Writing about Community-Up Research Practices

In the sixth Writer’s Toolkit I described how a project’s methodology could be written about according to the principles or values that guided researchers and evaluators. The principles in that Toolkit post came from of Te Ara Tika, a Māori ethical framework to guide Māori health research developed by the Pūtaiora Writing Group in 2010.

In this post I explore how the implementation of a research or evaluation project’s methods can be described using the Community-Up Research Practices (Cram, 2001, 2009; Smith, 1999, 2006).

Community-Up Research Practices:

    1. Aroha ki te tangata – Having a respect for people; allowing people to define their own space and meet on their own terms

    2. He kanohi kitea – Being a face that is known to people

    3. Titiro, whakarongo… kōrero – Looking and listening before speaking

    4. Manaaki ki te tangata – Sharing and hosting generously

    5. Kia tūpato – Being cautious

    6. Kaua e takahia te mana o te tangata – Not trampling on people’s dignity

    7. Kia māhaki – Being humble

In our research and evaluation writing we have used these values to describe the ‘how’ of what we do. Here are three different examples for the value of ‘Aroha ki te tangata’.

When Hazel Phillips and I (2012) wrote about working in multi-cultural, transdisciplinary research teams we wanted to leave readers with a way of checking in about their own readiness to be part of such a team. We used the Community-Up Research Values to talk about readiness and then constructed a readiness scale around the values. Aroha ki te tangata

    1. I am interested in engaging with knowledge and expertise outside of my discipline and culture

    2. I appreciate that I bring just one perspective to research issues and that colleagues from other fields and cultures may bring different perspectives

    3. I am comfortable showing the gaps and limitations in my knowledge to those with whom I collaborate

When a group of us wrote about the consultation process we had undertaken to develop and obtain permission to conduct research with young Māori women who were pregnant, we used the values to summarise our key consultation processes (Lawton, et al., 2013).

Aroha ki te tangata

    1. Being accompanied by the project Kaumātua (elder)

    2. Meeting with mana whenua (local tribal authority)

    3. Following cultural protocols at meetings

When Vivienne Kennedy and I (2010) wanted to summarise ethical guidance for researchers wanting to undertake research with whānau (Māori families) we also used the values.

Aroha ki te tangata

    1. Engage in cultural ‘rituals of encounter’, guided by whānau

    2. Allow whānau to define their space and meet on their own terms

    3. Whakawhanaungatanga – it is important for whānau to make linkages and connections with each other and with the researcher(s)

    4. Respect the fluidity and diversity of whānau

Each of the values and how we practice them is described more fully in our written papers. We use tables to summarise our implementation of the Community-Up Research Values and, as an aid for our writing, these tables allow co-authors to quickly brainstorm and generate lists about their practices. They are a useful reminder for us that even small, taken-for-granted practices should be valued, documented, talked about, and improved upon. As checklists for others the values provide practice ideas without being yet another ‘tick-the-box’ exercise, as they require a depth of thought and also tailoring for each situation and context.

Writing about the Community-Up Research Values also serves as a reminder about how we aspire to practice and the ways in which we are putting these aspirations in to effect in our research and evaluation work. In this way the details of our work that we provide in our writing facilitates learning and growth in our own practices, as well as allowing us to be transparent in the face of our peers and, more importantly, our communities.


Cram, F. (2009). Maintaining Indigenous voices. In D. Mertens, & P. Ginsberg (Eds.), SAGE Handbook of social science research ethics (pp. 308-322). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Cram, F. (2001). Rangahau Māori: Tona tika, tona pono. In M. Tolich (Ed.), Research ethics in Aotearoa (pp. 35-52). Auckland: Longman.

Cram, F., & Phillips, H. (2012). Claiming interstitial space for multicultural, transdisciplinary research through community-up values. International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 5 (2), 36-49.

Kennedy, V., & Cram, F. (2010). Ethics of researching with whānau collectives. MAI Review (3), Article 2.

Lawton, B., Cram, F., Makowharemahihi, C., Ngata, T., Robson, T., Brown, S. & Robson, B. (2013). Developing a Kaupapa Māori research project to help reduce health disparities experienced by young Māori women and their babies. AlterNative - An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 9 (3), 246-261.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. New York & Dunedin: Zed Books & Otago University Press.

Smith, L. T. (2006). Researching in the margins: Issues for Māori researchers - A discussion paper. Alternative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 2 (1), 4-27.