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Tuatahi, ka mihi ki a Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku. Tuarua, ka mihi ki te hunga mate, rātau ki a rātau, nō reira, moe mai rā, moe mai ra. Tuatoru, ka mihi ki te hunga ora, āra, ko tātau ēnei. Tēnā koutou ngā tāngata taketake o te ao, me ērā o mātau e whaiwhai taki haere nei i te oranga i a rātau mā. Ka mihi ki te kaupapa i raro iho nei te whakamārama i ngā mahi rangahau e pā ana ki tā te rakahinonga taketake o Aotearoa, Ahitereiria, te Moananui a Kiwa, me te ao whānui anō hoki. Ka mihi ki ngā ringa raupa nāna nei i tuhi i te ao i te pō, me ngā reo o koro mā o kui mā, o pakeke mā, o taiohi mā o roto i ngā tuhituhinga. Ko te tūmanako, he timata noa iho tēnei. Tīhei mauri ora!

First, greetings to sky father and earth mother. Second, greetings to the dearly departed, may they forever rest. Third, greetings to the living. Greetings also to indigenous peoples of the world and those of us working alongside and with them for a good life. We acknowledge the subject matter that follows as one which seeks to enlighten us on indigenous entrepreneurship research in New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific and other places in the world. We acknowledge the ‘callous hands’ of those who write in the day and in the night, and the voices of our elders, parents and children in the writings. Our hope is that this is only the beginning. With the breath of life, we wish to speak!

Entrepreneurship scholars have long recognised that entrepreneurship is influenced by context (Welter, 2011). What it means to be an entrepreneur, who can be an entrepreneur and what we expect of them in terms of legitimate behaviour is negotiable and fluid within different social contexts, times and places (Lounsbury & Glynn, 2001; Warren, 2004; Downing, 2005; Watson, 2009). The growing prominence given to context is timely as globalisation and digital technologies are set to have an exponential impact over the next 30 years, for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike. Recognising the importance of context, place and history, this special issue focuses on indigenous entrepreneurship in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, but also extends to contributors from other countries.

Indigenous people can be understood as those groups and individuals ‘who have maintained a relationship through descent, self-identification and community acceptance with the precolonial populations’ in their ancestral homeland (Paradies, 2005: 1). According to the United Nations, there are 370 million indigenous people in the world accounting for 5% of the world’s population (Spiller, Barclay-Kerr, & Panoho, 2015).

Peredo, Anderson, Galbraith, Honig, and Dana (2004) and Hindle and Moroz (2009) argue for the notion of indigenous entrepreneurship as a separate field, where there is a need to reconcile history and understand indigenous values. In this perspective, entrepreneurship has often been aligned with the history of an indigenous people which may have been disrupted through colonisation, typically by Europeans (Foley, 2003; Ivory, 2003). Correspondingly, Anderson and Giberson (2003) point out the strong tie between process and place for indigenous entrepreneurship. The imperative now is to move forward from past injustices and develop new perspectives on entrepreneurship, innovation and enterprise that realise the potential of indigenous peoples. Indigenous entrepreneurs represent a growing segment of the business community in many countries, but face sometimes stark challenges in starting and running enterprises. The success of indigenous entrepreneurs matters because they draw upon their indigeneity as sources of inspiration and innovation, contribute to the collective well-being of indigenous peoples, and some represent world class exemplars of sustainable ways of doing business (Mika, 2016, 2017).

There is some consensus in the literature that entrepreneurship has always been part of indigenous society (Waa & Love, 1997; Cachon, 2012), but how this should be expressed is subject to debate, as populations face challenges of identity, urbanisation, marginalisation and social and environmental sustainability (Foley, 2006; Frederick & Foley, 2006). Research on these multifaceted aspects of indigenous entrepreneurial lives in this region is in its infancy. Consequently, the goal of this special issue – better understanding of the entrepreneurial process and outcomes in relation to indigenous communities, endeavours and entities – offers new and valuable insights. We believe the articles hold appeal for researchers and providers analysing and working with indigenous entrepreneurs, but also for policy makers, as well as for families and individuals aspiring to entrepreneurship.

In the first of the eight articles in this special issue, Regina Scheyvens, Glenn Banks, Litea Meo-Sewabu, and Tracy Decena share their research into indigenous entrepreneurship on customary land in the Pacific, in this instance, Fiji. They explore how sustainability is understood and practiced by indigenous entrepreneurs and how this might be measured to more accurately reflect the centrality of land to Pacific peoples. They encourage us to see beyond the limitations of Pacific business and narrow conceptions of firm value, to the vital contributions these ‘culturally-embedded’ enterprises make to their families and communities. Moreover, they argue that culture is increasingly being accepted by donors as an enabler rather than a barrier to business in the Pacific. Using an indigenous method of talanoa (conversation and story-telling) to gather enterprise-level data against economic, sociocultural and environmental indicators, Scheyvens et al. present a visual graphic, which readily portrays levels of enterprise sustainability and success.

In the second article, Ella Henry, Jamie Newth, and Chellie Spiller present a case study of how indigenous social innovator Dr. Lance O’Sullivan is using technology to disrupt the power imbalance in primary health care in a northland community in New Zealand. Through a northland health initiative called Manawa Ora, Korokoro Ora (MOKO) and its virtual service (iMOKO), Dr. O’Sullivan and his wife Tracey are empowering schools to identify and log unwell students for remote (virtual) diagnosis, prescription and referral for treatment by a team of 21 doctors, nurses and health care professionals. This social innovation is challenging power dynamics, transforming communities, and addressing health inequities and inequalities disproportionately affecting Māori people in the remote regions of New Zealand. Henry et al. argue, as other authors in this special issue also do, that indigenous enterprises are contextually embedded, culturally, socially and physically in time and space, within communities that seek both the emancipatory ends social innovations offer, but have within themselves the means (human capabilities) to enact the social change they seek. The exciting prospect is that an indigenous social innovation from Kaitaia, Northland, New Zealand, might just change the way in which the world understands and accesses health care and the role of health care professionals.

In the third article, Susan Congreve and John Burgess draw on their experience and analysis to discuss the complex roles of art centres in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. Using Altman’s (2007) concept of the hybrid economy, the authors draw attention to competing expectations placed on art centres as guardians of customary artistic expression, as agents for the sale of cultural art in local and global markets, as providers of state-funded services, and as community development organisations. While art centres might aspire to excel in all these respects, they are confronted by both divergent ideological (customary, economic and policy imperatives) and practical challenges of high costs, underfunding and inadequate infrastructure. While Altman’s concept of the hybrid economy posits the customary and mainstream economies as deserving of equal merit, and the state as having an enabling role in the customary economy of the artists, the concept has yet to surface in state policy. Despite this, remote art centres continue to create and exchange value, which is both economic (market value of the art) and noneconomic (intrinsic value of customary art), and contribute to localised development needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In the fourth article, Elizabeth Beall and John Brocklesby share their research on comparative advantage of Māori-land based enterprises (known as Māori authorities) in New Zealand in the climate change arena. Three key insights from this article stand out for us. First, as two non-indigenous researchers enquiring of and with indigenous organisations and individuals, both clearly went to considerable lengths to ‘brush up’, as they say, on cross-cultural methodologies, Māori language, culture and history, and kaupapa Māori philosophy, values and practice (G. H. Smith, 1997; L. T. Smith, 1999), before embarking upon their research with Māori authorities. This probably explains the ease with which their initial research aim shifted in response to participants’ expression of what they considered more beneficial and appropriate for them. Second, the use of soft-systems methodology as an alternative to rational research methods is clearly laid out. While the authors express some doubt as to whether their method worked, participant feedback suggests it was adapted and applied with a good deal of care and respect. Third, Māori values such as kaitiakitanga (an ethic of care and responsibility for all living things) they found within the Māori authorities seems to denote a natural comparative advantage when it comes to considering climate change. However, as Beall and Brocklesby also find, whether climate change is fully canvassed as a business opportunity by Māori authorities depends upon numerous other considerations, notably; strategic fit with land owner expectations; organisational leadership, capacity and propensity to collaborate; and of course, whether Crown policy provides for or stifles Māori participation.

