LESSONS FROM A PhD - Part 2

RESPECT

 

Continuing on from my last post, the second indiginest principles that can produce culturally relevant results is Respect. This requires individuals and organizations to learn about, value, and prioritise indigenous knowledge and cultural protocols.

For example, the sharing of food is integral to cultural understanding and protocol in many cultures and manaakitanga (hospitality) is a cornerstone of Māori tradition. At first glance beginning a meeting with a karakia and food or refreshments might appear to be a relativity uncomplicated process. But as researchers Blundell, Gibbons & Lillis have emphasised, understanding and respecting what appears to simply be an everyday activity is in fact key to establishing trust with participants. They describe it as reciprocal.

….it implies a responsibility upon a host; an invitation to a visitor.  Manaakitanga seeks common ground upon which an affinity and sense of sharing can begin

Why is this so important? Put simply embracing this value allows knowledge to flow both ways.  In my case, I wasn’t just a researcher gathering data, I was a learner. Just as it is important to share food, it is important to share results. Information should not just flow one way. During my research the concept of manaakitanga was intrinsic in the writing and sharing of community reports. I wrote for two groups-- academically for my advisers and in clear non jargon English for the community. The greatest gift anyone can give you is their time. The least we can do is feedback what we learn so that it has practical implications for everyone involved in the process.

The principle of respect can be extrapolated out to guide working relationships. In the early stages of a project, email is a poor form of communication. Never underestimate the cultural importance of ke kanohi kitea (the seen face). At the early stage of relationship building listen more than talk. Give don’t take. Never promise more than you can deliver and honour all promises you make. Make sure relationships are reciprocal. It is surprising how often good intentions remain just that. And acknowledge community members expertise when presenting ideas to your colleagues.

Recognise in relationship building that what is not said is as important as what is said. People have legitimate reasons for not talking freely or openly in front of “outsiders.”  It is pragmatic to spend some time understanding how research has been previously conducted and what attitudes might be to researchers or external agencies/business.

Now that we have covered reflection and respect it is time to discuss the third “R” Relevance. More on that in the next post.