Urban Oceania

Exploring Urban Social Change in Oceania

Journal Article Review of Scheyvens, et al. (2019), “Business Serves Society: Successful Locally-Driven Development on Customary Land in the South Pacific”.

Business Customary Land

Lucas Watt, Greg Watt and Roxane de Waegh

Over the last week the Urban Oceania Reading Group came together to discuss an article by Scheyven et al. (2019) “Business Serves Society: Successful Locally-Driven Development on Customary Land in the South Pacific“. We were motivated to discuss and write about this article because our conversations about other academic articles often return to how customary land ownership affects local development (see one of our previous article reviews on this topic here). Scheyvens et al. (2019) presents narratives where indigenous entrepreneurs are able to successfully work within the context of customary land tenure, to produce business that are a) economically profitable and b) beneficial for the surrounding local community.

Overall, the reading group thought the exploration of these indigenous “narratives of success” in Scheyvens et al. (2019) was refreshing. Development literature often jumps to categorize customary land tenure as an unbreachable obstacle to development. Scheyvens et al. (2019) is even refreshing amongst literature that claims to shares its goal of searching for contexts where development and customary land tenure can successfully intersect. AUSAID’s making land work for instance searches for policy solutions where development and customary land tenure can become more complementary. However, the lack of local voice/perspective in the AUSAID series raises questions about whom customary land is being made to “work” for. Scheyvens et al. (2019) with its heavy emphasis on local voice is uniquely positioned within the customary land tenure / development debate to consider how customary tenure can be worked with by indigenous populations, for the betterment of their local communities. In this article we continue to review how Scheyvens et al. (2019) address this topic adding in our own personal academic knowledge and perspectives.

Roxane de Waegh further explores some of the underlying questions Scheyven’s et al (2019) pose including, what constitutes locally driven development? and what is success in the Pacific context? She explores how external economic theorists have framed the discussion around these questions in a way that has marginalized local perspectives on the role of business in society. Its time to consider local desires for business to support local resilience and stability as opposed to macro development and consumerism.

Greg Watt investigates the many different arrangements that the local businesses have with customary land owners highlighted in Scheyvens et al, (2019). He argues that many of the examples from the article demonstrate that customary land owners are often alienated from businesses conducted upon their land in the sense that they are not involved in business operation. There are exceptions in the article however the presence of business / customary land ownership alienation in part undermines Scheyvens et al, (2019) argument that business can be successfully embedded in local community.

Lucas Watt explores how Scheyvens et al, (2019) have used the Vanua methodology in this article. He argues that it is very evident that each of the authors, Regina Scheyvens, Glenn Banks, Suliasi Vunibol, Hennah Steven, and Litea Meo-Sewabu have provided unique contributions to the application of the Vanua methodology in this article. Collaborations such as this demonstrate the development of indigenous methodologies to ever widening research contexts.

Resilience and Stability or Development and Consumerism? – Roxane de Waegh

In this paper, Scheyvens et al. (2020) explore two critical questions around the themes of self-determined and inclusive forms of development in the pacific context: (1) what constitutes locally-driven development in the Pacific region, and (2) what is success in business in the Pacific context? By developing a deeper understanding of the values that underpin the ways in which businesses operate in different cultural contexts, the authors argue that locally-driven development, based around customary resource and land tenure, can be an effective approach for economic development in the South Pacific (Scheyvens et al., 2020). They offer evidence of how customary land tenure can be used to provide social, economic and cultural returns to communities rather than being a barrier to economic development. Scheyvens et al. (2020) claim that by focusing on community interactions, kinship, and relationships, rather than monetary returns, this alternative development strategy can also contribute to the dynamics of an economy (Gibson-Graham, 2006; Curry and Koscberski, 2012) and help to maintain stability and resilience for people in the Pacific (Gilberthorpe and Silitoe, 2009).