In the fifth article, Rochelle Spencer, Martin Brueckner, Gareth Wise, and Bunkak Marika report on an ethnographic account of capacity development within an Indigenous social enterprise – Nuwul Environmental Services. ‘Nuwul’ was established by the Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation in 2009 for environmental services and social development purposes in the town of Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land, northern Australia. Spencer et al. comment on the distinction between capacity building (emphasising exogenous development) and capacity development (emphasising endogenous development), both of which have a long history in international development as processes for poverty alleviation and human development. Using principles of capacity development (a flexible approach, a systemic and long-term perspective, local participation, ownership and control), the authors analyse interview data obtained from indigenous and non-indigenous participants in Nuwul through the indigenous methodology of ‘yarning’. Essentially, Spencer et al. find that capacity development through social enterprise does indeed facilitate indigenous aspirations for self-determination, but the enterprise and its people continue to face a precarious existence. On the one hand, Nuwul is expected to increasingly generate income from paying customers for its environmental services, and on the other hand, maintain a culturally responsive, flexible approach to its workforce and community service ethic. Normalising a structured and balanced approach to managing social and economic activities is one of the implications in this case and for indigenous social enterprise research generally.

In the sixth article, Matthew Rout, John Reid, Benjamin Te Aika, Renata Davis, and Te Maire Tau explore contemporary challenges of a traditional economy, that is, the customary harvest, processing and sale of muttonbirds (tītī or sooty shearwater) in islands off the southern coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Rout et al. examine, using a framework which merges institutional economics and indigenous entrepreneurship, how colonial processes effectively removed traditional tribal authority, which had until then, regulated the allocation of tītī harvest rights, responsibilities and exchange according to customary values and practices. Consistent with kaupapa Māori methodology, two Rakiura (Stewart Island) Māori were recruited to conduct 20 interviews within their whānau (extended family networks). Their interviews focused on how the three institutional themes of authority, rights and exchange constrained or enabled entrepreneurial ability, opportunity and innovation of ‘birders’ (muttonbird harvesters). Through the Crown purchase of Rakiura in the mid-1800s, and the return of Crown owned tītī islands to Ngāi Tahu through its treaty settlement in the mid-1990s, institutional authority, rights and exchange governing tītī harvest and sale has become confused and complex, threatening ‘birder’ viability and birding traditions. The research finds that the present competitive market under which tītī operates reduces margins for all, making it difficult to harvest according to traditional methods, enforcing a drive toward low cost, technologically laden alternatives. Rout et al. argue that some form of tribal ‘executive authority’ could be reinstituted to regulate the tītī economy at a strategic level, though this idea encountered resistance among whānau birders who perceived it as a threat to their ‘operational authority’.

In the seventh article, Lorraine Warren, Jason Mika, and Farah Palmer use identity as a theoretical lens to understand how enterprise assistance might best serve Māori entrepreneurs. The article draws upon the authors’ research on the interface and interplay between entrepreneurial identity, indigenous entrepreneurship and enterprise assistance within the bicultural (Māori and Pākehā) context of Aotearoa New Zealand. As a socially and culturally contextualised construct, entrepreneurial identity (how entrepreneurs see themselves and how others perceive them) can engender legitimacy, reputation and ethical behaviour. Efforts to compose a favourable narrative is described as ‘identity work’ in which entrepreneurs must engage to attract resources and support. The constructed identity must be contextually grounded to be socially and culturally accepted and acceptable. Warren et al. find that a Māori entrepreneurial identity is discernible within entrepreneurs who self-identify as Māori and engage in entrepreneurial activity according to a Māori world view, but integrate within this, elements of a Pākehā world view. Māori entrepreneurs prioritise cultural, social and spiritual values, but they also desire commercial success. The balancing of cultural and commercial imperatives is a permanent feature of Māori entrepreneurial identity and practice. Other notable complexities of Māori entrepreneurial identity are dealing with the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ in which outwardly successful people are subjected to enactment of envy and the construction of an identity viewed as legitimate within te ao Māori (the Māori world) and wider New Zealand society. Entrepreneurship policy is increasingly acknowledging these nuances of Māori entrepreneurial identity and the authors point to ways in which providers of assistance might more appropriately respond with culturally authentic and effective services of their own.

