Native tribe with a casino on their land distributed “Big Money” payouts in a lump sum to enrolled Tribe members when they turned 18. Twenty years after the casino opened, the payouts were approaching $200,000 — and leading to social and public health problems in this rural community, including increases in drug overdoses and car crashes. Tribal leaders wanted to understand the community’s perspective on the issue, specifically: Would voters support a referendum changing the “Big Money” distribution from a lump sum to staggered payouts?
Approach: I designed a comprehensive research program, including 8 community focus groups (with parents of teens, recent Big Money recipients, and adults who had no Big Money experience) and a quantitative survey among a representative sample of 5% of enrolled tribal members. To execute the data collection, I trained local women in the basics of both qualitative focus group moderating and standardized survey interviewing.
Result: My analysis showed that nearly everyone in the community had witnessed negative outcomes of the Big Money payouts, and voters were overwhelmingly in favor of staggered payouts. This finding allowed the tribal council to propose a referendum that aligned with community needs and garnered the support of the majority of voters.