On the other side of this debate, Duncan (2018) argues that customary practices around land is ‘unproductive’ and constrains economic development, and that culture is seen as a brake on hopeful structures of development (Curry et al., 2012a:122). Yet, how can customary practices be seen as unproductive when they provide a livelihood for the vast majority of Pacific people? Scheyvens et al. (2020) argue that there is a strange contradiction in these standard economic models that prioritize economic growth over social well-being, and measure productiveness in terms of monetary output, not subsistence production. This article summary supports Scheyvens et al. (2020) viewpoint and embraces the potential for alternative models of economic development that emphasize social, environmental, and cultural elements over high mass consumption. However, in this reflective review, we question whether it is possible for these alternative models to support the resilience and stability of Pacific communities while still contributing to economic development. It is our view that customary practices around land and resources may be better positioned to support the resilience, stability, and social-ecological well-being of Pacific people, rather than modern neoliberal forms of monetized development. However, because these traditional practices focus on the social dimensions of holistic well-being, rather than the development of ‘dynamic economies’, we argue that it would be fundamentally contradictory to try and merge these socio-cultural norms with westernized themes of development, growth, and monetary-based economies.

In the South Pacific context, subsistence-based activities such as gathering food for home consumption and other forms of voluntary and unpaid work, make up the largest part of the economy. These diverse activities tend to draw upon collective resources and rely partly on effective use of the commons, which are natural or social resources that people govern themselves, instead of having governments or markets assuming control (Raworth, 2017). This aligns with notions of distributive economies and inclusive development, which perceive economic development as intrinsically embedded in place, politics and society – and are informed by an ethical concern for people and care, not just economic growth (Lawson, 2010, p. 359). As such, economic development models that are framed in terms of meeting people’s needs must be contextualized to a community’s perceived needs, and aligned with local values that define well-being. Consequentially, it is not surprising that successful small to medium scale enterprises in the Pacific region are often organized around individuals, families, and kin networks that have a deep understanding of their community’s perceived needs and value-based systems. However, if these small to medium scale enterprises are expected to develop, and contribute to a ‘dynamic economy’, that implies that they must eventually expand beyond their community’s needs, and beyond their customary practices and land tenure systems. This raises two new fundamental questions for future research:

  • Can these localized forms of inclusive and distributive economies contribute to development beyond the local level? Or do these alternative models only exist within a localized cyclical economy – perhaps dynamic in its own regenerative cyclical patterns?
  • Given the increasingly uncertain socio-economic climate of our globalized society, we must ask ourselves whether we desire a system that contributes to our social-ecological well-being and supports our resilience to unforeseen shocks, or do we desire a system that contributes to the development of a dynamic economy, defined by limitless growth and perpetual consumerism?

In asking ourselves these questions, we must also make a clear distinction between our desires and our needs, and the impacts that future development strategies may have at a local and global level.

The Impact of Customary Land Tenure on Integrated Business Successes in the Pacific – Greg Watt

The article, aptly named “Business serves society: Successful locally-driven development on customary land in the South Pacific” (Scheyvens, Banks, Vunibola, Steven, & Meo-Sewabu, 2020), goes some way to dispelling the Pacific incompetence stereotype. As the title suggests, it looks at successful case studies in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa. Furthermore, it attempts to situate these successes within the foundation of customary land and the subsequent cultural and social interactions with the surrounding communities that result. The authors are to be applauded as little academic research has focused on successful Pacific entrepreneurship. Of particular interest is that these businesses are immersed rather than separated from significant cultural assets. The authors contend that customary land can be used as a tool to “produce a diverse range of inclusive and sustainable forms of place-based development” (Scheyvens et al., 2020, p. 60).

A fallacious but persistent stereotype concerns the assertion that Pacific peoples are incapable of operating successful entrepreneurial enterprises. It’s a belief not borne out of any racist perspectives but instead, on an insistence that Pacific entrepreneurs must abide by the matured socio-economic dictums of the developed world. It is a policy that ignores the cultural and social context prevailing within Pacific countries and mandates that these should be supplanted by those within the global north. Putting aside the apparent lack of empathy, the stereotype privileges economic notions, ignoring other significant factors.

While the global north attained its prosperity through economic development, it occurred at a different time in human history where the equilibrium between the economic, social and environmental spheres was attuned differently (Giddings, Hopwood, & O’Brien, 2002). As Raworth succinctly notes, the basis of current economic theory is “rooted in the textbooks of 1950, in which, in turn, are grounded in the theories of 1850” (Raworth, 2017b, p. 219). The entitlement given to GDP relied on the premise of endless growth and unlimited resources. Further, it was assumed that newer technologies would offset the social and environmental impact of growth momentum. Today, it is clear that resources are, in fact, limited and that growth has had significant social and environmental consequences that have not been mitigated.

