At long last the PhD journey has started to become fun. I struggled my way through 18 months of the proposal and ethics stages and have recently started my interviews. I am even enjoying the transcription process, because the participants in my research have so many golden nuggets to share.
The participants are inspired by a cause or a passion that makes a difference to others. These entrepreneurs have built an enterprise utilising their training, education, skills and competencies to create services and products that help their communities. When I listen to them, sparks of their inspiration touch me and fill me with a burning hope for a new future in Aotearoa. A future based on improved Te Tiriti o Waitangi relationships realised through tino rangatiratanga (Māori sovereignty and self-determination).
I’ve been really heartened by what I’m finding out from this group of entrepreneurs. They have chosen to put the purely capitalistic money and profit-driven perspective of running an enterprise to near the bottom of the list. Instead they have decided to take up business opportunities based on whanaungatanga and the maintenance of empowering relationships with their staff members, customers and other stakeholders. Imagine what is possible for our society if we put good, deep and respectful relationships to the forefront of our day to day work, our laws and justice, our social well-being and welfare?
Another driver for this group of entrepreneurs is upholding cultural integrity and ethical considerations through their business practices. To that end, they adhere to their own cultural values, and promote Te Reo Māori me ona tikanga (Māori language and customs) in the running of their enterprises. It reminds me of the ‘golden years’ that Petrie (2013) refers to in her Chiefs of Industry book. From the arrival of Europeans to the shores of Aotearoa in the late seventeenth century to around the 1830s, Māori enterprise was thriving. Trade was based on good relationships, ethical practices and the language of trade was Te Reo. It was a time when Māori business was cutting edge and deals were underpinned with noble intent most of the time. What if this was a possibility again in this country?
Although it is impossible to re-establish the ‘golden era’ of yester year there are entrepreneurs out there that are thinking about business differently. Rather than taking on work just because it will be profitable, or it ‘makes good business sense’ or just because they can, this group of entrepreneurs have deeper analysis. They question the intention behind the work and who is requesting the work, to ensure there are no conflicts of interest with their other stakeholders or their own intentions. Working gratis for a good kaupapa is always on the cards when possible, including for friends, family, or allies. These kinds of freebees trump well-paying work that does not have good intent. Have we arrived at a time when making a sound and viable financial decision to keep your enterprise’s doors open, can also be balanced with maintaining relationships and serving your own cultural values and principles?
Maybe we are on the cusp of change and maybe not. However it is surprising what a small group of committed people can achieve! Is it that more and more people will start looking for something that fulfils their deeper intent? Can we put positive relationships that maintain and still enable enterprising businesses ahead of the economic bottom-line?