The significance of this research project lies in its contribution to deeper understand what role Māori SMEs have as critical constituents of the Māori Economy. Recent years have seen attention paid to the merit of the Māori economy, based on the potential of an economy worth an estimated $42.6bn in 2013 (Nana, Khan, & Schulze, 2015).
However, this type of reporting presents an abstract notion of ‘the Māori economy’ that contradicts the heterogeneity of how Māori think about themselves, their modes of social organisation, the resources available to them, how they see themselves connected to those resources, and therefore how they use those resources. In addition, questions arise regarding the ‘silent majority’ of small and micro-businesses that are often overlooked, intentionally or unintentionally, in New Zealand business research (Samuja, 2011).
The aim of this research is to consider the intergenerational reality of Māori SMEs to understand the economic, social and environmental development aspirations embodied within the transhistorical framework of Te Ao Māori. This understanding is crucial for development that is sustainable and accommodating of both Māori values and commercial endeavours, locally and globally, today and in the future. The scope of this research extends the narrow Western definition of an SME as a commercial only endeavour to include hybrid forms of enterprise that trades, not solely for private gain, but also to generate positive social and environmental externalities (Doherty, Haugh, & Lyn, 2014). Thus, highlighting there are many organisational forms and activities, which continue outside of dominant capitalist structures, forming the basis of the diverse economy.
The research includes multi-method analysis through a research programme designed around two inter-weaving themes aimed at building resilience for Māori SMEs to progress with confidence into the future:
1) building innovation capability and
2) exploring the diverse economies.
To build resilience for the future it is important to ensure that traditional understandings of how Māori forms of economy, society and relationship with the environment have changed over time. Therefore, we ask what we can learn from the past, to better understand Māori forms of enterprise today to ensure the enduring relevance of Māori business, specifically SMEs, in the future.