Newer socio-economic models have been proposed that acknowledge cultural and social influences on the economy, along with environmental boundaries. Today, the view that these sectors are autonomous has diminished. A nested model is more appropriately suited to development where: “the economy nested within society, which in turn is nested within the environment”(Giddings et al., 2002, p. 192). The doughnut model (Raworth, 2017a, p. 48; 2017b, p. 218) is one such model that accounts for the interaction and influence of the social and environmental sectors with the economy. Scheyvens et al. (2019) postulate that Pacific models utilizing customary land as the foundation can serve as exemplars for the manifestation of these newer socio-economic models. It is reasoned that through the direct and active participation of the customary owners in the business, the social sector controls the business operation, and being located on customary land, the owners would ensure integrative development with the environment. That is, the economic sector is nested within the social sector, which is nested within the environmental sector.

The authors are critical of development that alienates land from customary owners. A guiding precept of the article is that “customary forms of tenure can be the basis for highly effective forms of economic development” (Scheyvens et al., 2020, p. 52). The nuanced contention within the article concerns the promotion of alternative development by customary owners rather than “surrendering or transacting away land for short term gain”. It is understood that the customary owners would take an active role in entrepreneurship rather than the passive role that leasing involves. In short, it is comprehended that the customary owners themselves (as opposed to other local residents) envisage the entrepreneurial opportunity, work in/on the business, and receive the benefit and profits of the business directly.

Seven case studies are presented illustrative of successful Pacific businesses that are founded on customary land ownership. The form of land tenure is investigated for each, followed by a general discussion surrounding their business operations:

Type 1 – Formal Lease – Business Not Operated Directly by Customary Owners.

  • Two businesses, Tifajek Mudpools & Hot Springs, and Heniuwa Restaurant located in Fiji, are discussed. In these two cases, the leasing business family have negotiated a formal lease from an extended family ownership of the land. The familial relationship between the two (leasee and leasor) is not made explicit. As with any other lease, income to the customary owners does not occur by any active participation but instead, through passive income provided by the lease itself. Directly through its daily operations, the Tifajek Mudpools provide for social obligations within the community, accords certain privileges to the community regarding facility use, and there is provision for the income from one of the services (massage) to be allocated to the church on Sundays. Heniuwa Restaurant provides for its community obligations differently, by setting up a side business (horse riding) that provides for the extended family, local church and ceremonies. This separates the income from the restaurant, which is unencumbered by cultural obligations.     

Type 2 – Formal Lease – Business Operated Directly by Customary Owners.

  • The Nayarabale Youth Farm has developed from a small idea created informally and has grown into a commercial venture that is formally structured and operated co-operatively. Unlike Type-1 configured businesses, this is a case where clan owned land has been worked on by clan members to provide a direct contribution to the clan itself. Initially, an allotment of land was informally assigned to the local pastor, and the kava plantation worked communally to provide for obligatory payments to the church. This expanded into a fully functioning business that farms kava, sandalwood, pineapple, yams and taro with youth being paid for their work and proceeds directly contribute to the church, clan, village and an education fund. 

Type 3 – Hereditary Gifted Land – Business Operated by Individuals.

  • Type three businesses include Blue Kona Mountain and PNG Beekeeping Supplies located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Both are businesses developed around individual owners of allotments of customary owned land, owned through hereditary gifting. Such ownership is “recognized and entrenched through the continuing use and development of the land” (Scheyvens et al., 2020, p. 57). The significance is that land ownership is effectively distributed to individuals who are able to make all decisions affecting that land. At face value, this appears to resemble ownership in the global north, with earnings being retained privately. As the land has been gifted, no lease payments are requisite. Despite this, both owners fully integrate themselves within their local community, contributing to the well-being of those less fortunate, children’s education and community burdens such as funerals, bride wealth, and compensation payments.

Type 4 – Informal Lease – Business Not Operated Directly by Customary Owners.

