Nicholson 282

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  • Umanga Whanaungatanga: Family Business

    Authors: Amber Nicholson, Christine Woods and Manuka Henare

    Organisation: University of Auckland Business School

    Summary: This is an exploratory paper in which we examine the Mori notion of

    whanaungatanga and the relevance it may have to the family business

    concept of familiness in Aotearoa New Zealand. We propose that

    whanaungatanga - broadly described as kinship relationships that

    develop a sense of belonging - as one of the cultural tenants of a Mori

    worldview - could be a critical source of leverage for Mori businesses.

    We also suggest that familiness is an inherent structure within Mori

    organisations, family business or otherwise. Familiness denotes the

    distinct set of resources and capabilities held within the family firm that

    has the potential to create competitive advantage. This paper puts

    forward the notion that familiness may have some correlation to

    spiritual and physical cultural notion of whanaungatanga, yet the latter

    has the potential to extend much further.

    Keywords: whanaungatanga, familiness, social capital

    Contact Details: Amber Nicholson

    Mira Szszy Research Centre

    University of Auckland Business School

    Private Bag 92019

    Auckland

    09 923 4585

    a.nicholson@auckland.ac.nz

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    INTRODUCTION

    This is an exploratory paper in which we examine the Mori notion of whanaungatanga and

    the relevance it may have to the family business concept of familiness in Aotearoa New

    Zealand. Mori are the indigenous people of New Zealand (NZ), and Aotearoa the traditional

    Mori name for this country. We propose that whanaungatanga - broadly described as

    kinship relationships that develop a sense of belonging (Henare, 1988) - as one of the cultural

    tenants of a Mori worldview - could be a critical source of leverage for Mori businesses.

    We also suggest that familiness is an inherent structure within Mori organisations, family

    business or otherwise. Familiness denotes the distinct set of resources and capabilities held

    within the family firm that has the potential to create competitive advantage (Habbershon &

    Williams, 1999). This paper puts forward the notion that familiness may have some

    correlation to spiritual and physical cultural notion of whanaungatanga, yet the latter has the

    potential to extend much further.

    Family systems and networks are based on obligation, and membership often compulsory and

    fixed provides a well-developed personal and communal identity (Rahman, 2011). This

    paper explores these intrinsic principles in a bid to understand what whanaungatanga can

    contribute to family business and its literature, and how the inherent desire to tend to

    spiritual, environmental social and cultural, and human capital can provide economic

    advantage.

    We have used the term umanga whanaungatanga to denote family business within a Mori

    context. Umanga is used widely to denote business but can also mean pursuit (Williams,

    1992 [1844]). The NZ Law Commission (2006) whose purpose as an independent Crown

    entity is to review the laws of Aotearoa New Zealand deems umanga as a community

    undertaking not limited to purely commercial endeavours. Thus we suggest that umanga

    whanaungatanga is the pursuit of communal and collective business ventures. In a

    collectivist society, such as that of Mori, communities believe life to be a holistic system.

    The environment, culture and society, spirituality and economy are all interconnecting

    processes that cannot be seen in isolation (Cajete, 2000; Marsden, 2003; Spiller, Pio,

    Erakovic, Henare, 2011; Suzuki et al., 1997). In contrast to the dominant Anglo-NZ view

    that family and business overlap, umanga whanaungatanga is the concept of umanga residing

    miZanHighlight

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    within the realm of whanaungatanga. As echoed in other Indigenous societies, human life

    and activity dwells within the community context (Cajete, 2000).

    Figure 1: Anglo-NZ Family Business Model Figure 2: Maori Business Model

    In this paper we first describe the background to the paper, a brief understanding of the

    theoretical lens used to frame this paper. The next section explores the notion of

    whanaungatanga and its many facets of whnau, whanaunga, and whakawhanaungatanga, as

    well as the ethics that underpin this principle. We then examine the notion of familiness and

    its relation to social capital; followed by our interpretation of what a Mori view of

    familiness looks like. The principle of kotahitanga is then considered and we highlight the

    advantages of enacting whanaungatanga. We briefly summarise some of the issues

    concerned with these reciprocal relationships before finishing by outlining the limitations of

    this paper.

    THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

    The Mori economy as an Indigenous economy of Aotearoa New Zealand has a long and

    flourishing history with beginnings in the Austronesian cultures and languages of South East

    Asia dating back 5000-7000years ago and thus they carry a history and wealth of knowledge

    that can inform modern business practices (Henare, 2000). The social organisation of

    Indigenous society underpinned commercial success whereby whnau and hap

    (social/family units) were akin to corporate organisations (Marsden, 2003; Petrie, 2006).

    Indeed family or kinship systems are the oldest, most prevalent and established organisational

    entities of human history (Rahman, 2011). However, since colonial times, significant

    political and social impacts experienced by Mori led to a decline in Mori development

    FAMILY BUSINESS

    UMANGA

    WHANAUNGATANGA

    miZanHighlight

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    (Best & Love, 2011; Spiller et al., 2011). Recently there has been resurgence in the Mori

    economy (Durie, 2003; Henare, 2011; TPK, 2007) and research has shown that Mori are

    highly entrepreneurial when compared to other developed countries (Frederick & Chittock,

    2006; Frederick & Henry, 2004). Yet there is little exploration into how Mori can cultivate

    entrepreneurship by using their own distinctive cultural values (Durie, 2003; Haar &

    Delaney, 2009). As an integral part of the Aotearoa New Zealand economies, and with the

    potentiality of significant growth, there is a need for further study into motivations of Mori

    in entrepreneurial activity (BERL, 2010; Haar & Delaney, 2009; NZIER, 2003).

    This paper is an exploratory study that aims to bring Mori cultural notions to the forefront

    allowing Mori the space to determine their own business principles, and define practices of a

    culturally appropriate nature within an Anglo-NZ dominant framework. There exists an

    assumption that conventional business ideology can be applied to a Mori framework without

    modification; it is Mori who are expected to adapt (Durie, 2003). Durie (2003) expresses

    caution with this inference, as it cannot be supposed that Mori businesses are driven by the

    same philosophy as that which underpins conventional business wisdom, that is, the single

    profit-driven bottom line.

    WHANAUNGATANGA

    Whanaungatanga is a complex word that is made up of many parts. Whnau is the root word,

    that is prefixed, suffixed, or both to convey meaning (Tinirau, 2010). The concept of whnau

    has been evaluated and defined in many ways. Not only is there no single definition of

    whnau, but each whnau group demands different obligations and responsibilities (Durie,

    1997; Tinirau, 2010). Literally translated, whnau denotes extended family, or to give birth

    (Williams, 1992 [1844]) and refers to those with a shared whakapapa (descent from a

    common ancestor) (Durie, 1997). As the primary social unit of Mori society, it often

    consisted of three to four generations at any one time (Henare, 1998; Metge, 1995; Walker,

    1990). This differs from the conventional description of a nuclear family and Williams (1992

    [1844]) questions whether Maori had any real comprehension of the family as a single unit.

    Formerly, whnau were responsible for both the social and economic management of

    domestic life. However, due to socio-economic changes in Aotearoa New Zealand in recent

    decades, the contemporary sense of whnau has transformed dramatically from these classical

    notions (Durie, 1997; Metge, 1995). Whilst some argue that these changes have rendered

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    whnau as insignificant, others claim that whnau have simply adapted to stay relevant

    (Durie, 1997). Metge (1995) contends that traditional principles - referred to here are kawa1 -

    should not be confused with classical processes of the 18th

    and 19th

    century. Kawa is

    rendered as knowledge handed down from the spiritual world, that which remain steadfast

    and relevant through time, such as the principles of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and

    whanaungatanga. Tikanga is the man-made directives of how these kawa are understood and

    enacted and can vary between whnau (Henare, 2005). It is the whnau processes and

    activities that have adapted through the ages to suit each environment. Thus Metge (1995)

    argues that rather than being perpetual and static, the whnau is constantly developing

    according to context.

    In todays contemporary society, whnau has