Review of selected New Zealand government-funded community development programmes

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Review of selected New Zealand government-funded community development programmes

March 2011

Table of Contents
Executive Summary 3

Our Approach 4

Overview of Community Development Practice in New Zealand 5

The historical context 5

The current context 6

Community development practice in New Zealand today 6

Bicultural community development practice in New Zealand 7

Programmes reviewed 8

Outcomes achieved 10

Meta-analysis of community action projects in New Zealand 10

Site visits 12

Lessons learned 14

Community engagement 14

Funder / community relationship 16

Clear roles and responsibilities 18

Planning and outcome development 19

Local leadership 21

Building community capacity 21

Effective collaboration 22

Critical reflection and learning 23

Māori community development 24

Summary of lessons learned 26

What do the lessons imply for the first principles work? 27

Appendix one – Description of programmes reviewed 29

  1. Whānau Development Project 29

  2. Local Level Solutions 31

  3. Sustainable Communities Action Fund 33

  4. Sustainable Communities Pilot Projects 34

  5. Local Action Research Projects 39

Appendix two – Other New Zealand case studies 43
Executive Summary

  1. This paper draws on the evaluations of some government-funded community development programmes undertaken in New Zealand in recent years to gain insights into the practices adopted by funders and community stakeholders, and the lessons learned.

  2. This paper begins with an overview of community development practice in New Zealand – the historical context, and practice today. It analyses five recent government-funded programme evaluations from community development programmes in New Zealand (details of these are in Appendix 1). Two of the programmes were targeted specifically to whānau, hapū and iwi; and two involved the Department of Internal Affairs (the Department). In addition, a meta-analysis of ten government-funded community action projects delivered in New Zealand was reviewed.

  3. The evaluations were reviewed on: the principles underpinning the approach, outcomes sought, key achievements, and factors that enabled or inhibited the success of the programme. The programmes achieved outcomes in a range of areas such as enhanced levels of social capital, strengthened relationships and leadership, improved access to services, and increased capacity in communities.

  4. While the programmes reviewed achieved outcomes, some of which were programme specific, and others more generic in nature, significantly, the government did not provide baseline funding for any of the five programmes examined beyond the ‘pilot’ or ‘trial’ stage. The reasons for this are not explicit in the material reviewed. Several of the evaluations noted that at the end of the funding cycle it was evident that projects had no concrete plans for sustaining initiatives in the longer term.

  5. A number of lessons were identified from the literature reviewed, relating to:

  • community engagement – a shared vision is an essential foundation for community development, and adequate time should be allowed for the vision to be developed

  • funder / community relationship – relationships based on principles of partnership facilitate effective community development, traditional approaches to contracting may need to be revised to support effective partnering

  • clear roles and responsibilities – clarity around roles is vital and needs to be established early; direct relationships between the funder and community group can assist with role clarity

  • planning and outcomes development – realistic goals need to be set, outcomes and goals need to be clearly defined and have sufficient flexibility to recognise that they may need to change over time

  • local leadership – successful initiatives are led and/or coordinated by skilled community development practitioners, and require strong local leadership and support

  • building community capacity – funders have a role in building the capacity of communities to meet project requirements, but this needs to be balanced to allow communities autonomy to lead their own development

  • effective collaboration – collaboration between government and non-government agencies aids community development projects, and effective collaboration occurs when key stakeholders have a shared interest in outcomes and accountabilities

  • critical reflection and learning – critical reflection can help to ensure that projects remain focused on their vision

  • Māori community development – effective practice builds on existing whānau structures, is grounded in tikanga and encompasses a collective approach; wide engagement of whānau together with a holistic approach to issues can contribute to the sustainability of initiatives.