  • Type four businesses include Taufua beach Fales and Savaii Cocoa, located in Samoa. Both enterprises are families whose businesses are located on the customary land owned by their extended family. In the first case, the land was informally granted by the village chiefs, and in the second, the use of the land was negotiated. Income generated through Taufuna Beach Fales supports the village, not by any formal requirement, but through the personal attitude of  “we exist to support the village”(Scheyvens et al., 2020, p. 58). While they pay the wages of two preschool teachers, other contributions appear to be variable. Further, nesting their business within the community means that they purchase locally caught seafood and employ staff from the surrounding area.  There is a balance required, and contributions have to be made in a way so that “the business doesn’t go into the ground” (Scheyvens et al., 2020, p. 58). Similarly, Savaii Cocoa make significant but variable contributions to the local community.

In the seven cases advanced, only one (Type-2) can be said to fully engage the community directly in the business in an active fashion. The other six consist of smaller family units that have some form of arrangement with the customary owners, and who operate businesses to create income for their personal gain. It is without question that all businesses have incredible community spirit, supporting their local area and contributing financially and socially. However, in six cases, the customary owners are held at arms-length from the land, and any proceeds are passively obtained through gifting by the intermediaries, the business owners. Regardless of any accrued benefits, the customary owners remain alienated from their land, which invalidates the authors’ crucial thrust. The model of the customary owners’ direct, active and collective participation in businesses occurring on their customary land has not been substantiated by the article.

The differing types of land tenure are worthy of further discussion. In the Type-1 model, it is unclear what formal customary obligations are contained within the lease; are they included and therefore mandatory, or are informal and therefore discretionary. If the former, then it is a business requirement that these contributions are made regularly, an extra strain during difficult times. However, being a formal lease, there is no risk of the land being taken away. Conversely, in the Type-4 model, there is no legal entitlement to the land, and occupation is conditional on expectations placed on the family regarding contributions. If those expectations are not realized, then the informal approval to use the land could be withdrawn. In both cases, considerable investment has been required, undoubtedly due to each family saving sufficiently, resulting in assets connected directly to the ground. If the chiefs were to revoke their land use approval, the families would walk away with nothing. It certainly provides incentives for these businesses to circulate money locally and share any consequent wealth. It also places considerable stress on the business operator.

The Type-3 model is unusual in the context of the article’s thrust. They involve the hereditary transfer of portions of land to individuals and can be construed to resemble the western ideal of ownership. Both cases exemplify altruistic qualities associated which are to be applauded from the perspective of social entrepreneurship as promoted by Muhammad Yunus (1999). However, while their praxis has embedded them in their local communities, this could also be construed as astute business practice. Papua New Guinea is renowned for local disputes (often settled through violence) and looting (alluded to in the article), and such embeddedness provides a safety net and security. In short, their actions may simply be a necessity to be able to continue trading.

It is the Type-2 model that provides Pacific businesses with the greatest say, the greatest involvement, and the greatest return to the customary owners. It is this model to which the article’s introduction and literature review alludes to. Unfortunately, there is only one such case included within the article. To provide these benefits to the land owners a modern business structure is used. In the case of the Nayarabale Youth Farm, it shall be assumed that the formal structure exists in much the same way as a modern company. Here, the shareholders are the customary owners themselves, and through this governing body are able to direct policy, whether economic, social or environmental. In this way management is not subject to sudden variable or contradictory directions in regard to its assigned obligations. Because management has to report regularly to the board, there is customary oversight to the business. It is also assumed that the management and employees come from the local area, with obvious benefit. There is direct monetary input into the local area, and employment is able to be separated away from any local disputes or arguments (which can be dealt with through the shareholders and board). Finally, the resources of the local area are realized, benefiting the entire community (not just a smaller grouping of business owners). In all the other models, the business owners accrue the profits from the business and assign some benefits to the community. In these models it is likely that the business owner would retain the majority of the profits, with a minor portion going to the community. However, in model-2 all the profits go to the community and a truly Pacific orientated business is created.    

Overall, the article possesses exemplary introduction, literature review, and methodology sections which are the hallmark of Scheyvens and her various co-authors. It is, in fact, the comprehensiveness of these initial sections that carry the seven case studies included, and allows the proposition of “key principles” for the successful operation of local businesses on customary land (Scheyvens et al., 2020, p. 59). However, the asserted link between direct and active participation of customary owners utilizing their customary land has not been demonstrated.  Further, it is perhaps the assertion of the universality of the “discerned” key principles included in Table-2 that diminishes the article’s standing. Notwithstanding the meritorious and worthy notion of identifying factors that could lead to a more significant number of thriving local businesses in the Pacific, the limited and eclectic nature of the cases is a weakness. Clearly, qualitative research can only identify and discuss factors that are relevant to the particular cases studied. That is not to say that the four key principles identified in the study are without considerable value, only that they should not be considered as the only pathway for local entrepreneurs to achieve success.

The Fruition of the Vanua Research Methodology – Lucas Watt

Reading articles that have over two authors can sometimes be a disorienting experience. This is because it can be difficult to locate voice in the article. Multiple authorship of an article makes me become preoccupied with questions like; Which author is conveying the argument in front of me? Is the author presenting the argument in this part of the article different to a previous part of the article? If the author’s voice is consistent throughout how do the other authors add to this primary author’s voice? Often a lot of detective work needs to be done to figure out the background of an article and who to attribute what to. This can be very important in academia as you cross reference an author’s academic publications. The most important question I ask in when reading these multiple author publications is how these authors make sense together, and for what purpose. With this article I did not have to ask these questions. This is because the authors (Regina Scheyvens, Glenn Banks, Suliasi Vunibola, Hennah Steven, and Litea Meo-Swewabu) and their melding of ideas, immediately “clicked” for me.

I believe the unique contributions these authors make to this article culminate in a fruition of the Vanua research methodology. What I mean by this is that through the collaboration of these authors, I see the Vanua methodology take a step forward in its articulation and application. I must emphasize here that this review is a personal outside perspective of how I perceive these authors contributing to the Vanua research methodology in this article. I have no personal affiliation with any of these authors and only “know” them through the research they produce. Other readers will of course come to “Business Serves Society” from a different knowledge base and awareness of these authors comparatively.

To understand how these authors come together to bring the Vanua methodology to its fruition, it is important to explain briefly what the Vanua methodology is. The Vanua methodology is categorized as an indigenous Fijian research methodology. Nabobo-Baba (2008) first proposed the methodology for research and the research process to follow Fijian principles. These principles are embedded in the Vanua signifying the “interconnectedness of people to their land, environment, cultures, relationships, spirit world, beliefs, knowledge systems, values, and God(s)” (Nabobo-Baba, 2008, pg 143).

As with other indigenous research methodologies, the Vanua methodology was created to elevate indigenous forms of knowledge. Indigenous forms of knowledge are often relegated in academia. There are many other indigenous methodologies being applied across Oceania (see Naepi, 2019), however, the Fijian based Vanua methodology has become the primary guiding indigenous methodological framework used by indigenous researchers across Oceania. In its expanding application, the Vanua methodology has proven to be adaptive to cultural and contextual variation across Oceanic societies.

“Business Serves Society” actively uses the Vanua methodology to understand scenarios where indigenous peoples in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa find success in business in customary contexts. The Vanua methodology assists in this goal as it allows for the exploration of indigenous narratives of success untainted by externally generated notions of success in business. Furthermore, the method in which these indigenous narratives are acquired is through research contexts in which this indigenous knowledge can be freely shared (see Farrelley and Nabobo-Baba, 2014, for discussion on specific methods such as talanoa).  Each of the following authors contribute to applying the Vanua research methodology in “Business Serves Society” in unique ways.

Regina Scheyvens has an academic reputation in the development and tourism literature in exploring contexts where human development and business objectives are, or could be, mutually supportive. Yet she retains a critical perspective on how global structures restrict the pursuit of local meanings of well-being in the development and tourism industry. This optimistic outlook tempered with a critical perspective is greatly needed, especially right now, as Pacific nations and peoples are looking for alternative avenues of development that are more appropriate and sensitive to local context (Kabutaulaka, 2020). Glenn Banks is a frequent co-collaborator with Scheyvens (Scheyvens, Banks, and Hughes, 2016). Independently, Banks has analyzed how the relationship between mining companies and local communities in PNG that create unrest could be better managed (Banks, 2008). It is from Scheyvens and Bank’s academic positionalities concerned with locally sensitive development that the tenor of “Business Serves Society” clearly originates for me. They direct the article towards local conceptions of success and business organization. Yet the article clearly requires local voices to explore. It is from this need for local voice that I believe the Vanua framework was called upon for the article.  

