Toward Culturally Responsive Qualitative Research Methods in the Design of Health Technologies: Learnings in Applying an Indigenous Māori-Centred Approach
There is a growing call for health researchers to address the inequities in healthcare experienced by indigenous populations by focusing on the development of culturally responsive research approaches. This article presents a contextual example from Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) of how indigenous (Māori) knowledge and practices helped reimagine and enhance an existing qualitative descriptive research protocol exploring clinicians’ perspectives of robotic rehabilitation for people with stroke. The intent was to develop a research design that upheld and valued mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge systems) alongside Western clinical sciences knowledge. To achieve this, a collaboration of non-indigenous (tauiwi) and indigenous researchers with experience in Qualitative and Kaupapa Māori (indigenous) methodologies, and clinical practice was formed. The researchers undertook a cyclical process of relationship building, engagement with mātauranga Māori, discussion and exploration of how indigenous knowledge and practices could inform and shape the existing study design. Key influences in adapting the research design were drawn from Māori ethical principles, Māori frameworks of health and wellbeing, and Māori cultural practices for clinical engagement. Drawing on indigenous knowledge and practices to develop a Māori-centred research method resulted in significant changes to the study design, methods, and interview approach. Focused development of a culturally responsive approach enabled the researchers to engage indigenous participants in a research process that was safe, respectful, and culturally appropriate. Transformation occurred within the researcher-participant relationship from one often characterised as transactional, to one of deeper connection and reciprocity, which facilitated a richer and more in-depth inquiry. The explicit valuing and integration of indigenous knowledge and practices in adapting the research method strengthened the cultural responsivity of the research. Central to the process was prioritising working in relational partnership. Non-indigenous researchers’ self-reflection on their own culture, alongside being attuned to the influence of historical, political, and social contexts of the participants experiences proved essential.