Literature Scan: Effective community-level change: What makes community-level initiatives effective and how can central government best support them?

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December 2015



The Ministry of Social Development and Superu commissioned Quigley and Watts Ltd to complete this research.

Authors: Jude Ball and Louise Thornley.

The authors would like to thank Jen Margaret, who has provided invaluable advice and support in her role as community-development topic advisor for this project. Jen is a community-development practitioner, Treaty educator, and director of Groundwork: Facilitating Change.

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Superu and the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) commissioned Quigley and Watts Ltd to deliver a research project entitled ‘Community development: Effective community-level change.’ We have conducted this literature scan to inform the scope of the research, and provide an overview of the bodies of literature that are potentially relevant. The full analysis of the literature is available in the research report Effective community-level change: What makes community-level initiatives effective and how can central government best support them?1

The scan aims to sketch out initial answers to the following questions, with reference to the literature (focusing on the New Zealand literature, where available).


Defining the focus of the project

  • How are the terms ‘community development’, ‘community-level initiative’ and ‘community-led initiative’ defined in the literature?
  • Are there other terms used to describe community-level initiatives aimed at positive social outcomes? How do Māori and Pacific communities name and define such initiatives?
  • What are the defining characteristics and/or principles of the various approaches? What are examples of each?
  • What key tensions or challenges are there in defining ‘community development’ for the purposes of this project?


New Zealand context for the project

  • What work has recently been undertaken in New Zealand in the community-development field (including by government, NGOs, academics, and Māori/Pacific communities) that focuses on describing key principles, good practice or success factors, and/or focuses on evaluation?


Mapping the evidence for effectiveness

  • Is there evidence in the literature that community-development initiatives make a difference, in New Zealand and internationally? What kind of evidence? What outcomes have been measured or observed? How has ‘effectiveness’ been defined in the literature? How do Māori and Pacific communities and evaluators define ‘effectiveness’?



This was a rapid scan of the literature, not an in-depth or exhaustive review, and the methods used reflect the exploratory nature of the exercise. We sought relevant academic and grey literature by:

  • searching key websites (eg Department of Internal Affairs, Inspiring Communities, Community Research, and Whānau Ora Research)
  • Google-searching
  • searching academic databases (Scopus and Google Scholar) with the assistance of a University of Otago librarian
  • hand-searching key journals, eg Community Development
  • identifying relevant material in the reference lists of other reports or articles.

In addition, our topic advisor Jen Margaret (a community-development consultant) alerted us to a number of key reports and papers, particularly those providing a Māori perspective. As this was an exploratory review, we took a broad inclusive approach, rather than developing strict inclusion and exclusion criteria. The draft scan was peer-reviewed by Jen Margaret and revised before submission to Superu.


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01: Definition of key terms

Key points

  • ‘Community development’ is (variously) defined in the literature, and is an approach with a set of underlying principles and defining characteristics.
  • ‘Community-led development’ is a sub-category of community development that is place-based and emphasises community leadership.
  • ‘Community-level initiative’ and ‘community-led initiative’ are descriptive terms. They do not have specific definitions or associated methodology.
  • In practice, a wide range of terms such as ‘community development’, ‘community-led development’, ‘community capacity-building’, ‘community renewal’, ‘community organising’, and ‘community action’ are used to describe community-level initiatives aimed at bringing about positive community-level change. These terms are underpinned by various models of community practice and theories of change. The distinctions and relationships between these terms are far from clear-cut.
  • It is widely agreed that a defining feature of community development is that the community leads in identifying the issue or issues they want to address, the outcomes they want to achieve, and the process for getting there.
  • ‘Community development’ can be contrasted with ‘community action’, which is a strategy for creating community-based change towards a specific social or environmental policy objective – eg prevention of family violence (the ‘It’s Not OK’ community action component) or drug and alcohol misuse (CAYAD – Community Action Youth and Drugs). This may be a more appropriate term to use to describe government-initiated projects that involve action at the community and local level aimed at government-defined outcomes.
  • A distinction can be drawn between 1) initiatives primarily aimed at strengthening communities (eg strengthening relationships, networks, leadership, social cohesion, or the ability to address problems collectively and create change) and their input into decisions that affect them; and 2) initiatives that have as their starting point a particular social outcome (eg poverty alleviation, reduction of alcohol-related harm, or reduction of family violence) and use community-level initiatives to achieve that goal. In practice, such a distinction may be blurry, but the former necessarily requires a participatory, bottom-up process, whereas the latter could potentially sit anywhere on the continuum of community engagement, from consultation to full community initiation, leadership and ownership.
  • Defining what is in and out of scope for this project will require descriptions and examples, rather than reliance on contested terminology.


How are the terms ‘community development’, ‘community-level initiative’ and ‘community-led initiative’ defined in the literature? What are examples and defining characteristics of each?


Community development

The United Nations defines “community development” as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change within their communities (Wikipedia).

In New Zealand community development has been defined as “a deliberate, inclusive, participatory process of positive community change” (Department of Internal Affairs, 2005, cited in Loomis, 2012, p 6).


Key defining features and principles
  • Communities determine their own development priorities and the outcomes they want to achieve (Department of Internal Affairs website).
  • “Communities own and drive the process” (Department of Internal Affairs, 2011).
  • Some definitions focus on community input rather than community leadership – eg “Community development uses a bottom-up rather than top-down approach, which recognises that local input into solutions is likely to promote sound outcomes” (France, 1999).
  • There is a dual focus on achieving the outcomes the community have identified (eg improving access to local services, and improving educational and employment outcomes), and on community capacity-building, community building, and enhancing social capital (ie outcomes that come about through the process of working together, like strengthening relationships and networks, identifying community leaders, and gaining a sense of collective empowerment).
  • Community-development approaches may be applied in both communities of interest and geographic communities. For example DIA’s community development scheme includes ethnic communities: “The Community Development Scheme (CDS) supports community, hapū, iwi, Pacific communities and ethnic groups to work together, generate their own solutions to local issues, and work towards becoming more self-reliant and resilient” (Department of Internal Affairs website).
  • The Department of Internal Affairs (2011) describes seven general principles of contemporary community-development practice in Aotearoa New Zealand:
    • Social justice
    • Individual and collective human rights
    • Equity
    • Self-determination and empowerment
    • Participation/democracy
    • Cooperation/collective action
    • Sustainability (including, but not exclusively, environmental sustainability).
  • In the New Zealand context, responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of Māori communities and whānau, hapū and iwi groups is also a key principle. Munford and Walsh-Tapiata (2006) describe the principles of community-development practice in the bicultural context of this country.
  • Mairehe Louise Tankersley (2004) defines community development in the following way, from a Māori perspective:

I believe that community development is about tino rangatiratanga; self-determination. It is about working to empower people; it is about communities identifying what they need to develop themselves and utilizing your [professional] expertise to get there… Community development is about collaborative, collective action taken by local people, with the aim of enhancing the social, economic, cultural, environmental and spiritual conditions of the community. For me, the primary goal of community development is to create better overall quality of life for everyone.

Although there is broad agreement among New Zealand practitioners and academics about what the term ‘community development’ means, Loomis notes that in practice the term is applied to all sorts of initiatives, and asks “How much real community development is actually taking place?” (Loomis, 2012, p 6).


New Zealand examples

As can be seen from the examples below, the term ‘community development’ is applied to a wide range of projects, including social-service provision based on community-development principles. The Department of Internal Affairs’ review of selected New Zealand government-funded community-development programmes (2011) focused on five evaluated projects:

  • The Whānau Development Project (MSD 2000–2004). This was part of the former government’s ‘reducing inequalities’ programme. It piloted a devolved funding approach that enabled whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori communities (14 communities in six regions) to assess their own needs and develop and deliver initiatives to meet those needs. The focus was on providing new services, or extending existing services.
  • Local Level Solutions Programme (TPK 2000–2004). The programme provided for 15 community groups to enter into partnership agreements with government to progress their development of initiatives on behalf of their communities. The aim was to reduce inequalities and contribute to the sustainable development of whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori.
  • Stronger Communities Action Fund (CYF 2001–2005). This project tested models of devolved decision making; encouraged communities to identify their own social-service needs; supported the development and funding of innovative, community-based responses; and aimed to develop capacity and social capital in nine communities. The high-level aim was to improve outcomes for children, young people and families in disadvantaged communities.
  • Sustainable Communities Pilot Projects (DIA & ARC 2004–2009). This was a joint central and local government initiative, and was one of six work strands in the Auckland Sustainable Cities Programme. It focused on two demonstration projects: Progress Papakura and Project Twin Streams. Both of those projects focused on enhancing community engagement with and ownership of local government planning/projects aimed at environmental protection and sustainable development.
  • Local Action Research Projects (DIA 2003–2006). This project tested the usefulness of DIA’s Framework for Developing Sustainable Communities and the potential of the ‘community broker’ role in two sites – Kaikohe and Raetihi. In each site a DIA community-development advisor worked with the community to develop a three-year outcome goal, and activities to achieve it.

The reviewers also visited 10 other ‘community development’ sites to identify critical success factors – eg Victory Village; Linwood Resource Centre; Patea Youth Trust, which provides after-school activities and a place to go for youth in Patea; Titoki Native Plant Nursery, which provides training and work for people with mental-health issues; and Men’s Shed Naenae, which provides companionship and skilled work for retired and unemployed men.

Another example that arguably fits the definition of community development is the Intersectoral Community Action for Health initiative (Ministry of Health, 2008). This was an evaluated intervention broadly aimed at reducing health inequalities and improving the determinants of health in four locations: Porirua, Kāpiti, Counties Manukau, and Northland. This initiative was based on principles of community development, with community participation in needs-assessment and local governance for each project, with each site developing its objectives and priorities based on the identified needs of the community. The focus was primarily on removing barriers to population health by improving policies, systems and relationships between health and other agencies such as Housing New Zealand and WINZ.


Are there other terms used to describe community-level initiatives aimed at community-level change?

Yes, many. A New Zealand report notes: “Other terms used in this area include capacity building, empowerment, bottom-up approaches, local solutions, community planning, community involvement, community consultation, community control, action on determinants of health, primary prevention, action research and community project formative evaluation” (Duignan et al., 2003).

Attempts have been made to map out the plethora of overlapping and interrelated terms that abound in this field. For example, Marshall Ganz (USA) developed a method for distinguishing four categories of interventions that appear repeatedly in the practitioner literature: service delivery, community development, professional advocacy, and community organising (Ganz, 1998). Ganz uses two axes: 1) location of control of the programme: internal to the community or external to the community; 2) the product the programme creates: a tangible benefit or service or an advocacy role whereby some claim for change is made on others. Loomis (2012, p 8) presents a New Zealand adaptation of this matrix (see Figure 1 below).

For the purposes of this scan, the matrix is helpful for showing the breadth and variety of community-level initiatives. However, it is important to note that this typology is by no means normative or widely accepted. Other New Zealand practitioners point out that many of the named initiatives straddle more than one category or might move over time. Furthermore, most definitions of community development include ‘social justice’ or ‘addressing injustice’ as a core principle, which puts into question the distinction between the two columns of the ‘purpose’ axis, with ‘community development’ and ‘addressing injustice’ in separate columns (Margaret, J., personal communication, 2 April 2015). What we can take from this discussion about the different types of community initiative is that the definitions, boundaries, and relationships between them are contested and not clear-cut.


Figure 1 ­_ Types of Community Change Practice

Types of Community Change PracticeAdapted from a model by Marshall Ganz presented by Doublas Hess (1999:6)


Some of the other terms that are commonly used in New Zealand are also discussed.


Community-led development (CLD)

Currently a popular approach in New Zealand, CLD is a variant of community development that is place-based, cross-sectoral, and outcome-driven, and (unlike most community-development practice) is designed to be practised in any community, not only poor, disadvantaged areas (Loomis, 2012). “CLD is about working together in place to create and achieve locally owned visions and goals” (Inspiring Communities, 2013, p 12).

According to the Department of Internal Affairs:

This approach focuses on communities as a whole, rather than on specific programmes or activity, with funding directed at a “whole of community” level, crossing sector and programme boundaries, so that priorities can be addressed in a comprehensive way. It recognises the connections between the wellbeing of communities (social, economic, cultural, environmental), and that of individuals, families, hapū and iwi – rather than responding to present issues or priorities in a piecemeal way (DIA, 2012).

CLD is based on generic community-development principles but is specifically place-based and emphasises the importance of authentic community leadership. Most definitions of generic community development also see community self-determination and empowerment as central; however, in practice, local government or central government have (arguably) often taken the lead. Community-led development puts community leadership front and centre, in an unequivocal way.

Government agencies have adopted CLD (or used CLD principles) for specific purposes such as social-service development or urban renewal – eg Porirua City Council’s Village Planning Programme (see: In this context CLD can be seen as a tool or method for participatory democracy, and is aimed at improving the quality of local decision-making and the quality and responsiveness of local services and facilities. However, Loomis (2012) notes that the term CLD may be applied to initiatives that lack many of the core principles. This is problematic because:

Experience and research suggests that CLD principles are more than just playing with words or “best practice” injunctions. They are essential to engaging and empowering communities and achieving long-term local development. Without these core principles, you don’t achieve effective community development (Loomis, 2012, p 17).


Community organising

Community organising aims to empower communities to take control of their own development through opposition to state and dominant economic interests that contribute to their disadvantage (Loomis, 2012, p 8). New Zealand examples include grassroots protest movements such as the Māori land march of the 1970s and the recent ‘Occupy’ movement.


Community action

“Community action is a strategy for creating community-based change towards specific social and environmental policy objectives” (CAYAD website). “Community action projects seek to change behaviours, practices or policies through a participatory and educational process involving a range of stakeholders. Community development tends to focus on enabling the wider community to address a broad range of issues in a holistic way. While the two are inherently linked, community action is distinguished by its very specific focus (eg improving school suspension rates, improving water quality)” (Department of Internal Affairs, 2011, p 4-5).

‘Community action’ is a term commonly used in the health and social sectors to describe government-initiated initiatives that are delivered at the community level, often aimed at mobilising and co-ordinating the efforts of community groups and government agencies across sectors towards particular goals. Examples include:

  • CAYAD: Community Action Youth And Drugs (
  • It’s Not OK – community action on family violence (part of a wider social marketing campaign).

E Tu Whānau and SKIP could both be described as community action projects, since both started with a specific social objective (reducing/eliminating family violence and physical punishment of children respectively) and both engaged or partnered with communities for the purpose of achieving those objectives.

Greenaway and Witten (2006) provide a review of 10 community-action case studies from New Zealand, with analysis of lessons learned through a variety of reflective practices, which “revealed overarching principles and practices critical to the development of effective community action projects” (p 12).

An international example is Communities that Care, a strengths-based approach to preventing problem behaviour in young people, at the community level (Jonkman et al., 2008; Kuklinski et al., 2012). CTC is a framework based on prevention science for mobilising and co-ordinating community action to prevent youth problems, in particular drug and alcohol abuse. It was developed and implemented widely in the United States, with proven results, and has since been introduced to Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.


Community economic development (CED)

Community economic development is a variant of community development (ie based on community-development principles) but with a particular focus on improving economic conditions and job opportunities at the local level. CED has been researched in New Zealand by the Community Economic Development Action Research group (CEDAR) – Department of Labour (CEDAR Project Team, 2003).


Other types of community-level initiative

The project defined community-level initiatives as “those programmes or interventions that seek to have an impact at both the societal/community-level and the individual person/family level.” As well as community development and its variants discussed above, there are a range of other approaches and intervention types that are intended to impact at both community and individual levels. Some examples are discussed below:


Action research

Action research and its variants such as community action research (Casswell, 2000) and participatory action research (Eruera, 2010) have been widely used in this country for over 20 years, as a means of collective problem-solving. Action research is a method for creating intentional change at the community or organisational level, particularly as a partnership between academic institutions and communities.


Social enterprise / Social entrepreneurship

Social enterprise and social entrepreneurship refer to the application of business techniques and commercial strategies to find solutions to social problems and maximise improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits for external shareholders (Wikipedia). Such initiatives are not generally based on the principles of community development, but may be effective at creating change at both community and individual/whānau levels.


Social marketing

Social marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good (Wikipedia). Social-marketing campaigns are often aimed at changing social norms as well as individual behaviour. In New Zealand, social-marketing campaigns are generally national, but there are examples of local and regional initiatives that use the principles of social marketing – eg a Nelson/Marlborough cross-sectoral initiative to prevent child obesity.


Health promotion

Community-level interventions are a key strategy within health promotion. “Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions” (World Health Organization website). There is considerable overlap between the aims of health and social sectors, since both have an interest in outcomes like reducing violence and improving determinants of health such as social inclusion, housing and poverty.


Whole-school initiatives

A whole-school approach is cohesive, collective and collaborative action in and by a school community that has been strategically constructed to improve student learning, behaviour and wellbeing, and the conditions that support these. New Zealand examples include comprehensive use of restorative justice or restorative practices in schools (Buckley, 2007), a whole-school approach to addressing bullying (eg see, and Phase 2 of Te Kōtahitanga, which aimed at lifting Māori achievement. Rather than focusing on ‘problem’ individuals, the whole-school approach aims to create positive change at both the school and individual levels by changing the culture, attitudes, practices and policies of the whole school. There is both qualitative and quantitative evidence (New Zealand and international) for the effectiveness of this approach, using measures such as student achievement and stand-downs.


Professional-development programmes

There are examples from New Zealand of professional-development programmes that have led to culture and policy change at the organisational level, and resulted in improved outcomes for both the organisation and young people – eg the MSD-funded ‘Life Skills’ project for NEET providers; Te Kōtahitanga professional development for teachers aimed at lifting Māori achievement (see


Community renewal

Housing New Zealand’s Community Renewal project (2000–2008) aimed to address social exclusion, to foster strong, sustainable communities, and to promote change in the economic, social and physical environment in selected areas: Aranui, Clendon, Eastern Porirua, Fordlands, Northcote and Talbot Park (Department of Internal Affairs, 2011).


Other types of community-government partnership

Government-funded community development is one way of government working with communities to achieve positive change. However, there are a range of other models and approaches for community-government partnership. See, for example, the New Zealand report, Models of Community-Government Partnerships and Their Effectiveness in Achieving Welfare Goals: A Review of the Literature (Ministry of Social Policy, 2000).


How do Māori and Pacific communities name and define such initiatives?

The terms ‘kaupapa Māori’, ‘tino rangatiratanga’, ‘whānau development’, ‘marae development’, ‘hapū development’ and ‘iwi development’ are more often used in Māori contexts to describe intentional processes of working towards self-determined goals and aspirations for Māori. The website of the Māori Development Research Centre ( is a repository of Māori research on such development. Self-determination and resistance to state control are key themes in this work.

Arguably, the principles of community development are compatible with Māori worldviews (eg a holistic approach, a strong focus on relationships and process, and an emphasis on social justice). The practices of community development may also be compatible, if they are Māori-informed and Māori-determined. However, there are tensions between government-funded programmes using Western conceptualisations of community development, and Māori aspirations towards self-determination and liberation from colonial oppression. Eketone uses constructivist approaches such as Native Theory to provide an alternative theoretical basis to community development in a New Zealand Māori context (Eketone, 2006). Internationally, there is some literature on indigenous community development – for example from Australia (Burchill, Higgins, Ramsamy, & Taylor, 2006).

Many community-action and community-development initiatives in this country involve partnership with Māori and/or Pacific communities and leaders. For example, of the 10 community-action projects reviewed by Greenaway and Witten (2006), three were Pacific communities-specific and three were Māori-specific. Also see Casswell (2001) for examples of Māori leadership in community action. From a government perspective, the Department of Internal Affairs considers ‘hapū development’ and ‘iwi development’ to be within its definition of ‘community development’, but not ‘whānau development’ (DIA, 2011, p 6).

Although there are examples of community-development and community-action projects with Pacific communities, there seems to be a lack of Pacific community voices in the literature. We did not find any New Zealand Pacific communities definitions of community development, or alternative terms used to describe intentional processes of working towards self-determined goals by Pacific communities in this country.


Defining community development for the current literature scan

As noted above, the range of potentially relevant initiatives is extremely broad, and therefore a more specific focus for the project is necessary to made it workable and useful.

Definition of ‘community development’ is also complicated by the fact that the field is plagued with definitional confusion (Cornwall & Eade, 2010; Loomis, 2012). The authors of the Ministry of Health-commissioned Community Project Indicators Framework note: “There is considerable confusion and cross-over of different terms used when discussing community approaches” (Duignan et al., 2003, p 2). As a result, ‘community development’ may mean very different things to different people. Therefore defining ‘community development’ and what is in and out of scope for this project will require descriptions and examples rather than reliance on contested terminology.

For the remainder of this scan we have used a loose and inclusive definition of community development that includes aligned Māori concepts, and variants such as community-led development. We have also drawn on literature from outside the community-development field (eg community action), where examples or lessons learned may be relevant to the current project.


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02: New Zealand context for the project

What is the current context for community-development initiatives?

The context for community development initiatives in New Zealand and other comparable countries is undergoing a ‘sea change’. Recent good-practice guidance on place-based community governance states: “We are in the midst of a recognisable shift in how the relationship between communities and different tiers of government is understood” (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014a). Drivers of this shift include:

  • An increasing interest from communities in taking part in local decisions
  • Growing interest in local and participatory democracy, increasing demand for public involvement, and decisions being taken at the lowest possible level
  • Concern about the traditional approach to ‘consultation’ – eg that it may actually widen gaps within communities and between communities and councils
  • Seeing the benefits of community/neighbourhood governance – not just for communities themselves, but also for councils and others (eg central government and the private sector)
  • Higher tiers of government are learning the value of a community-governance approach to the design, targeting and delivery of social services (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014a).

Public trust in government has declined in recent years, while the engagement and involvement of citizens has become more critical for solving public problems. Importantly, direct involvement with the community can overcome barriers to dealing with entrenched “wicked issues” (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014a). Increasingly, inclusive communities are seen as a key way to address these problems and build a sense of participation and belonging. McKinlay Douglas state that New Zealand responses include:

  • Top-down responses – eg more emphasis on consultation, redefining the role of local government to include community wellbeing, and initiatives by central government to work directly with communities
  • Bottom-up responses – such as community or village planning (eg Porirua village planning), and place-based community-led development (eg Project Lyttelton, and the Tāmaki Inclusive Engagement Strategy).


A brief history: How has the community-development field developed in New Zealand?


Māori approaches align with community development

‘Community development’ practice for Māori has evolved from hundreds of years of practice based on whānau, hapu and iwi. In a Māori context, ‘Native Theory’ and kaupapa Māori offer an alternative theoretical basis to community development (Eketone, 2006). Native Theory involves indigenous peoples using their own processes, terms and expectations – and also acknowledges that iwi have the right to define their own values and processes. Community development in Māori communities needs to ensure that it is based on, and uses, those values that derive from a Māori worldview.

As noted earlier, Māori terms such as iwi development, kaupapa Māori and tino rangatiratanga are more often used in Māori contexts to describe intentional processes of working towards self-determined goals and aspirations for Māori. Effective practice builds on existing whānau structures, is grounded in tikanga, and encompasses a collective approach (Department of Internal Affairs, 2011).


Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Tiriti o Waitangi has direct relevance to community-development practice as New Zealand’s founding document for relationships between Māori and the Crown (Chile, Munford, & Shannon, 2006; Inspiring Communities, 2013b; Tankersley, 2004). Community-development practitioners have stressed that te Tiriti gives rights to everyone in New Zealand, as well as to Māori specifically, and Treaty-based approaches to community development are required (Tankersley, 2004). Key principles for Treaty-based community development practice include:

  • tino rangatiratanga; self-determination; working to empower people
  • communities identifying what they need to develop themselves and using community development expertise to get there
  • allowing communities to develop themselves in a way that’s appropriate to them
  • collaborative, collective action taken by local people, with the aim of enhancing the social, economic, cultural, environmental and spiritual conditions of the community (Tankersley, 2004).


Community development

Community development, in New Zealand as a whole, emerged as a distinct practice after World War II, although social and community activism was evident prior to that. Chile (2006) synthesises the history of organised social-change activities into three phases: Colonisation, settlement and resistance (1840–1935); Community services and the establishment of the welfare state (1935–1970); and Community social and economic development (1970–the present). Community development in New Zealand has evolved from several key influences:

  • Central and local government – eg legislation and funding
  • Collective action from communities towards social change
  • Māori development and activism – the sovereignty movement, and iwi – and marae-development based on iwi, hapu and whānau (Chile, 2006; Loomis, 2012)

In general, community-development practice in New Zealand has been heavily influenced, provided and funded by government. This is similar to Canada and Australia, where community development has also been largely practised through government, rather than against it. Compared with the US, where most community development occurs via non-profit NGOs and community groups, New Zealand lacks a strong history of community organising and NGO-based community development (Loomis, 2012). Table 1 below notes recent developments in government-initiated community development and community-led development. It does not include community-initiated work.


Table 01: Timeline to summarise New Zealand’s recent history of government community development

This summary is based on information in McKinlay Douglas (2014a), Loomis (2012) and the Department of Internal Affairs (2011).

Year Initiative or development Comments
1989 Local government restructuring Community Boards established
1990s   Since the 1990s NZ governments and local councils have included a focus on strengthening communities, eg through central government policy and local government-initiated community development
1999 Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector established In MSD until 2011
Moved in 2011 from MSD to a team within DIA
Early 2000s Growing emphasis on community with new Labour government eg Labour Government included “building strong, sustainable communities, hapū and iwi” in its overall priorities
  • DIA provided policy advice, community-development services and grant funding
  • Closing the Gaps and Reducing Inequalities Strategies
  • MSD literature review (2000) on models of community-government partnerships and their effectiveness in achieving welfare goals
2002 Local Government Act 2002
  • Local government mandated as focal point for collective action
  • Significant reform including community outcomes process and required sustainable-development approach (four wellbeings: social, cultural, economic, environmental)
  • Principles of this reform broadly similar to CLD
  • Increased development of local government-community initiatives
2002-2003 DIA developed and trialled ‘Framework for Developing Sustainable Communities’ DIA tested the framework with 4 local action research projects (LARPs)
2005 DIA literature review  literature review on government’s role in investing in community capacity-building
2007 Evaluation of LARPs Paulin (2007), for DIA
2011 Government-initiated Community-led Development trial began

Three-year trial (initially) of community-led development announced by Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector (Turia); DIA involved (COGs fund reprioritised to support CLD)

Note it is now a four-year trial

2011 DIA Action Research Framework A framework used by the 5 trial communities to track progress and adapt approaches in response
2012 ‘Better Local Government’ work programme (arising from Local Government Amendment Act in 2011) Reversed trend toward participatory democracy – ‘representative’ democracy instead
Official recognition of the four wellbeings was removed
The rationale included operational efficiencies, cost-cutting and debt reduction
2013 Evaluation of government’s Community-led Development trial Evaluation of first two years (Dec 2013). Findings are noted in Table 2 below (see page 28).


A growing emphasis on ‘place’

Increasingly the role of neighbourhood or place is seen as central – for example in community governance and community-led development approaches (see below). This reflects a number of emerging trends:

  • The reality that most people identify with the immediate area or areas where they live, work and play, rather than with wider council districts
  • Increasing demographic, ethnic and socio-economic diversity
  • Growing evidence that people want to engage about issues that affect them and ‘their place’
  • An increasing emphasis on ‘place shaping’ as a key role of local government
  • The increasing practice among grant-makers and central government agencies of taking more of a community-based, outcomes focus in their activities
  • The emergence in a number of jurisdictions of ‘bottom-up’ community or neighbourhood planning (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014a).

At the same time, it is important to recognise that many people identify more with communities of interest or personal identity than with place. Similar principles and approaches can be applied to engaging and involving communities of interest or identity.


Local government role in community development

Compared with central government, local government has played a stronger part in community development in New Zealand. Local government currently has a focus on community governance and place-based approaches, and community-development approaches can inform and strengthen community governance.

Increasingly, the scope of contemporary local government practice in New Zealand is widening, based on new thinking about local government’s role and a context of higher public expectations and more opportunities to become involved in local issues and decisions. It is now more common for local government to work in partnership with central government agencies and other stakeholders, and with its local communities to deliver on jointly identified outcomes (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014b). An example is the work of the social-sector trials, which involves collaborative work at a local level. Local government is now seen as more than simply a co-ordinator, but as a conduit for channeling information and building networks to enable improved delivery ‘on the ground’ by a wide range of parties and reflecting community diversity (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014b).

Tensions and challenges inherent in local government’s role in community development include statutory changes that pose threats to community development and community empowerment. For example, the 2011 changes to the Local Government Act removed the ‘four wellbeings’ approach and increased the vulnerability of community-development initiatives.

Community development in the state sector – both local and central government – faces a paradox in that the investment (finances and people) intends to empower communities but is driven by government (McKinlay, 2006). MSD, for example, has a strategic-leadership role in the social sector, working with local government to help achieve identified outcomes; however, it is ultimately required to meet government objectives (rather than empower communities).


Community governance and place-based approaches

Local government experience in New Zealand and Australia suggests that a specific community-governance mechanism is crucial – ie, the development of community-level infrastructure and capacity to deliver ongoing community involvement and decision-making (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014b). Community-level planning is seen as not only important for democracy, but also as an important contribution to local government decision-making.

Community boards are one ‘sub-council’ governance mechanism in New Zealand currently. Practice in terms of delegation varies widely. Several councils have delegated extensive powers to community boards; however, most have delegated little or no power, meaning that community boards are limited to a local advocacy role. While the overall number of community boards has declined in recent years, some remaining community boards are providing effective community governance at the local level, including some examples of place-based approaches – eg, Thames-Coromandel District, Southland District and Otorohanga District (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014b).

Recent local government reform in Auckland includes the development of local boards – another form of sub-council governance. These local boards are still considered a ‘work in progress’, with the extent of their authority yet to be determined (McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014b).

A useful community-governance example is Porirua City Council’s Village Planning Programme, where local residents are involved in planning and decision-making at a local ‘village’ level. This work has received national and international attention for its effective approach (more detail below).


Community-led development

There is increasing awareness and involvement in community-led development (CLD), and the key role of community, in New Zealand and globally. The tighter economic climate means there is growing pressure to focus on efficiency and cost-effectiveness in community-based initiatives. Many players (eg government, business, iwi and Māori, community organisations) are looking for more effective ways of doing things given constrained resources (Inspiring Communities, 2013a). Broader trends such as global financial crises, the Canterbury earthquakes and concern about national debt levels have helped to promote CLD (Inspiring Communities, 2013a). Equally, there is also a need to avoid ‘one size fits all’ solutions and to trial new ways of working with communities (Department of Internal Affairs, 2011).

Inspiring Communities, a national organisation that champions CLD, was created in 2008 by a small group committed to community-led development and community learning (Inspiring Communities, 2013a). It uses a ‘learning by doing’ approach to encourage and support community-led activities and to learn collectively. This action-learning approach recognises that CLD requires long-term approaches – and that not everything that counts can be easily measured (Inspiring Communities, 2013a).

An important part of the context for community-led development in New Zealand is the multiple and continuing harmful consequences of colonisation, including negative social outcomes and inequities. This will require long-term efforts to address, including iwi-led and Māori-led frameworks and strategies. Iwi-led development and CLD are seen as aligned and complementary. Community-led initiatives are also being implemented in a context of increasing ethnic diversity in New Zealand and an ageing population (Inspiring Communities, 2013a).


New ways of collaborative working

Three new collaborative leadership models are outlined by Inspiring Communities (2013a):

  • Constellation governance – multiple sectors work towards joint outcomes
  • Starfish and spider framework – trends in business and communities towards more starfish–like organisations (eg shared leadership and power, flexible structures and processes)
  • Collective Impact – cross-section collaboration on shared goals. The five conditions are: common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support (a dedicated coordinating organisation).

At the same time, some Inspiring Communities contributors have critiqued the ‘hype’ around CLD – use of this language doesn’t always translate into working differently in practice. There are concerns about potential ‘government capture’ of CLD and the use of CLD as a way to devolve responsibility to communities – without the resources or power required to facilitate meaningful community change (Inspiring Communities, 2013a).


How can central and local government enable and support community-led development?

Learning from Seattle’s neighbourhood-development approach has identified two key roles for local and central government:

  • Remove obstacles like complex language, silo’ed approaches and accessibility barriers – and don’t let government red tape inhibit community action.
  • Build capacity in ways that strengthen local leadership, support networking, and involve partnering to deliver local programmes and activities (Inspiring Communities, 2013a).


Government-initiated community-led development

A four-year trial of community-led development is underway, initiated by the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector in 2011. Department of Internal Affairs community grant funding (eg the COGs fund) was reprioritised to support a trial of government-initiated CLD ($1.5 million annually). Five communities were selected to take part (Whirinaki, Mt Roskill, Mangakino, Waitangirua/Cannons Creek, and North East Valley Dunedin). The programme has been evaluated to the end of Year 2 (published 2013) – details of the findings are provided in Table 2 below.


What Works programme

A relevant development in the community/NGO sector is an emerging programme called ‘What Works’. With this programme, initiated by Community Research, the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector is examining how organisations can explore and show whether they are making a difference and how they can do better, in a context where organisations face significant pressure to show results.

What Works aims to support people working in the sector to better understand the impact of their work and to apply learning to day-to-day practices. It wants to help community-based groups to identify their outcomes, evidence their outcomes, and share the learnings arising from their outcomes – thereby promoting a continuously learning and improving sector. Supported by MSD and incorporating Treaty-based and culturally responsive approaches, the project is developing:

  • the What Works website
  • training via webinars, workshops and hui
  • advocacy and awareness-raising, and exploring the establishment of peer-learning networks.

A content development team has been contracted to develop the What Works website: Te Pito te Ao, a team of researchers and evaluators. Te Pito te Ao is currently seeking NGOs to share which approaches or tools they are using to show the difference they are making, their strengths and weaknesses, the factors considered when selecting these tools, and how these stack up. The website will go live later this year (Community Research website).


What New Zealand work has recently been undertaken in the community-development field that focuses on describing key principles, good practice or success factors, and/or on evaluation?

A large amount of New Zealand work has been carried out in this field (and related fields – eg community action). Various sectors have produced work: central government, local government, the community/NGO sector and the academic sector. Table 2 below outlines key reports, good practice and success factors, divided according to sector. Reports specific to Māori and Pacific communities are filed within the above categories. Most of the work identified describes principles and good-practice examples. Some findings are also available from qualitative evaluations; this section does not discuss evaluation findings, as they are summarised in the following section on evaluation (Section 3).


Author and title Examples of good practice Success factors and/or other comments
Central government reports and papers
Department of Internal Affairs

DIA 2013

Evaluation of the government’s Community-led

Development Trial (Year 2)

(Department of Internal Affairs, 2013)

At Year 2 of the evaluation, outcomes (tangible and intangible) are starting to emerge in 3 of the 5 communities: Whirinaki, Mangakino and North East Valley.

(Mt Roskill and Waitangirua/Cannons Creek have found it more difficult to meet timeframes and deliver a community plan. Being large suburban communities, consultation with the wider community has proved to be harder).

Key learning so far:
  • Community size affects the pace of CLD (takes longer in larger communities)
  • Continuing learning and development is needed for DIA staff delivering the programme
  • More flexible funding cycles are recommended
  • Challenges with recruitment and retention of community workers; the communities asked DIA to provide HR assistance
  • CLD is hard work!
  • Reliant on volunteers.

DIA 2011

Review of NZ government-funded community-development programmes

(Department of Internal Affairs, 2011)

  • Analysis of 5 government-funded community-development project evaluations – Whānau Development, Local Level Solutions, Stronger Communities Action Fund, Local Action Research Projects (Kaikohe and Raetihi) and Sustainable Community Pilot Projects (Project Papakura and Waitakere City’s Project Twin Streams).
  • Two of the 5 programmes were targeted specifically at whānau, hapū and iwi.
  • Meta-analysis of 10 government-funded community-action projects was also included.
Learning included:
  • time for community engagement and developing shared vision
  • partnership relationship between funder and community, with clear roles and responsibilities
  • planning and outcomes development
  • strong and skilled local leadership
  • While the programmes reviewed achieved outcomes, the government did not provide baseline funding for any of the five programmes examined beyond the ‘pilot’ stage.
The lessons learned presented issues – eg DIA 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.

DIA and others (2002)

A framework for developing sustainable communities: Discussion paper (DIA and others including MSD)

(Department of Internal Affairs, 2002)

  • Case study – Mangakino Stronger Communities Action Fund
  • Lists the enablers and indicators of strong, sustainable communities.
Ministry of Social Development
NB – Current relevant initiatives include Social Sector Trials and Investing in Services for Outcomes
MSD 2011
Creating Change Toolkit (It’s Not OK campaign)
(Campaign for Action on Family Violence, 2011)
Examples of successful community action initiatives, eg Poverty Bay Rugby Union, various initiatives in Waitakere, Te Aroha Noa (P Nth), Taiohi Morehu, Kapai Kaiti (Tairawhiti). Success factors for community action projects – eg:
  • Strong collaboration
  • Prevention skills
  • Community connection
  • Target-audience focused
  • Engagement of active community leaders
  • Reflection and evaluation
  • Media work.

MSD 2005

Strategies with Kids – Information for Parents (SKIP) evaluation

(Gravitas Research and Strategy, 2005)

Community capacity-building and inter-agency work to support positive parenting – a nationwide network of individuals, community groups, government agencies, workplaces and national NGOs. Encourages use of community-development approaches. Success factors/strategy fundamentals included:
  • A positive empowering approach
  • Working with cultural contexts
  • A whole-of-life approach
  • Understanding readiness to change
  • Supporting the adoption of positive parenting strategies
  • Building a supportive social and cultural environment.
Key issues were identified for Māori and Pacific communities specifically. The evaluation reinforced the importance of SKIP working within the cultural context of parenting, and acknowledging and responding to cultural differences.

MSD 2000

Models of community-government partnerships and their effectiveness in achieving welfare goals: a review of the literature

(Ministry of Social Policy, 2000)

NB This report is not specific to community development, but has some relevant learning from a government perspective. Factors that help or hinder successful community-government partnerships – eg realistic timeframes (3-10 years); broad community involvement; sufficient ongoing resources; a skilled paid full-time coordinator; senior-level commitment from all partner organisations; shared vision and trust; and shared and realistic objectives.
Te Puni Kōkiri (and other agencies in the case of Whānau Ora)

TPK 2013

Whānau Ora Action Research

NB: A Pacific communities commissioning agency is underway. At the Pacific communities provider collective level, similar activity to that of Māori collectives is taking place – eg developing governance entities and exploring a collective approach.

(Te Puni Kōkiri, 2013b)

  • Whānau Ora implementation
  • Action research monitoring of Whānau Ora provider projects found a growing confidence in the capacity for a collective approach to contribute to the best outcomes for whānau.
  • Navigation approach
  • A developing workforce combining inherent skills with professional practice, the importance of whakawhānaungatanga (eg relationships), an outcomes-focused workforce, use of the RBA model
  • Resourcing and capacity needs to match whānau-centred delivery – barriers of competitive contracting, reporting burdens.
  • Pacific communities provider collectives have noted key challenges that are unique to working with Pacific families – eg, shift work, childcare and travel costs impact on participation in community initiatives.
Department of Labour

DOL 2002-2003

Community Economic Development Action Research Project (CEDAR)

(Department of Labour, 2003)

Three-year project to use research as a conduit or bridge for developing a closer connection between government policy and ‘communities’.

NB This report is not specific to community development, but has some relevant learning from a government perspective.

Learnings re community action research:
  • Need time, including to assess the impact and success of initiatives
  • Need space, openness and flexibility to follow the emerging issues (and go where the energy is). Sticking to the original objective can prevent this.
  • Action research works best with management systems that do not demand performance based on original intentions.
  • Action research projects need people and organisations able to work with ‘unpredictability’. It is often difficult to 'predict' where a project may need to go to explore the issue.
Ministry of Health

MOH 2008

Evaluation of Intersectoral Community Action for Health (ICAH)

(Ministry of Health, 2008)

NB This report is not specific to community development, but has some relevant learning from a government perspective.
  • Each of the ICAH initiatives showed evidence they were working to reduce inequalities
  • In all the ICAHs, the role and wisdom of the community was vital
  • The capacity of the community to help as volunteers was often limited in areas of high need

Duignan et al. for MOH 2003

Community Project Indicators Framework

(Duignan et al., 2003)

Indicators for community-action and community-development projects (health sector focus).

Good practice: indicators outline what is planned to be achieved, but communities need flexibility to change in response to changing needs (this is essential).

The indicator groups cover the main areas of impact that community projects should aim for: eg project planning and regular reassessment, project infrastructure and sustainability, community participation, enhanced community ‘voices’, upskilling of leadership and key players, collaboration, conflict-management, Treaty obligations, Pacific communities involvement.

Housing New Zealand

Housing NZ 2008

Community Renewal programme evaluation

(Housing New Zealand, 2008)

  • Examples of best practice in 'community-led solutions, participation and ownership', 'youth development' and ''encouragement of employment growth'.
  • Community Renewal moving towards achieving all agreed outcomes
  • Specific elements could be improved to increase effectiveness – eg strategies and activities to address the needs of young people in community-development plans.
Local government reports and papers

Porirua City Council

Village planning programme

From website information and review of the programme (Margaret, 2011)

The Porirua Village Planning Programme has been recognised nationally and internationally as an example of good practice in community engagement.
  • Community-development approach that is community-driven and about community building as much as project delivery – collaborative partnering approach, long-term commitment, informed by learning
  • Community sense of identity – geographic, community infrastructure, robust village plan
  • Proactive community-focused council, ethos of community engagement and consultation
  • Comprehensive programme management and review.

McKinlay Douglas Ltd 2014

Community-Level Governance: What provision should be made in local government legislation

(McKinlay Douglas Ltd, 2014b)

Community boards in Thames-Coromandel District, Southland District and Otorohanga District.
  • Distinct identities and communities of interest (often based on geography or terrain)
  • Leadership – local councils led by people committed to community engagement and belief in effectiveness of local decision-making
  • Relationships between councils and community boards – eg council willingness to delegate and resource, culture of mutual respect, well-understood roles and responsibilities, and regular two-way communication.

Inspiring Communities 2013

Learning by Doing report

(Inspiring Communities, 2013a)

Porirua Village Planning Programme, Porirua City Council – eg Waitangirua park design.
  • Community put in charge of developing own vision
  • Engagement processes designed and implemented by local people
  • Clear agreed vision
  • Construction stage project managed by Samoan man who spoke the first language of many residents – helped with informing and engaging residents.

COMET Auckland (education trust linked to

Auckland Council)
Auckland’s ‘cradle to career’ collective impact initiative

Source: Website info.

Learning Auckland Accord (Learning Auckland is a Collective Impact movement aiming to bring about a long-term shift in educational achievement across Auckland).
  • Collective Impact approach
  • Learnings so far about collective impact approach: takes time to understand diverse groups’ roles, approaches, visions and language; needed to create cross-sectoral projects to implement Accord goals; the backbone role of COMET Auckland is crucial – convening and leadership roles in taking things forward.
  • NB Also cited in Inspiring Communities 2013 Learning by Doing (p 53).

Lawler 2008

Thinking Like a Place – Local Government Experiences with Community Planning (Research essay submitted for Masters in Public Policy)

(Lawler, 2008)

Looked at 3 communities where community planning had been used and talked to Council and community members about their experiences.

NB It is important to note that community planning may or may not use a community-development, or community-led development, approach.

  • Community planning can be an effective method of gaining input from residents who do not normally get involved in Council matters, and improves relationships between Council and communities.
  • However, there are limits to how effectively community planning can increase resident participation, unless Councils explicitly decide to share decision-making and resource communities to act on their own behalf.

McKinlay 2006

‘The challenge of democratic participation in the community development process’ (paper in Community Development Journal)

(McKinlay, 2006)

Taranaki local government is highlighted for taking a strategic and inclusive approach.
  • All four councils recognising they should work collaboratively
  • Outcomes process distinguishes between local and regional outcomes
  • Outcomes process at arms-length from councils as much as possible – independent researchers used to design and manage the outcomes process
  • Primary accountability for the process was vested in a working party of ‘other organisations and groups’ including government agencies and selected organisations from the business and voluntary/community sectors as well as Iwi Māori.

Routledge 2006

‘Community development in Christchurch City: a socialist banana republic under threat?” (paper in Community Development Journal)

(Routledge, 2006)

A good-practice case study of Christchurch local government approach to community development in the 1970s. Central government rationalisation and cuts to social and health services constraining community development practice.
Ranui Action Project case study (source: government ‘Good Practice Participate’ website, from 2005 Community Employment Group
  • Ranui Action Project
  • Wide involvement – including Māori and Pacific communities
  • Resources through partnerships with Council, government agencies and health
  • Project management, good communication and fun.
Community/NGO sector reports

Inspiring Communities & Tamarack 2014

Review of place-based initiatives for poverty reduction, for JR McKenzie Trust: Collective and Collaborative Place Based Initiatives: What Works, What Matters and Why.

(Inspiring Communities & Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement, 2014)

  • Vibrant Communities, Canada
  • Collective Impact initiatives, US
  • Successful adaptation of overseas learning to NZ will require taking into account our political context including Treaty and relative lack of experience in large place-based initiatives
  • Long-term investment required (5-7 years at least).

Community-led Development Learning Collective 2014 – Inspiring Communities and others

Paper to Treasury: How Can Government Improve Results for Our Most Vulnerable (At-risk) Children and Their Families?

(Community-led Development Learning Collective, 2014)

  • Good Cents, Porirua
  • Victory Village Nelson
  • Opotiki
  • Kaiti
  • Mataura
Success factors/strategies:
  • Building from the ground up
  • Building from assets and strengths
  • Entering from multiple doorways
  • Being intentional
  • Being prepared to change
  • Identifying and growing local leadership.

Jennings 2014

Community Economic Development: Understanding the New Zealand Context

(Jennings, 2014)

Seven case studies that exemplify best practice in community economic development and social enterprise.  

Inspiring Communities 2013

Understanding and Accelerating Community-led Development in Aotearoa New Zealand (thinkpiece)

(Inspiring Communities, 2013b)

  • Development of capacities and capabilities
  • Identified changes and outcomes, and understanding how these have occurred
  • Securing flexible funding
  • Developing new kinds of partnerships
  • Necessary skills
  • Regular reflection and review.

Inspiring Communities 2013

Learning by Doing: Community-led change in Aotearoa NZ

(Inspiring Communities, 2013a)

Examples of good practice include:
  • Good Cents, Porirua
  • Community action research in Glen Innes
  • Massey Matters community projects.
  • ‘Place’ is at the heart of CLD – useful organising avenue, shared commitment
  • Respectful, trusting relationships
  • Common focus and sense of cohesion
  • Proactive engagement strategies
  • Effective processes for collective work and learning
  • Rebalancing power dynamics
  • Identify what is and isn’t working well to build on strengths and address challenges
  • Regular reflective practice is resourced and built into CLD.

Loomis 2012

Community-led Development in Aotearoa New Zealand: Dead End or New Opportunity?

(Loomis, 2012)

  • Project Lyttelton (strong CLD)
  • Tāmaki Inclusive Engagement Strategy (strong CLD)
  • 8 others classed as weak CLD (eg Victory Village, Massey Matters, Great Start Taita, Highbury PN).

Harger-Forde / Community Waitakere 2012

Community Development Evaluation Measures: Indicators of Success

(Harger-Forde, 2012)

  Indicators of success for community and social wellbeing – eg:
  • Advocacy or policy issue related work
  • Community investment facilities
  • Community capacity (including employment, education & income)
  • Inclusion, connection contribution and sense of community
  • Social support and connectedness.

MPEI contributors and Hancock 2012

He Akoranga He Aratohu: Māori & Pacific Education Initiative: Lessons to Guide Innovative Philanthropic & Social Practice

(Māori and Pacific Education Initiative & Hancock, 2012)

Māori and Pacific Education Initiative

NB: The initiatives look more like community-based, education/community partnerships rather than community development.

  • Māori and Pacific leadership helped shape Trust decision-making
  • Community-based hui and fono promoted engagement with Māori and Pacific communities as distinct from ‘tick the box’ consultation. Initial suspicion gave way to growing enthusiasm among participants and increased confidence in community-based solutions.
  • Challenge of conflicts of interest – had to rely on professional integrity and ethics to navigate these challenges.

Pipi and Hohaia (2011)

Whānau PATH Planning presentation

(Pipi & Hohaia, 2011)

  • Te Arawa Whānau PATH planning
  • Ngāpuhi/Te Arawa PATH facilitator training
  • Marae-based training.
  • PATH = Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (visual-planning and data-gathering tool, and a tool for change; initial visual map/picture is converted to a report with specific measures)
  • Has been used in NZ for personal, whānau, hapu, iwi, organisational planning, contributed to iwi and Māori provider success, training of PATH facilitators/workforce development.

Nowland-Foreman, with Pipi 2009

Counting on Capacity: A Review of Community Waikato

(Nowland-Foreman, 2009)

Community Waikato (community capacity strengthening initiative)  

Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector 2008.

Case study: For Us, By Us: Ora’anga Kopapa Matutu – A Tāmaki Auckland, Cook Island Māori Community-led Development Initiative (a case study on government ‘Good Practice Participate’ website)

(Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector, 2008)

For Us, By Us: Ora'anga Kopapa Matutu
  • Community ownership from the beginning, strong involvement of those most affected
  • Strengthen existing active local community connections, relationships, groups and organisations, to ensure local leadership and the involvement of the most relevant people
  • Active and careful listening
  • Adaptive and flexible.
Academic sector

Eruera 2010

‘Ma te Whānau te Huarahi Motuhake: Whānau participatory action research groups’

Nga Pae o te Maramatanga

(Eruera, 2010)

  • Use of Participatory Action Research (PAR) in research with whānau
  • PAR has potential for use within whānau Māori research projects when a ‘by whānau for whānau’ process is used.

Scott, Greenaway & Allen 2007

Engaging Urban Communities: Six Case Studies of Auckland Community-Based Restoration Projects

Landcare Research

(Scott, Greenaway, & Allen, 2007)

  •  Review of practices of community engagement, capacity-building and partnering
  • 6 community-based integrated catchment management (ICM) projects
  • Focuses on what is working well, challenges and lessons learnt.

Chile, Munford & Shannon 2006

‘Editorial: Community development practice in a bicultural context: Aotearoa New Zealand’

(Chile et al., 2006b)

  • Participatory, collaborative process with members of the client community defining what their needs and issues are, what they consider to be their wellbeing, and what processes would work best within their context.

Munford and Walsh-Tapiata 2006

‘Community development: Working in the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand’

(Munford & Walsh-Tapiata, 2006)

  • Kōhanga reo movement as success story of grassroots social change
  • Foreshore and Seabed protest 2004 as example of working collectively on a national level
  • Use of a bicultural framework for community-development practice – assert rights of indigenous groups and re-construct relationships between these groups and other communities based on difference rather than the domination of one group over another
  • Dynamic nature of community-development practice.

Eketone 2006

‘Tapuwae: A vehicle for community change’

(Eketone, 2006)

  • Tapuwae, a Māori-specific community-development project in Otago.
  • Traditional Māori ways of mobilisation contribute to more sustainable community-development outcomes
  • Changes benefiting Māori can also have positive outcomes for other population groups
  • Native Theory approach that focuses on a community’s strengths, using its cultural processes
  • Iwi connections were vital to success, also the role of tikanga and kawa
  • The ‘processes’ of a Māori community-action project may indeed be just as important as the ‘project outputs’.

Greenaway, Henwood & Witten 2004

‘Meta-analysing community action projects in Aotearoa New Zealand’

For Ministry of Health

(Greenaway & Witten, 2006)

  • Meta-analysis of 10 community action projects, including 6 Māori or Pacific communities specific projects (see below)
  • Other examples were Roughcut Youth Development project, Christchurch Youth Project
  • Māori-specific:
    • Moerewa Community Project
    • Waitomo Papakainga Tracker Project
    • He Rangihou New Day Project of Opotiki Safer Communities Council
  • Pacific communities-specific:
    • Pacifica Healthcare community garden
    • Peaceful Waves/Matangi Male Education for Non-Violence
    • PACIFICA nationwide governance and management project.
  • The projects were examined to identify commonalities in structures and processes that either enhanced or impeded the projects meeting their objectives for social change.
  • The importance of processes for critical reflection, the analysis of power dynamics between stakeholders, and recognition of the social, cultural and historical context of a project’s genesis are discussed.
  • Findings specific to Māori and Pacific communities:
    • Reflective practice driven by holistic worldview
    • Story-telling enabled spiritual, cultural, mental and physical aspects of a project to be incorporated into a reflective process
    • Located project issues clearly in the context of the community
    • Consistently reflected on dealing with the effects of colonisation on a culture and people, the results of powerlessness, and general alienation from inherent cultural strengths.
  • NB: Authors note that differences between Māori-specific, Pacific communities-specific and mixed-ethnicity projects existed more in priorities and form rather than in the type of processes that were important for creating change.


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03: Evaluation

Key messages

The community/NGO sector, in particular, has produced a range of relevant reports. The main government agencies that have produced work in this field are the Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Social Development, the Department of Labour (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment), and the Ministry of Health. This literature scan did not locate much material from local government, possibly because it is less likely than central government agencies to fund evaluations or reports on community-development work.

Some, but relatively fewer, reports are available that are specific to Māori and Pacific communities. The Whānau Ora initiative is a relevant promising approach that is producing emerging learning. Based on the identified reports that are specific to Māori or Pacific communities, additional key drivers for community development (or other community-level intervention) include a focus on addressing educational achievement and youth development. As part of the next steps in our scoping stage, we could contact relevant Māori and Pacific communities experts to help identify other material – eg Superu Māori and Pacific community contacts, Kataraina Pipi, Nan Wehipeihana and Fiona Cram (Whānau Ora Research), Alfred Ngaro MP (co-founder of Inspiring Communities and leader of Pacific communities-led community-development projects).

A recurring theme is the need for longer-term initiatives (eg at least five to seven years); yet some government-driven programmes (eg DIA 2011) have not funded community-development initiatives beyond an initial, short-term trial – despite achieving positive outcomes (Department of Internal Affairs 2011).

Other key messages include the need for:

  • Capacity-building at both community and government levels (eg strengthening local leadership, increasing government understanding and commitment to community development)
  • Purposeful reflection and review (continuous learning) resourced and built into the work (ie identify changes and outcomes, and how these occurred)
  • Flexibility to allow responsiveness to changing needs
  • Shared commitment to ‘place’, and the community defining its own needs and solutions
  • Strengths-based, intentional approaches, including cultural strengths, eg Native Theory
  • Recognition that the process of community-building, and use of Māori and Pacific community processes, can be as important a goal as project delivery
  • Collaborative partnering between communities and government (central and/or local), including new kinds of partnerships and ways of addressing power imbalances.


Mapping the evidence for effectiveness

Is there evidence in the literature that community development initiatives make a difference? What kind of evidence?

Yes, there is considerable qualitative evidence of the effectiveness of community development from evaluations, case studies and reviews, both internationally and in New Zealand (eg see Casswell, 2001; Department of Internal Affairs, 2013; Inspiring Communities & Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement, 2014). According to a recent New Zealand review, “community-led development makes an active and substantial contribution towards the ways in which people work as well as the outputs and outcomes they achieve together” (Inspiring Communities, 2013).

In New Zealand, few, if any, experimental or quasi-experimental studies have been undertaken to test the effectiveness of community-development interventions, due mainly to methodological challenges, and wide agreement in the literature that evaluation approaches based on the scientific method are inappropriately narrow and do not capture the wider benefits or unexpected outcomes that often arise in such initiatives (Boutilier, Rajkumar, Poland, Tobin, & Badgley, 2001; Casswell, 2001; Kelly, 2010). There is a strong focus in the New Zealand literature on presenting community-development case studies and distilling principles, process, and success factors, to provide rich knowledge about what works and how it works.

Internationally, particularly in the USA, some randomised controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies of community-level initiatives have been undertaken, but these would be more accurately described as community action initiatives rather than community development – eg Communities That Care (Jonkman et al., 2008; Kuklinski et al., 2012). Communities that Care evaluations have demonstrated improved outcomes in intervention compared with control communities on a range of outcomes including alcohol use, cigarette smoking, delinquent behaviour and violent behaviour in young people.


What outcomes have been measured or observed?

Table 3 below provides examples of outcomes that have been measured or observed in case studies and evaluations of community-development and community-action initiatives in this country, based on the outcomes of recent reviews. Within these generic reports are a number of examples of projects in or with Māori and Pacific communities.


Key New Zealand Reviews Examples of outcomes observed
Inspiring Communities & Tamarack (2014)
Review of place-based initiatives for poverty reduction
  • Improving the human, physical and economic development of poor neighbourhoods
  • Strengthened community capacity
  • Policy and systems change
  • Leveraging of further investment

DIA (2013)

Community-led development Year 2 evaluation report

  • Establishment of a community newsletter
  • River restoration
  • Local employment opportunities
  • Community asset-sharing (van)
  • Re-opening of marae/renovation of community building
  • Increased social cohesion through kōtahitanga and manaakitanga
  • Community engagement in the CLD process
  • Well-attended community events
  • Development of leaders
  • Greater sense of community
  • Community pride
  • Increased co-operation between community organisations

Inspiring Communities (2013)

Understanding and accelerating community-led development in Aotearoa NZ

  • Community market
  • Community garden
  • Youth centre
  • Community pantry
  • Tool library
  • Toy library
  • Women’s friendship group
  • Time bank
  • Economic development
  • Increased road safety
  • Neighbourhood connections

Inspiring Communities (2013)

Learning by doing: Community-led change in Aotearoa NZ

  • Increase in proportion of children ready for school
  • Drop in annual turn-over of school roll
  • Student achievement
  • Community purchase of grocery store

DIA (2011)

Review of selected New Zealand government-funded community development programmes

  • Enhanced levels of social capital
  • Development of infrastructure for new organisations
  • Strengthened whānau relationships
  • Strengthened relationships across stakeholders (horizontal and vertical)
  • Developing leadership within communities
  • Building capacity within community groups (eg financial management)
  • Improved access to local services
  • Improved educational and employment outcomes
  • Cultural development

MOH (2008)

Intersectoral community action for health

  • Indications of broader health outcomes resulting from some community-based intersectoral initiatives
  • Positive intermediate outcomes such as changes in people’s health-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviour
  • Changes in various aspects of the physical, economic, social and policy/legislative environment

Casswell (2001)

Community capacity building and social policy – what can be achieved?

  • Improved linkages between organisations resulting in co-ordinated activities and shared strategic direction
  • Involvement of new actors and new solutions
  • Bringing in new resources and pooling existing resources
  • Modification of services and/or institutional change to meet local needs
  • Improved perceptions of police by Māori communities and vice versa
  • Improved standing and visibility of Māori Trusts who collaborated to deliver the project


How has ‘effectiveness’ been defined in the literature?

The range of outcomes and outcome measures in Table 3 above gives some indication of how effectiveness has been defined. In the community-development literature there is generally a dual focus on ‘community capacity outcomes’ (France, 1999) (also called ‘intangible outcomes’ in DIA, 2013) and ‘tangible outcomes’ such as renovating and re-opening a marae, or raising pupil attendance and achievement at school. The recent Inspiring Communities review of eight case studies found: “The CLD initiatives clearly identify that the changes and outcomes they are most proud of are a combination of ‘what’ they achieved, as well as ