Indigenising the Corporation. Indigenous Organisation Design: An Analysis of their Design, Features and the Influence of Indigenous Cultural Values
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Indigenous organisations are key sites of collective identity, voice, and empowerment yet we know virtually nothing about their nature or what makes them different. This thesis seeks to address this gap by answering the overarching question: ‘What are the features of current indigenous organisation design and how are organisational elements and definitions of success influenced by culture?’ The distinct contribution of this thesis is its unique blend, using indigenous theory and organisation theory, to generate new and original indigenous organisation theory.
This thesis uses a multiple case study design focused on three contemporary indigenous organisations, Kamehameha Schools of Hawai’i, the Sealaska Regional Corporation of Alaska and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu of New Zealand to investigate the phenomenon of contemporary indigenous organisations. A total of 90 interviews were analysed for this inductive qualitative study that uses grounded theory methods.
Conflict is an inherent dynamic in indigenous organisations. This thesis suggests the adoption of Western structural models has benefitted indigenous economic development, but these structures are a source of tension as they are not aligned with indigenous purposes and contribute to fears of cultural assimilation. Structure is both a source of tension and the scapegoat for broader tensions stemming from the conflicting purposes, mindsets, and cultural contexts to which the organisation must relate. Indigenous organisations are complex and conflicted as they seek to balance opposing demands, striving to keep pace with a fast- changing environment, whilst simultaneously trying to be more consistent with their own cultural values.
Despite these challenges, change is occurring. This thesis suggests indigenous organisations are evolving to better align with indigenous cultural values and aspirations. Tensions also signal progress as taken for granted assumptions are identified, challenged, and replaced. This thesis shows that organisations and their design are not culturally neutral. Furthermore, indigenous organisations are progressing towards the possibility of indigenous models of organisation that offers a way out of the constraints of their present realities.
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