Grounded accountability and Indigenous self-determination

Matt Scobie, Bill Lee, Stewart Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


This article develops the concept of grounded accountability, which locates practices of operational non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the culture of the communities they serve. Grounded accountability is presented to extend the concept of felt accountability that is understood as an ethical affinity between an employee and the goals of operational NGOs that employ them to benefit third parties. Grounded accountability involves devolving responsibility for defining goals to the third parties who can then realise their own self-determination. Grounded accountability is developed with a Māori community indigenous to Aotearoa/New Zealand through their shared whakapapa that views a structured genealogical relationship between all things. Whakapapa suggests that accountability is grounded in kinship, place and intergenerational relationships. An empirical exploration of grounded accountability takes place through an ethnography-informed case study conducted at two levels of investigation. The first is within Ngāi Tahu, a broad kinship grouping, who are pursuing self-determination in the settler-colonial context of Aotearoa/New Zealand. The second is within Te Rūnanga Group, an operational NGO charged with managing and distributing the collective assets resulting from the settlement of grievances against the Crown fought for by Ngāi Tahu in their struggle for self-determination. Evidence of grounded accountability was found within Ngāi Tahu and although this has been transmitted to some practices within Te Rūnanga Group, other practices constrain grounded relationships. To the extent that grounded accountability exists, through the design of an organization based on the values of primary stakeholders and continuous engagement with those stakeholders over time, it overcomes some potential limitations of perpetuating beneficiary dependency inherent in felt accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102198
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2020


  • Accountability
  • Indigenous
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Self-determination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems and Management
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science


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