Scheyvens and Banks are clearly well versed in Vanua methodology principles themselves based on some of their prior work and collaborations, however, they are quite clearly academics from the “global north”. This is not an indictment of Scheyvens and Banks. However, fulfilling the concept they envision in “Business Serves Story” requires participation in methodological design and application from scholars in the Pacific societies that are being analyzed. This local representation is needed for the research approach, data, and presentation to be truly representative of local voice. This article does exactly that by utilizing influential Pacific scholars in research design and application.

In many ways, the north-south collaboration alone is an achievement for elevating indigenous knowledge. The penetration of these principles across the north-south academic divide alone can be seen as a fruition of the Vanua methodology in of itself. Yet, “Business Serves Society” also demonstrates a refinement in the Vanua methodology in its application. Assessing this requires analyzing the prior works of the Pacific scholars Suliasi Vunibola, Hennah Steven, and Litea Meo-Sewabu and demonstrating how their works have come together to benefit this current article.

I became aware of Suliasi Vunibola work through ANU’s very insightful Development Bulletin, Perspective on Pacific Security: Future Currents. The bulletin itself is a highly insightful collection of documents as it ensures Pacific voices are front and center when discussing what the security priorities are for Pacific islands. These priorities are primarily environmental, human, and livelihood security, as opposed to the geopolitical type of security pursued by the global north. Vunibola in collaboration with her co-author Leweniqila, analyzed how rural communities in Fiji utilized traditional forms of organization and dialogue to ensure that land was managed in a way to ensure future local food security (Vunibola & Leweniqila, 2021). Vunibola and Leweniqila utilized a Vanua type methodology that uses conversations with participants to gather data on how their communities were creating systems to enhance local food security. These conversations focused on the localized rationales that motivated the creation of these food security systems.

“Wellbeing could be obtained by managing our time by following a structured work plan, and, most importantly, through solesolevaki, a resilient mechanism handed down from our ancestors” (Research Participant from, Vunibola & Leweniqila, 2021)

Hennah Steven has also adopted a similar Vanua type methodology in her work. Stevens has published an article with Scheyvens and Banks as co-authors in a different issue of the ANU Development Bulletin, Leadership for Inclusive Development (Steven, Banks, & Scheyvens, 2019). In their article, it was through conversations that data was gathered on contexts of female leadership is in business. Again, there was a focus on localized rationales that motivated female participation in business.

I am happy to do all these things because it makes me useful. I support papa 100% because when my husband died, he took me in as his wife and provides for my children and me. He gave me hope. Whatever business he wants to do, I stand beside him and support him.  That makes me a true woman. Whether I take care of children or make money for papa’s business, I give my full support. That is it.” (Research Participant from, Steven, Banks, & Scheyvens, 2019)

With the presence of Suliasi Vunibola and Hennah Stevens in “Business Serves Society” we can observe their influence on the Vanua methodology in practice and presentation. The approach, data, and presentation are comparable across the articles. Specifically, in “Business Serves Society”, through direct dialogue, the reader is drawn to localized rationales behind the development of business models that are both profitable and beneficial for the surrounding community.

“Mum and Dad’s rule: we exist to support the village, if someone asks, we pay their bus fare or their school term fees… I’m now understanding after of years working with my parents what they wanted… Its not really about material wealth, its about wellbeing of the whole village… the ultimate objective that we’ve inherited from our parents is what we need to help the village prosper” (Research Participant from, Scheyvens et al., 2019)

The ever-widening breadth of thematic application of the Vanua methodology is also testament to these authors. They have seemingly taken up the mantle in applying this methodology to a diverse array of subjects pertinent in Oceania. I am currently unaware of the application of the Vanua methodology to the alternative economic development discourse occurring in Oceania aside from this article.

Lastly, Litea Meo-Sewabu was also an author on this article who has written highly influential articles on indigenous and ethical methodological frameworks in the Pacific context. Meo-Sewabu (2014) argues that insider researchers who are personally affiliated with the communities they are researching, are guided by the gaze of their communities, in what she defines as “cultural discernment”. Acknowledging and considering the community gaze is crucial for carrying out ethical research for the inside researcher. This is because the research will affect their community and the relationship between researcher and community in perpetuality.

It is unclear about how much inside research was done in “Business Serves Society”. My assumption would be that these Pacific researchers are likely not to be personally affiliated to their research participants in ways that would define them as direct “insiders”. However, these researchers are likely affiliated to some of these participants in broader ethnic, extended-kinship, or location-based forms of identification which requires consideration. As a result, many of the additional ethical considerations of future well-being of research communities would also apply.