In the final article, Francesca Croce immerses herself within the international indigenous entrepreneurship literature in search of insights on the recurring theme of context. Croce discovers three main ways in which indigenous entrepreneurship is represented in research based on degrees of localisation and urbanisation, which she classifies as urban, remote and rural models of indigenous entrepreneurship. The urban indigenous entrepreneurship model reflects a high degree of integration of Western conceptions of entrepreneurship emphasising wealth creation and profitability and concomitant diminishment of indigenous language and culture. The remote indigenous entrepreneurship model retains an indigenous paradigm emphasising sustainable economic development modes, preservation of indigenous traditions, subsistence economies and cultural products, whilst dealing with the difficulties of remoteness. Rural indigenous entrepreneurship represents an intermediate model balancing tradition and modernity, which seeks harmonisation and inclusion of both commercial and cultural values. These classifications amplify social, cultural and historical differences evident in indigenous entrepreneurship at the local level while signifying commonalities indigenous entrepreneurs share in their pursuit of culturally affirming modes of economic development. They also highlight differences in approaches to doing business, variations in access to infrastructure, opportunities and outcomes, and degrees of recognition and support states exhibit for indigenous peoples. Overall, Croce’s analysis dispels any notion of uniformity in indigenous entrepreneurship paradigms and practice and suggests contextualisation by degree of localisation should be a material consideration in entrepreneurial policy.

With the prospect of novel insights into indigenous self-determination and sustainable economic development, which connect ancient wisdom with modern technologies, indigenous entrepreneurship research is attracting both indigenous and non-indigenous scholars (Peredo & Anderson, 2006). Given the relatively small size, but active community of scholars worldwide who are studying indigenous entrepreneurship, we see merit in collaborative research, publications and events across international academic associations and institutions. The Academy of Management’s Native, Aboriginal and Indigenous Caucus and the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management’s Indigenous Special Issues Interest Group are examples of this.

In our efforts to embrace indigeneity within the academy, we must take care not to overlook fundamental indigenous human rights, which provide for indigenous self-determination and the freedom for indigenous peoples to fulfil their social, cultural and economic aspirations on this basis (United Nations, 2007; Lightfoot, 2016). This means, as scholars, we must ask ourselves some critical questions before, during and after engaging in indigenous entrepreneurship research. For example: how are we providing for indigenous peoples to participate in every stage of research about them, for them, and with them; how are we ensuring our methodologies are culturally appropriate and effective for indigenous peoples; and, how is our research benefitting indigenous peoples, communities and enterprises, and others? Ground breaking analysis by indigenous scholars such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999), Graham Hingangaroa Smith (1997), Margaret Kovach (2010), Dennis Foley (2007), Ella Henry (2012), and others, has elevated the status of indigenous methodologies as legitimate methods of enquiry within the academy to which we may turn in the design of indigenous entrepreneurship research. Indigenous methodologies and indigenous theorising are an evolving venture, however, one to which this special issue of Journal of Management and Organization contributes.

Drawing upon articles in this special issue, we suggest some possible themes for future indigenous entrepreneurship research:

  • What general theories of indigenous entrepreneurship thinking (epistemologies), being (ontologies) and doing (methodologies) are evident?

  • What is the role of indigenous knowledge, values, languages and institutions in indigenous entrepreneurship, innovation and enterprise development?

  • How do indigenous entrepreneurs approach the integration of customary and commercial imperatives in terms of its rationale, process and outcomes?

  • How is context understood by indigenous entrepreneurs and how might indigenous entrepreneurs shape context over the next generation given global and digital trends?

  • What kinds of entrepreneurial policies and programmes work best from an indigenous perspective and how these might influence policy design and implementation?

  • What do social enterprise and social innovation mean for indigenous entrepreneurs and how do these differ from conventional conceptualisations and practices of entrepreneurship?

  • What innovations and developments are evident in indigenous methodologies and how can these inform indigenous and non-indigenous entrepreneurship research?

  • What measures can we develop and apply to show the connections between indigenous self-determination, economic development and entrepreneurship?

  • How do we know whether indigenous entrepreneurship research is engaging and benefiting indigenous communities in ways that are effective and appropriate?

As guest editors, we are pleased to have had the opportunity to share some of the indigenous entrepreneurship research in which indigenous and non-indigenous scholars, students and academics are engaged. We are aware that much more research is under development and will eventually appear in this and other journals, and academic and industry-related fora. We acknowledge that both academic and non-academic scholars are engaged alongside and with indigenous peoples, communities and entities for sustainable futures.

Kua rahi tēnei. Nō reira, nā mātou ko.


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