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Wairua and cultural values in evaluation

Vivienne Kennedy, Fiona Cram, Kirimatao Paipa, Kataraina Pipi, and Maria Baker

Wairua (spirit) is threaded through the cultural beliefs, practices, and values of Māori, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand. It is an inherent part of the daily life and cultural vitality that is embedded in Māori services and programmes. In a wānanga (forum for discussion and learning) Māori and Pasifika (peoples from the Pacific Islands, especially Polynesia, who reside in Aotearoa New Zealand) evaluators were asked to share their thoughts about how they acknowledge, value, and represent wairua in their evaluation work. Seven principles emerged from this sharing: Mauri—feeling connected; Aroha ki te tangata—respect for people; Manaaki ki te tangata—generosity and sharing with people; Kaitiakitanga—guardianship; Kia tūpato—taking care; Whakanoa—cleansing of the spirit; and Mōhiotanga, mātauranga and māramatanga—knowledge, collective wisdom, and enlightenment. In this article Māori evaluators discuss Aroha ki te tangata, Manaaki ki te tangata, and Mauri. The evaluators examine how rituals of encounter, and the building and maintaining of relationships strengthen the ā-wairua (spiritual) connections with evaluation participants that last beyond the life of any single evaluation; whilst engendering notions of care, respect and obligation. It is hoped that the exploration of these experiences will prompt other evaluators to contemplate how wairua is woven into their culturally responsive evaluation practice.

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