Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Developing a research proposal with an iwi or hapu

Image -Adrienne Farr

Image -Adrienne Farr

Once a relationship is established with an iwi or hapu, further development of proposals to a certain degree is based on the trust and respect built by the collaborators.

Hui - determining the issue(s) and research topic/questions

The first stage is identifying issues, and agreeing on a research topic/theme that addresses priority issues. A long list of issues usually needs to be refined and then prioritised. The research topic may come out of previous hui (during relationship building) centred on specific issues. Discussions should then focus on how a research proposal can be developed around priority issues. The proposed research has to be highly relevant to the iwi, stakeholders and the funding agency. In a generic sense, if the proposal requires public funds, it will need to articulate how the findings of the research, or the research methods, are applicable and important to individuals, groups, communities outside the geographic study area or research topic.

For each issue, specific research questions, relevant to both Mäori and mainstream science, need to be carefully identified and then further discussed. Generally, most scientists and researchers represent a mainstream science research approach, and feel more comfortable taking these more 'western' approaches into a collaborative research model. Many iwi and hapu, however, have people skilled in Mäori research methods and kaupapa Mäori research, who feel uncomfortable in mainstream science research. Research questions need to be documented and written in a clear, concise, non-technical, and unambiguous fashion to avoid confusion. They should be discussed, formulated, and easily interpreted by both sides.

Determining research capability

Research capabilities then need to be related to key issues, and thought given to the expertise and skills needed to carry out research related to these issues. Any potential collaborative research needs to consider whether the collaborators have the right mix of skills and capabilities to carry out the intended research, or whether other collaborating organisations or stakeholders should be involved. The groups need carefully to consider the research they wish to undertake, and also need the confidence and capacity to carry it out. Collaborative research is more likely to succeed if human capacity is sufficient and adequate resources (Figure 1) are in place.

Hui - a framework for collaborative research proposals

Once the research topic has been determined, a framework for the research proposal is required to provide focus. It is always good to develop this in an informal hui, with a brainstorming session and mind mapping of the components of the proposed research. Comprehensive documentation should be circulated to iwi and other members as a follow up. The framework should consider:

  • the kaupapa, which can take the form of a set of guidelines, a guiding philosophy, a terms of reference, outcomes and vision for the proposed project;
  • the size/magnitude of the project;
  • the proposed time-frame;
  • important protocols, tikanga, cultural sensitivities that should be followed when developing the research proposal;
  • the key issues the proposal will address;
  • the people, groups, communities, and stakeholders who are the target end-users or beneficiaries of the research, and the relevance or significance of the research to them;
  • the people, groups, and stakeholders to be involved in the actual research (e.g., the collaborators);
  • specific research questions the iwi and collaborators want answered;
  • specific research questions other groups or stakeholders may want answered;
  • whether the research questions will in fact contribute to the outcomes and accurately address and provide answers in line with the issues;
  • an effective communication strategy during the writing of the proposal;
  • an effective communication strategy and key contacts to maintain collaborative links.

Identifying the right people to write the research proposal

Key people to write the research proposal need to be identified early and given responsibility for completing set tasks within a time frame. It is essential that people involved in writing a proposal have commitment, passion, and enthusiasm for the proposed work, and can see the proposal through to completion. It is equally important that proposals are planned, written, refined, checked and submitted by the due date. If the required skills are not available among the collaborators, consideration should be given to contracting experienced writers who have the trust and respect of the iwi group.

Identifying the right people to carry out the research

It is important to identify whether the research capability, capacity, and experience exist 'in-house', in the people or group identified to carry out the research (Figure 1), or whether it is necessary to 'buy in' outside experience and skills. The capability for iwi or hapu members to undertake research is usually raised when deciding on the research framework. However, an identified lack of capability at that stage should not detract from writing the proposal because the iwi individuals or group writing the proposal may be different from those who will actually carry out the research or be sub-contracted to do the work.

Writing the collaborative research proposal: the key ingredients

Once hui have been carried out to discuss issues and research questions, and the key people to write the proposal identified, the proposal can be structured. Guidelines provided by the funding agency must be followed, but in general, proposals will include:

  • the agreed kaupapa and research focus;
  • the agreed research outcomes;
  • the key components or elements of the proposal;
  • the key issues the research will be addressing;
  • goals and objectives;
  • the key research questions for each goal and objective;
  • the research methods for each objective and research question;
  • the people identified to undertake the research (including subcontractors);
  • an itemised budget;
  • a time-frame in which to complete the research.