Working with iwi and hapū

Key steps for meaningful collaboration with iwi and hapū.

The most important ingredient is to build a meaningful relationship from the start. All possibilities of developing a relationship or partnership with iwi can be destroyed by starting on the wrong foot. The following are key steps to building a research relationship with Māori. The information is drawn from Manaaki Whenua's "Collaborating with iwi" resource.

Working with iwi and hapu process

1) National/local issues

Know the context - have some understanding of Māori issues, either within a geographic area or nationally, and be aware of inter-iwi and intra-iwi politics and relationships.

2) Contacting and networking with iwi

Identify the right iwi organization to work with and the key people in that organization. It is recommended that you talk with one of Holden’s team or one of the Manaaki Taio team at this stage.

3) Tikanga

Be aware of and observe cultural protocols (tikanga). It may be necessary to visit iwi representatives, at the highest organisational level, when beginning a relationship, and giving an initial presentation to a Rūnanga, Trust Board, Incorporated Society, council, committee, or staying on a marae. In many situations, this stage is a formal process when starting work with any iwi, before any collaboration or participation. For Manaaki Whenua staff it is recommended that at this stage you are working with one of Holden’s team.

4) Identify key contacts

At this stage that the type and content of a memorandum of understanding or partnership (i.e. MOU or MOP) should be considered. Manaaki Whenua has developed both MOUs and technical service MOUs at the beginning of most projects (examples). In many cases a MOU/MOP will formalise the relationship between Manaaki Whenua and an iwi in terms of protocols, kawa, and assurance of the involvement of the right people. This sets the scene for follow-up hui, more informal discussion, networking, and initiating projects.

5) Hui

Gift first. Be willing to help iwi or individual iwi members, even before setting up collaborative projects, to access and disseminate information of particular interest, networking with other researchers, or other iwi, helping with iwi proposals for funding, etc

6) Iwi and Hapu issues

After the formal approach, more informal discussions often follow to understand iwi/hapū Māori issues and link these to potential research. In establishing relationships it is important to listen, help and learn, as issues will be much wider than just research issues, and will involve understanding economic, cultural, political, environmental, social, and historical concerns. Issues need to be characterised and carefully defined from a Māori and scientific perspective. Key Māori or iwi issues should then be documented, shared and agreed upon.

Location is important - It is often good to discuss iwi issues in the field, on a marae, or at an iwi or hapū designated office.

7) Developing research questions

After discussions on issues, priority issues are identified. Discussions should then focus on how a research proposal can be developed around priority issues. For each issue, specific research questions, relevant to both Māori and mainstream science, need to be carefully identified and then further discussed. Research questions need to be documented and written in a clear, concise, non-technical, and unambiguous fashion to avoid confusion. They should be discussed, formulated, and easily interpreted by both sides.

8) Building capacity

Collaborative research is more likely to succeed if there is sufficient capacity and adequate resources. Many iwi and hapū struggle to find financial resources and ready access to professional expertise to begin collaborative research. A collaborative research model should give proper attention to increasing human capacity and Māori participation in research through adequately resourcing, embracing Māori research methodologies, agreeing on research topics of relevance to Māori, and exploring options such as studentships.

Staff in CRIs also need the capacity to work effectively with iwi and hapū. This can only be acquired by practice, for example, by working with iwi and hapū, working with iwi researchers, improving skills in te reo, understanding tikanga, working in Māori or Māori-related research areas.

9) Collaborative research

When working with Māori, what you are going to research together is only half the story. At this stage you also need to collectively consider how you are going to work and with whom, through jointly preparing a framework for collaborative research. It is good to develop this in an informal hui. Comprehensive documentation should then be circulated to iwi for agreement. The framework should consider:

10) Writing the proposal

This is a familiar stage for many researchers ,however iwi partners may have less experience of writing this type of document. Key people to write the research proposal need to be identified early and given responsibility for completing set tasks within a time frame. If the required skills are not available among the collaborators, consideration should be given to contracting experienced writers who have the trust and respect of the iwi group.

The information is drawn from:

HARMSWORTH, G. 2005. Good Practice guidelines for working with tangata whenua and Maori organisations: Consolidating our learning. Report prepared for Integrated Catchment Mangement Programme, Motuka, funded by FRST.

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