I see the consideration of future well-being of participants and communities in this research. “Business Serves Society” is directed towards uncovering “narratives of success” that can be translated across other communities in the Pacific. This is not just worthless rhetoric as the article does indicate where findings were shared with other communities/local businesses who could benefit from it.

“An approach to successful agricultural development on customary land in Fiji, as demonstrated by the four-week work structure of Narayable Youth Farm, has been shared by one of our researchers with several other communities leading to enhanced economic opportunities for young people and improved wellbeing of their communities” (Scheyvens et al., 2019)

In this regard I can see Meo-Sewabu’s fingerprints on the ethical design of “Business Serves Society”. Such attention to the continued relationship to the participants and communities of this research are reflective of a Vanua methodology which emphasizes the maintenance of relationships and respect.

Overall, I view “Business Serves Society” as indicative of the fruition of the Vanua methodology in three ways.

  1. The penetration of the Vanua methodology across the north-south divide, through inter-regional academic collaboration.
  2. The refinement and application of the Vanua methodology across emerging research contexts facilitated by Pacific scholars.
  3. The further fostering of the Vanua methodologies ethical principles in ways that contribute to future prosperity of research participants and communities.

For me this article is a great achievement that combines the expertise of each author in refining an indigenous research methodology applied to the pertinent topic of what success in business looks like in Oceania. As the rest of this article review indicates, there continues to be areas of academic interest and intricacy yet to be further explored. However, it is collaborations like “Business Serves Society” that give me confidence these areas will be explored with a continued incorporation of indigenous knowledge.

*This is an article review where the authors express their interpretations of the article, supplemented with their own academic and personal knowledge. Any clarifications or other points of discussion are welcomed in the discussion section below*

Banner Image by Dusan Reljic

TransOcean is a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant project 

The project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 802223


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  • Lucas Watt

    I am a Post-Doctoral researcher on the ERC-funded TransOcean Project at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Norway. My portion of the project sets out to analyze maritime mobilities, exchange, and conservation, in the increasingly securitised region of Oceania. I graduated with a PhD from the School of Media and Communications at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. My ethnographic fieldwork in Suva Fiji analyses how rural-urban migrants living in “informal settlements” articulate tradition in urban spaces.

  • gregwatttraveller

    Greg Watt is an advocate for authenticity in tourism and travel. Greg has previously lived in Papua New Guinea, has had an involvement with tourism in Vanuatu for the past thirteen years and presently has a close association with a community-based tourism project on Tanna Island (seven years). Greg is a doctoral candidate at Auckland University of Technology, and his Master’s thesis was titled “A Pro-Poor Tourism Case Study: Efate Island, Vanuatu” which looks at ways that poor Ni-Vanuatu can benefit through tourism. For a more detailed look at Greg’s involvement within development and tourism have a look at his blog articles which can be found at https://watt.nz.

  • roxanedewaegh

    My name is Roxane de Waegh and I am a PhD student at the Faculty of Culture and Society at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. I am originally from Belgium, but grew up a bit all over the world, including Congo, Senegal, Singapore, Chile, Argentina, Japan, USA, and Canada. The ocean, the concept of remoteness, and the complexity of connectivity have always fascinated me. After working as a marine biologist for nearly 6 years with various environmental NGOs in remote coastal communities, including Myanmar, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, I have come back to the academic world, hoping to deepen my understanding of the intrinsic paradoxical nature of integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) in marginalised coastal communities.

One response to “Journal Article Review of Scheyvens, et al. (2019), “Business Serves Society: Successful Locally-Driven Development on Customary Land in the South Pacific”.”

  1. […] The economic success of Indians and Chinese migrants in the Pacific who were not burdened by these exchange and land ownership practices seemingly confirmed the negative effect these practices had on the prospective Pacific business and commerce. For this reason, western countries have through direct or soft power progressively sought to create a more neo-liberal Pacific economic future. This reached its pinnacle in the 1990s where many Pacific Island nation states went through periods of neoliberal “structural readjustment”. Such economic principles have permeated into how business operate in the Pacific that either crowd out indigenous business activity or force it to conform to such principles (although some successful traditional business models have emerged). […]

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