  1. The lessons learned presented issues for the Department to consider in the first principles review of Crown funded schemes. The Department needs to be clear about what outcomes it is seeking to achieve and how flexible it is prepared to be in the way funds are used. Community development also carries with it a risk of ‘failure’ – the development of alternative funding approaches needs to consider how much failure, and on what level, is acceptable. Ensuring communities have sufficient knowledge and expertise in community development practice is crucial.

Our Approach

  1. This is one of the working papers prepared to inform a first principles review of the Crown funded schemes administered by the Department.1 This paper focuses solely on evaluations of some New Zealand government-funded community development programmes.

  2. The paper begins by providing an overview of community development practice in New Zealand – the historical context; and the key principles underpinning community development practice today. This information is intended to provide a frame for the subsequent analysis of programme evaluations.

  3. The analysis draws from five programme evaluations from community development programmes in New Zealand. The programmes were selected on the basis that:

  • they were grounded in community development principles

  • they were relatively recent

  • the initiative was funded by a government agency.

  1. Two of the five programmes were targeted specifically to whānau, hapū and iwi. Two were trials involving the Department. Details of the programmes are in Appendix 1.

  2. It is important to note that the selection was limited by the availability of the evaluations. We have therefore supplemented this material with the findings of a meta-analysis of ten community action projects in New Zealand, published in 2004.2 While the focus of the meta-analysis is on community action projects, rather than community development, there are significant areas of overlap and the lessons are considered to be relevant to this work.3

  3. Most of the work on this paper was undertaken in 2010, using evaluations that were available until about September 2010.

  4. The paper discusses the lessons learned from the review of this material and concludes with a commentary on what the findings mean in the context of the first principles review.

  5. In addition, we made visits to a number of community development projects around New Zealand (listed in Appendix 2). Also contained in Appendix two are summaries of some other New Zealand programme evaluations that, while we did not include them in our reviewed sample of community development projects, nevertheless raised some similar issues for community development.

Overview of community development practice in New Zealand

The historical context

  1. The framework for community development practice in New Zealand was established in the 1925 to 1970s period, beginning with the establishment of the welfare state by the first Labour government. The Physical Welfare and Recreation Act 1937 (administered by the Department) saw the establishment of the first community development programmes by government.4

  2. In the 1970s community development units were set up in many local and regional authorities, as a result of a growing recognition of the need to find local solutions to local issues. The Local Government Act 1974 specified that local authorities should provide community development functions and these responsibilities were backed with central government funding.5

  3. Chile (2006) suggests community development practice in New Zealand is best understood as three concurrent processes:

(1) community development programmes undertaken by the state (through government departments and authorities)

(2) processes of social change undertaken primarily through the collective action of individuals, groups and organisations to give voice to marginalised groups and communities

(3) the forces of change within tangata whenua, Māori, working for tino rangatiratanga.6

  1. He suggests that the dominance of the State as the provider sets the overall framework for community development practice through legislation that directs community development practice, provides funding, and devolves services to the community, voluntary and not-for-profit sector that the State would not provide directly.

Māori community development

  1. Māori community development has evolved out of hundreds of years of practice based on whānau, hapū and iwi. Prior to European colonisation Māori were engaged in the development of their own communities, whānau, hapū and iwi. Such development was a holistic process that did not divide body, mind and soul and the physical from the non-physical, the individual from the group.7

  2. Throughout the twentieth century, successive governments put in place legislative frameworks designed (in part) to assist Māori community development (e.g. the Māori Economic and Social Advancement Act 1945 and the Māori Welfare Act 1962). However, disparities in the well-being of Māori and non-Māori continued throughout this time. Chile (2006) suggests that while such initiatives provided great potential for Māori community development, they were not adequately funded.8

  3. Government programmes to address inequalities in the wellbeing of the Māori population relative to the rest of the population were also a feature of the early part of this century (e.g. ‘Closing the Gaps’ and the ‘Reducing Inequalities Strategy’).9 These initiatives resulted in a number of approaches to empowering Māori, hapū and iwi to address their own priorities being trialled – including capacity building and community development-type initiatives.

