Maori business leapfrogs to new future

Maori business leapfrogs to new future

A whole new era of Maori business that will take "courage, confidence and ambition, plus a bias to action"

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The report, called Maui Rau, sees authors Joe Hanita, Riria Te Kanawa and Jamie Rihia (ASB) reflecting the sentiments and suggestions of a new future for Māori, their organisations and businesses after a series of hui held across the country with Māori leaders in January and February.

It proposes a "leapfrog" approach to help springboard to a situation where Maori organisations and businesses balance economic success but help to safeguard the Maori way of life and culture - basing those organisations and businesses on that same culture and values.

"Today, catch-up is not enough," the report says. "We need to leapfrog to move from relatively deprived to ahead of the game. 

We need a rocket ship, not a faster horse. The good news is, in a modern world suited to our 'Maoriness', we can use those things distinctive to us.

"Contributors were clear it's important not to become obsessed with economic gain," says Te Kanawa. "That is a means to an end, a commercial catalyst to something bigger. What we are trying to create is a sustainable and prosperous future for whanau and the organisations that serve them."

That said, Te Kanawa says the future also needs to encompass the fact that "not everything can be done by a tribal organisation. They have limitations - and expectations of them are so high, almost unfair, it will be difficult to meet all expectations.

"In many quarters, they are expected to do the job of the government - but without the resources to do it. Tribal organisations have a responsibility to take care of future generations as well as the present - and some of these expectations do not reflect an understanding of that responsibility."

The report says if Maori are to leapfrog, they must be prepared to break free from convention and "carve a new path with our own tools". It adds: "We must think and do things differently in a way no one else can - in our unique Maori way.

"Whether it's our style of humour, the way we take in and manaaki [look after] people, the gifting of koha or simply our way of singing waiata for our kaikorero - it has been received well at home and abroad. Pair this with the way our talented filmmakers subtly depict our people and you start to build a picture of the essence we bring to the world."

The report tells the story of Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia, who started the $25 billion business after he was unsure about offering someone he had randomly met a bed.

"Generally, for us, or at least those with that uncle or aunty, there would have been no question about taking the manuhiri [guest] in," the report says.

"This is only one business that completely dwarfs the grand sum of treaty settlement assets. It shows the potential and opportunity coming off the back of what we do by nature - marrying one aspect of our culture, manaakitanga - with a significant commercial opportunity."

"If this is to be our distinction in the world, we need to grow our whanau cultural capability and strength. The future has to be about connecting our own people to their culture and whanau as a platform for wellness and a sense of pride in who they are."

There are examples of Maori sought out as business partners because trust, values and authenticity are significant drivers in modern business and forming relationships. A strong theme to emerge from the hui and other research was a future underpinned by "having the courage to 'be Maori' - connected to our values, each other, our whenua [land], our culture, the world and our history".

Now, in a new world of internet and digital technology, tamariki [children] were growing up immersed in that world and, for the first time in generations, have the ability to learn independently of adults.

"Our tamariki's strong cultural foundation, their natural talents and character and this digital connectedness combine to make a powerful new platform on which to showcase Maori global success.

"This can only lead to a new generation of capable and confident Maori talent; people who have the values, skills, experience and networks to unleash our potential," the report says. Their confidence and courage will help us make that leap - from playing catch-up to shaping the new world order."

There was demand for skills in the science and digital technology sectors but, with the growing inequality gap within Maori (and even within Maori families), those professional skills would fill only part of the need.

Courage would be needed too when it came to improving educational attainment: "We may need to consider initiatives outside of the current school system to secure the success we seek," the report says.

"As we look ahead, we will need people who can help others build personal confidence, motivate and support others through their respective journeys and challenges and who can direct others into areas where their talents can be put to good use."

The ability to drive collective confidence in Maori identity and distinctiveness will determine the extent to which a desired future state can be realised, the report says.

Without that, "we will continue to see pockets of success driven off the back of individuals who are prepared to think quite differently and possess the ambition, attitude and courage to pursue alternative pathways.

As Te Kanawa says: "Maori who are in business, who are employed - we have to leverage them to be successful."

Māui Rau: Adapting in a changing world

Māui Rau: Adapting in a changing world

There are opportunities for Māori businesses, globally - but it will require courage, confidence and ambition to capture the opportunities.

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