Financial literacy for Māori realities: Designing culturally-responsive financial services and savings programmes for whānau Māori

What current methods do Māori (particularly those on low incomes and/or living in conditions of poverty) use to manage money?

What financial products and services are likely to be effective for Māori and how might these be successfully implemented?

What support can Māori organisations (including iwi) and the government provide to increase whānau financial literacy and savings?

Poverty within Māori communities is perpetuated by low incomes, poor financial literacy and a lack of whānau role models who encourage saving. For change to occur, financial education, collaborative community efforts and radical behavioural shifts are required.

Several data sources (including existing iwi financial services) indicate Māori embrace culturally customised financial products based on interdependence, collaboration and whānaungatanga. However there is little sound empirical evidence to inform the creation of such financial interventions for Māori living in diverse social economic contexts (some culturally disconnected).

This project fills that gap by helping whānau Māori to explore, scope and design their own culturally responsive financial services. Using money management diaries weekly and bi-monthly interviews, a researcher (Māori and community based) will gather detailed data from 15-20 low-income Māori individuals/whānau over a six month period.

These data will inform the design of 1) a larger research project which explores the efficacy of culturally responsive financial literacy education and 2) the design of financial support services (likely community/hapu/whānau based savings programmes) that work for Māori.

At least one iwi and urban Māori organisation will be asked to collaborate from the outset and in month seven the co-design of a further research project and trial intervention will being. The relevance of several models will be considered including Community Savings Groups/CSGs and Individual Development Accounts/lDAS. International cases show these methods and others effectively enable low-income (and even very poor) families to save collaboratively and in partnership with government institutions (in NZ perhaps iwi, government, urban Māori authorities).

How financial literacy education can be aligned with Māori values and Māori realities will also be investigated. It is hoped participants themselves will use the diaries to self-reflect on their own financial values and choices and gain a deeper sense of control and financial awareness from being involved in the study. Budgeting advice and financial guidance will be factored into the study (by providing participants access to additional budgeting support). It is hoped that whānau poverty can be reduced by such interventions that enable families to build their own financial awareness and security using what they already have (including social and cultural capital).

Project commenced:

Research Lead(s) and Team

Associate Professor
Department of Management and International Business

Carla Houkamau (PhD) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management and International Business, the Director of the Mira Szászy Research Centre for Māori and Pacific Economic Development and the Associate Dean for Māori and Pacific Development for the Business School.