The current context

  1. The Department’s work on the needs of communities in 5, 10 and 20 years time identified a number of opportunities and challenges for communities, whānau, hapū and iwi Māori. Communities in New Zealand are becoming increasingly diverse – different communities will face different issues, but all will need to be resilient and adaptable.

  2. In the current economic climate, government needs to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of funding models, but it is important for government to recognise that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unlikely to be effective and to identify new ways of working with communities.

Community development practice in New Zealand today

  1. Community development practice in New Zealand today draws on the following principles, derived from national and international literature.

Social justice

Addressing power imbalances between individuals and between different groups in society. May place a particular emphasis on promoting the interests of disadvantaged segments of the community, and ideas of respecting and valuing diversity.

The focus is collective, rather than based on a response to individual circumstance.

Individual and collective human rights

Good community development practice observes and protects human rights and fundamental freedoms – allowing people to ‘claim their human rights’.


Opportunities and resources are allocated in an equitable manner to enhance the capacity of all sections of the community to attain their well-being.

Self determination and empowerment

Seeks to empower individuals, groups and communities to attain their well-being through collective action. Communities own and drive the process.



Individuals and communities are active participants, identifying their vision for the future and/or their needs, and the means of achieving/ addressing these. All sections of the community are effectively engaged. Participative process and structures include and empower marginalised and excluded groups within society.

“Effective participation enables the community to articulate its vision, which enhances the effectiveness and sustainability of development outcomes.”10


collective action

Community members work together to identify and undertake action, based on a shared respect for all contributions. Partnerships are fostered to achieve positive outcomes for all community members.

Action is based on solidarity with the interests of those experiencing social exclusion.

Sustainability (including, but not exclusively, environmental sustainability)

Balances and integrates social, cultural, economic and environmental aspects of community. A holistic approach that recognises the connections and interdependencies between different aspects of well-being and the components of communities. Recognises the needs of both current and future generations.

  1. The extent to which these values translate into practice, and the relative emphasis placed on particular values, will vary according to context. For example, community development undertaken by a faith-based entity may be rooted in social justice. However, community development practice undertaken by government agencies is necessarily influenced by the political context in which such agencies operate, and may require a balancing of values with operational constraints such as funding models and policy and service delivery priorities.

Bicultural community development practice in New Zealand

  1. In addition to the general community development principles set out above, community development practice in New Zealand must be responsive to the needs and aspirations of Māori communities, and whānau, hapū and iwi groups.

  2. Munford and Walsh-Tapiata (2006)11 have identified the following key principles emerging from bicultural community development practice in New Zealand:

  • having a vision for the future and for what can be achieved – attempt to identify the dreams for all the populations worked with.

  • understanding local contexts – understand communities within their local contexts – different social structures and how these operate culturally within communities. Enable the use of local knowledge to address current challenges.

  • locating oneself within communityneed to have a clear understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world and how these influence our perspectives.

  • working within power relations – need to articulate the nature of power relations and enable communities to redress past wrongs, in order to establish new structures and ways of operating. In New Zealand, this includes addressing indigenous rights and self-determination.

  • achieving self-determination – having one’s voice heard and having opportunities for developing knowledge so that participation can be extended and strengthened.

  • working collectively – mahi tahi – working together towards a common goal.

  • bringing about positive social change for all communities in Aotearoa/ New Zealand – this incorporates a commitment to overcome challenges that may be faced and requires communities to recognise their ability to effect change.

  • action and reflection – reflection requires a review of practices and their impacts in order to learn and adapt. It is important that frameworks are openly debated.

Programmes reviewed

  1. Five government-funded community development programmes were reviewed. In each case, evaluations of the programmes were examined, with a focus on: understanding the principles underpinning the approach; the outcomes sought through the development and implementation of the programme; key achievements; and the factors that enabled or inhibited the success of the programme.

