Involve and integrate diverse participants and knowledge

Who this is for: Programme leaders, people supporting programme design process, people guiding project processes

When you might need to involve and integrate diverse participants: During project idea development and the establishment phase; when developing a programme addressing complex challenges; when wanting a broader perspective on your question; when wanting to ensure outputs meet user needs.




What do we mean by involving and integrating diverse participants and why is it helpful?

People all bring different knowledge and experience to research. Some of this knowledge and experience may be similar, for instance with two New Zealand-trained microbiologists, or it may vary widely, as with a farmer, a chemist, and a marketer. 

Bringing together different knowledge, experience, and ideas has been recognized as a way to create innovative new solutions, overcome challenges, and ensure that developed solutions are useful. If researchers mainly work with other similar researchers, they miss out on other perspectives on the challenge and potential solutions. Involving a variety of academic disciplines and people from other spheres (e.g. industry, government, NGOs, iwi and hapū groups) can help broaden the discussion and develop more robust and inclusive answers. 

In New Zealand, Mātauranga Māori is gaining recognition as an equal knowledge system alongside science, particularly when it comes to environmental issues. Building lasting partnerships with Māori and respectfully incorporating Māori knowledge helps to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as well as providing benefits to both your research and Māori partners. To do this well, you will need to learn about te ao Māori and tikanga and invest time in relationships with your Māori partners. Here are a couple of links to guide you through the basic requirements for Māori engagement:

If you are interested in developing your understanding of Mātauranga Māori and tikanga further, these resources may also be helpful:

  • Tikanga Māori (Revised edition): Living By Māori Values – Hirini Moko Mead (Book)
  • Harmsworth, G. (2005). Good practice guidelines for working with tangata whenua and Māori organisations: Consolidating our learningLandcare Research contract report LC405, 091.
  • Hudson, M., Milne, M., Russell, K., Smith, B., Reynolds, P., & Atatoa-Carr, P. (2016). The development of guidelines for indigenous research ethics in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In A.-L. Drugge (Ed.), Ethics in Indigenous Research, Past Experiences – Future Challenges (pp. 157–174).


What tools can support this involvement and integration?

There are two key elements to involving and integrating diversity:

  1. Identify which perspectives are needed on the topic or challenge of interest, and how specific people or groups can be involved. You can find more information on how to do this on the stakeholder analysis page. 
  2. Develop understanding among the diverse participants and integrate their knowledge and perspectives effectively. This is challenging, as people bring different assumptions, approaches, and terminology to discussions and engage for a variety of reasons. Developing understanding may require participants to learn, for example about te ao Māori, listen well, and invest time and energy into relationships with other participants.

One resource that can help with clarifying assumptions in a larger research project containing multiple perspectives is the 'Needs and Provides Matrix', which helps different sub-projects clarify what they are expecting from other parts of the project. You can find a guide to running this activity and template for it here: