Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Collaborative research models

Garth Harmsworth and Tiakina Te Taiao Chairman Barney Thomas on the banks of the Motueka River. Image - Tom Fraser

Garth Harmsworth and Tiakina Te Taiao Chairman Barney Thomas on the banks of the Motueka River. Image - Tom Fraser

Requirements of a generic collaborative research model

Once the right partners are found, the most important steps in developing collaborative research with iwi and hapu, are:

  • identifying and understanding national issues and politics;
  • starting to build the relationship;
  • following protocols and tikanga;
  • identifying and understanding a broad range of hapu and iwi issues;
  • developing effective dialogue and communication;
  • prioritising and characterising issues for collaborative research;
  • defining the research questions;
  • selecting the right people;
  • writing a proposal;
  • establishing collaborative research;
  • undertaking participatory research;
  • maintaining the relationship;
  • completing research outputs;
  • networking.

These are summarised in Figure 1. The general steps above can be described in terms of three main phases of relationship progression: initiating the relationship; building the relationship; and maintaining the relationship (Figure 1). These phases may take years before true partnerships are formed.

The most important components to make a 'collaborative research model' work are (Figure 3):

Figure 1: Making the collaborative model work: the key ingrediantes.
  • the human capacity to undertake the work;
  • adequate resources;
  • belief and commitment;
  • drivers or champions of the research, key people;
  • a good understanding of issues, that provide the context for research;
  • mutual trust and respect, a belief in partnership;
  • vision and goals to provide a focus;
  • respect for tikanga and protocols.

In summary, Mäori are very supportive of a 'collaborative research model' that:

  • is based on a solid, on-going relationship;
  • is based on long-term commitment by research collaborators;
  • includes participatory research with iwi or hapu in any project;
  • focuses on forming a 'partnership' with iwi or hapu;

and in which

  • the research fits with an iwi or hapu vision, goals, and objectives;
  • external researchers have taken time to listen to iwi and hapu perspectives, issues, and concerns.

6.2 Types of collaborative research models

It is evident that some iwi and hapu have progressed further than others, in terms of having robust organisational structures in place, professional management and staff, and people with the skills and capabilities to undertake research. It is these groups that are most likely to succeed in a 'collaborative

research model'. The more organised and independent the group, the more able it is to take on project management responsibilities and research. These are also the groups most likely to form 'effective partnerships' with outside organisations. These are not always the larger iwi authorities, and many hapu and select Mäori organisations and committees around the country provide examples of these organisational and capability characteristics. It is also apparent that the more adequately resourced and financially secure a Mäori organisation is, the more stable it is and the more able to provide research resources and retain staff.

There is a distinction therefore between iwi and hapu groups that have the capacity to manage their own projects, and those more likely to want to participate in another organisation's project, and to leave the project management responsibilities to more experienced organisations. Both these models could exist side by side in future and form two of the main 'model' types of collaborative research shown with their characteristics in Table 1. They are:

  • an iwi or hapu organisation leading and administering its own research project and involving another organisation in its research;
  • Mäori participating in research, where the project control and management is undertaken by an organisation more experienced in project management expertise, such as a CRI or University.

Research conducted under the first model is rare. There are many examples of application of the second mode: CRIs, Universities, and private research companies lead and manage a large number of research projects involving iwi and hapu. In deciding on the appropriate model, the following questions should be asked of iwi and hapu:

  • do they want to manage and control their own research projects, and do they have the resources and capacity (including organisational structure and stability) to do this themselves over the long term?;
  • or, do they just want more effective participation within existing or new research projects, leaving the responsibilities of management, financial management and reporting to a more experienced organisation?

There is very little demonstration of true participation in research in New Zealand and unless this can be demonstrated, most iwi and hapu will want to control and manage their own projects simply to encourage partnerships and research participation. Most Mäori simply want to be included in research in some way, and receive adequate resources to participate.

A third type of collaborative research model, a 'shared management model' (Table 1), is also proposed in this paper. In this model, the ownership and control of the project resides with both partners and there is shared control over the project administration and finances. One party may elect to make the other responsible for aspects of the research or financial accountability, reporting, etc. This model can only operate if there is a large amount of trust and respect between both parties.

In all three models research is collaborative and requires relationship building and commitment to developing partnerships. The three main models and their respective collaborative model attributes are summarised in Table 1.

6.3 Sustaining collaborative research with iwi and hapu

The sustainment of collaboration over time is very important in all collaborative research models (Table 1), and can be greatly affected by a change in circumstance, personnel, or budgets. Given different scenarios it is important to ask at the beginning of collaborative research:

  • can the research be sustained if one or more key people leave the project?;
  • if key people leave, are they replaceable?

Sustaining the co-management model is sometimes difficult. The departure of key individuals from a research project that has been developed around them can have a huge impact. It is important to build human capacity in iwi and hapu so that research does not depend on a few individuals, and so that iwi and hapu have the ability to attract to their research people who have previously worked at a University, CRI, another iwi, wananga, or Government department. To sustain collaborative research, iwi and hapu researchers need to have the capability to undertake research and see it through, to work independently, and have the skills outlined in Section 5.

6.4 Evaluating collaborative projects involving iwi and hapu - future indicators

It will be important to evaluate collaborative research projects involving iwi and hapu from a wider base than has been done in the past. The way the performance or outcome of collaborative research is measured needs to carefully considered, because the research project may be contributing to a wider set of outcomes. A more comprehensive set of indicators is required for evaluation. Indicators may show, for example, whether the research has contributed to:

  • building human capacity;
  • the stated outcomes;
  • Mäori sustainable development;
  • other social, cultural, or economic benefits;
  • increased active participation in collaborative research;
  • addressing Mäori issues adequately;
  • provision of a platform for more economic-focussed research;
  • maintaining cultural values;
  • improving the natural environment;
  • improving socio-economic conditions for the iwi or hapu.

Table 1. Three proposed models for 'Collaborative Research' with iwi.

Model Attributes

The iwi -led model

The shared management model

The science-provider participatory model

Requires good stable organisational structure and financial accountability

Essential. Project management and research leadership is carried out fully by iwi

Recommended: Project management and research shared between an iwi and another science/research organisation (e.g. CRI, University)

Project management and research leadership stays with external agency such as a CRI, University

Iwi human-capacity requirements: high, moderate, or low


High to moderate

High to low

Requires iwi leadership

Iwi leadership essential

Iwi partnership essential

Iwi participation, leadership generally comes from a science provider (e.g., CRI, University)

Research type




Contracts, subcontracts

May subcontract to other science or private providers to carry out research

Either the iwi or the science provider (e.g., CRI) is sub-contracted into the project

Iwi or hapu people may be contracted or asked to participate in the science project (requires relationship building)

Future examples

Probably few, usually larger iwi or well -structured, well-managed Mäori organisations with staff

Could include well-organised Mäori organisations with staff or iwi researchers

Could include a large number of iwi and hapu, whether a Mäori organisation is present or not

Research theme

Generally constructed around Mäori issues, may include kaupapa Mäori research

Generally constructed around both Mäori and mainstream science research

Generally participation in science relevant to Mäori

Research independence

High level of independence and tino rangatiratanga

Moderate level of independence and tino rangatiratanga

Low level of independence and tino rangatiratanga, but makes large contribution to human development

Contribution to human capacity


High to moderate

High to low, depending on degree of iwi and hapu participation