Towards mauri ora: Examining the potential relationship between indigenous-centric entrepreneurship education and Māori suicide prevention in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Catherine Love, Keri Lawson-Te Aho, Shamia Shariff, Jan McPherson


“Towards Mauri Ora” explored the potential contribution of Ahikaa, an indigenous entrepreneurship education programme to increase Māori wellbeing. The instrumentality of indigenous entrepreneurship for hope-building and thereby, suicide prevention was examined using the Mauri Ora Framework, a continuum describing mauri states, originally developed for Māori whānau or family violence prevention and adapted as a measure of the contribution of entrepreneurship education to mauri ora. Mauri ora in this study refers to a profound sense of wellbeing and is a measurable life-affirming Māori cultural construct.

Ahikaa graduates and whānau narrated their perceptions of the Ahikaa entrepreneurship programme, and its effects on their lives. The Mauri Ora Framework was used to examine progress towards mauri ora and away from a state of kahupō (hopelessness). Participants at the outset of this study exhibited many suicide risk factors, indicating a burgeoning sense of hopelessness and diminished capacity to envisage a future for themselves and their whānau.  As a result of the Ahikaa programme, participants shared stories of hope, reporting Ahikaa as both life-changing and healing. They voiced their stories in hopeful language, interpreted in this study as progression from kahupō toward mauri ora.

It is theorised from these findings, that the points that individuals and whānau, appeared to be at on the continuum from kahupō to mauri ora relates to a relatively complex, and potentially self-sustaining interaction of ihi (essential force), wehi (to be awesome) and wana (to come to life), life force descriptors that constitute paths to mauri ora.

Finally, the Towards Mauri Ora research found that Ahikaa entrepreneurship education programmes provide one point of entry and one mechanism through which individuals, whānau and communities may move themselves further towards the mauri ora end of this continuum and therefore potentially reduced risk of suicide. We suggest that in addition to addressing risk factors (particularly those amenable to political interventions), policy and programmes aimed at reducing indigenous suicide rates need to incorporate opportunities for whānau Māori to identify and pursue preferred pathways to mauri ora, and thereby, to be supported to take their own steps toward wellbeing.


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