Individual and collective entrepreneurship amongst the Päkeha and mäori of Aotearoa / New Zealand

Author: Howard H. Frederick

Abstract: Individual entrepreneurs play a more dominant role in the New Zealand economy than in many other countries. Based upon GEM methodology, this paper explores varieties of entrepreneurship amongst the Päkeha (European New Zealanders) and Mäori (indigenous Polynesian inhabitants) of Aotearoa / New Zealand. The conclusions are based upon an adult population survey of 2000 adult New Zealanders aged 18-64 that investigated their total entrepreneurial activity and compared it to 28 other countries. The conclusions also draw upon forty interviews about Mäori entrepreneurship and a survey of “ideal type” entrepreneurship and ethnicity in New Zealand.

According to the adult population survey, in 2001 New Zealand had one of the world’s highest rates of total entrepreneurial activity. It also ranked the world’s highest in the rate of female entrepreneurship and in business angel activity. Another of our findings was that New Zealanders across all ethnicities have the ability to be enterprising. Mäori are every bit as entrepreneurial as European New Zealanders.

Thus, we were interested in the extent to which existing social and cultural norms encourage entrepreneurship and how New Zealand entrepreneurship might differ by ethnicity.

According to Lee and Peterson (2000), “ideal type” entrepreneurs would generally accept uncertainty and risk; not tolerate unequal relationships; stress materialism and wealth; emphasize individual accomplishment; believe that power and status are earned through competition and hard work; believe that a code of laws exists equally for all. We put these cultural categories to the test in New Zealand. Survey results show that Päkeha fit the ideal type, but Mäori do not. Mäori culture, according to this

survey, does not stress materialism or individual accomplishment. Mäori entrepreneurs may stand out as deviations from the ideal type. This might find an explanation in the distinction between collective entrepreneurship and individual entrepreneurship. In other words, what we may have identified is that Päkeha entrepreneurship differs from Mäori entrepreneurship along the individualism-collectivism spectrum.

The paper goes on to describe characteristics of Mäori collective entrepreneurship using insights gained from the interviews and secondary research. It stresses that the study of Mäori entrepreneurship must necessarily begin by examining the cultural imperatives of Maori economic and business development.

It also concludes that there may be two types of entrepreneurship in New Zealand. There are the “rugged individualists” who pursue the Päkeha style of the entrepreneurial firm, and there are the “harmonious collectivists” who base their entrepreneurial aspirations upon the community aspirations of the group. A unique form of Mäori entrepreneurship differs from the “ideal type” of Päkeha entrepreneurship.