  2. The evaluation techniques varied across the five programmes. No attempt has been made to critique or comment on the quality of the evaluations. Detailed notes on each of the programmes are attached as Appendix One.

  3. Three of the programmes – Whānau Development, Local Level Solutions and the Stronger Communities Action Fund – were strongly focused on grass-roots activity, with funding made available to communities to undertake a wide range of activities to further their own aspirations.

  4. The Whānau Development Project and the Local Level Solutions Programme were targeted to Māori and were developed as part of the former government’s Reducing Inequalities Strategy. In each case the programmes were designed to build individual and community capacity as well as to reduce inequalities.

  5. The Stronger Communities Action Fund, funded by the former Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, similarly sought to encourage communities to identify their needs, develop innovative responses, and increase social and community capital. The Fund had an overall objective of improving outcomes for children, young people and families in disadvantaged communities. While this programme operated in a number of communities, our review is based on an available evaluation of one community.

  6. The remaining two programmes reviewed were smaller scale initiatives, designed (at least in part) to test the usefulness of the Framework for Developing Sustainable Communities (2002), developed by the Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Social Development, the former Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and the former Community Employment Group of the Department of Labour. The Framework describes an approach characterised by:

  • seeking community-owned solutions and community-driven development

  • facilitation of development and effective capacity building

  • a diversity of responses and models, rather than ‘one size fits all’

  • collaboration and partnership

  • a shift from separate silos to an all-of-government approach

  • achieving mutually agreed outcomes with communities.12

  1. The Local Action Research Projects13 (LARPS) trialled by the Department, were based in Kaikohe and Raetihi. In each case a Community Development and Funding Advisor (an existing role within the Department) was able to dedicate a portion of their time to an expanded community broker role.

  2. The community broker role was described as having four components: building capacity; fostering collaboration; promoting sustainability; and championing inclusiveness. The advisor based in Kaikohe was allocated 0.5 FTE to act in the community broker role; and an advisor based in Palmerston North was allocated 0.33 FTE to work in the role in Raetihi.

  3. The advisors were required to assist the local community to establish a project coordinating group, comprised of local community people. These groups were charged with developing community outcomes; and planning and contributing to local projects aimed at achieving the outcomes. The pilots ran for a period of three years.

  4. The final project, also focused on sustainable development, was a joint initiative by the Department and the Auckland Regional Council. The Sustainable Community Pilot Projects were established as part of the broader Auckland Sustainable Cities Programme – a joint central and local government initiative. The programme included a “Sustainable Communities” work strand with a vision: “To achieve strong, liveable and prosperous communities in Auckland through a sustainable development approach”.

  5. In this case, the two pilot projects leveraged off existing processes and initiatives to:

(1) examine how central, regional and local government collaboration could support community involvement in developing sustainable outcomes (Project Papakura); and

(2) to learn from Waitakere City’s Project Twin Streams14 approach to community engagement and local sustainable development, and to apply the lessons emerging in ways that could support other local sustainable development efforts (SC² – Sustainable Communities Sustainable Catchment).

Outcomes achieved

  1. The programmes reviewed achieved outcomes in a range of areas, some of which were programme specific, and others were more generic in nature. Some examples are:

  • enhanced levels of social capital

  • the development of infrastructure for new organisations

  • strengthened whānau relationships

  • strengthening relationships (horizontally and vertically) across stakeholders

  • developing leadership within communities

  • building the capacity of community groups in areas such as financial and strategic planning, project monitoring and reporting

  • improved access to local services

  • improved educational and employment outcomes

  • cultural development

  • programme delivery focused on youth.

  1. Significantly, however, the government did not provide baseline funding for any of the five programmes examined beyond the ‘pilot’ or ‘trial’ stage. The reasons for this are not explicit in the material reviewed. Several of the evaluations noted that at the end of the funding cycle it was evident that projects had no concrete plans for sustaining initiatives in the longer term.
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