Silver Fern Farms – A Māori-led approach to building cultural capability

“It’s all about whakapapa”

The Challenge

Silver Fern Farms is a global food marketing organisation with employees spread across 14 operating sites, 4 domestic hubs, and many international markets. Approximately 35% of their total workforce identify as Māori, while in the North Island this is closer to almost half their employees.

Silver Fern Farms’ employees reflect New Zealand’s bicultural society with a combination of migrant workers, pākehā and Māori, deeply rooted in small local communities. As a result, Silver Fern Farms has the duty and responsibility of nurturing a team with a high level of diversity.

To help all their kaimahi understand and connect to te ao Māori, Silver Fern Farms planned and designed a structured pathway called Te Maunga Teitei. This pathway was created to enrich their understanding and help them better connect with te ao Māori. The pathway is designed to engage individuals at all levels of the organisation. Some participate in e-learning and engaging in discussions with their managers, others pursue comprehensive degree-level training on Māori culture. The programme will encompass a broad scope, from understanding through to analysing and ultimately influencing the ways kaimahi live and work in Aotearoa’s bicultural landscape.

Silver Fern Farms decided to begin Te Maunga Teitei by offering e-learning modules accessible to everyone. Our challenge was to develop learning experiences that would engage and accommodate the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and attitudes of their kaimahi.

Because this project was about helping people understand a whole culture, we knew this project needed a high degree of sensitivity. Our partnership started from a genuine question: ‘How do we approach this?’

“One of the main successes of our Te Maunga Teitei foundation modules is the type of learning offered to our people. It is safe, informative and supportive of the learning approach we set out to achieve. There is a genuine feeling from feedback received that our people have really enjoyed the licence to personally and professionally develop their understanding of biculturalism.”

Ricky Fife | Kaiarataki - Te Ara Huri (Head - Te Ara Huri Framework)

Our partnership


We partnered with the Silver Fern Farms Te Ara Huri and Organisational Development teams to design and build the first part of Te Maunga Teitei: five foundational, e-learning modules.

Silver Fern Farms’ Kaiarataki Māori, Ricky Fife, set the tone for the whole programme in our first project hui, as he explained to us how the concept of whakapapa underpins everything in Māori culture.






We decided as a group to base the modules around this central theme, creating a culturally appropriate framework to gradually build learner’s understanding of new concepts.

Silver Fern Farms knows that their people are central to everything they do and had highlighted key kaimahi to feature as the storytellers throughout the content. We chose to use pūrākau (teaching stories) to help learners consolidate their understanding and bring abstract concepts to life.

We agreed on the importance of prioritising a Māori vision for the work, and planned how we would ensure that the development of the resources would demonstrate respect for this. Illustrations for the modules were created by the artist Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, and we worked closely with Māori members of Te Ara Huri – the Silver Fern Farms’ team responsible for the programme throughout the design and development.

With these decisions in mind, we worked with Silver Fern Farms to set a learning pathway for the modules that supports understanding, generates high engagement, and is enjoyable and rewarding for the learners.

We were able to blend our expertise in learning design with the Silver Fern Farms team’s knowledge of te ao Māori and company culture to create a learning experience that met all goals. Here’s an overview of the modules we built.

  • An Introduction to Māori Concepts
  • An Introduction to te reo Māori
  • An Introduction to the History of Māori
  • An Introduction to te Tiriti o Waitangi 
  • Bringing it Home to Silver Fern Farms brings the learning from the previous four modules into perspective, sharing thoughts from actual Silver Fern Farms’ kaimahi about their own experiences in learning about te ao Māori, and looking at practical steps kaimahi can take to put their learning into action.

Relatable and real 

A Silver Fern Farms’ team member introduces each module, voicing all audio throughout. Team members from varied backgrounds talk about their experiences, and there is a guide on pronouncing place names relevant to Silver Fern Farms.

Impartial and authentic information 

Historical information is given impartially and with a focus on facts, supported by authentic images from reputable sources.

Respecting active learners with formative activities 

Learners are encouraged to reflect on their own understanding, at the start and end of each module, and with rich feedback in the knowledge checks throughout.


Work by Māori, to improve understanding of Māori 

Artworks throughout the programme were created by a Māori artist, ensuring the images are culturally appropriate and engaging, and that the Māori economy benefited from the development of the programme.


Practical actions and immediate feedback

While the programme aims to affect attitudes and confidence, learners are also provided with clear concrete actions they can take, with support to get it right.


Measurable learning objectives 

Each module has clear, measurable learning objectives that are explained in the introductory video. Learners are encouraged to consider their own existing expertise and have the option to jump to the final assessment if they feel the module is introducing concepts or skills they have already mastered. The final assessment quizzes allow Silver Fern Farms to track the success of the initiative.


Incidental Māori, supporting te reo 

Throughout the modules, bilingual labelling and headings help to improve comfort with te reo Māori, while remaining accessible for monolingual speakers of English.


Links to other resources 

The modules provide pathways to other learning opportunities that can help kaimaki progress after they complete this foundational series in the programme.


We are proud of having taken a values-based approach where learning was based on enhancing learner mana, and the mana of the organisation’s culture.

“The feedback and perspectives from our people across the motu has been great. It’s opened some challenging conversations, and that’s the one of the greatest outcomes – creating a safe place to have these conversation.”

Katey de Wit | Senior Learning Advisor at Silver Fern Farms


Overall the results have validated our process, showing that we delivered a learning experience that met the client’s goals and achieved the desired outcome. The unique nature of our partnership was apparent in the passion exhibited by their project team – highly engaged, excited, and passionate about the topic and teaching people about it. We truly believe that this passion is evident in the modules and greatly influenced their impact.

The programme went live in April 2023. We have used long-term and short-term evaluation approaches across Kirkpatrick levels 1-5. Our data has included manager interviews, tracking of module interactions using the organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS), seeking further information in the form of an annual survey, as well as calculating financial impact. Here are the outcomes for each Kirkpatrick level.

Level 1 Reaction – After the launch, the Silver Fern Farms’ team interviewed learners to gain an understanding of how they feel about the modules. The learner response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, indicating that the modules are working effectively when it comes to ‘hearts and minds’ learning.

Level 2 Learning – Nearly 1400 learners have enrolled in this programme. Only two have failed an assessment, indicating that the objectives and support are at the right level for the audience.

Level 3 Behaviour – Manager feedback has indicated that there are visible changes in learner behaviour, with one manager feedback including:

  • “A much greater and deeper appreciation of te ao Māori”
  • “a desire to lean into ensuring Māori values and concepts”
  • “everyone has at a minimum a developed perspective on te ao Māori”.
  • “The modules have sparked conversation and an opportunity for the team to learn from each other and share where they are at with their own journeys.” The debunking of myths appears to have been successful, with feedback that “for some it has been eye-opening and this has led to a great shift in mindset!”

Level 4 Results – Silver Fern Farms’ annual people surveys measure understanding and appreciation of te ao Māori.

Level 5 Return on Investment – The average cost per participant has dropped significantly, and further cost reductions will continue to accrue as the programme is rolled out across the company.

Contact Us

Keep in touch

Contact us directly by telephone and email

04 801 8478,

Wellington Office

Level 1, 10 Courtenay Place
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

Postal Address

P.O. Box 28, Lyttelton 8082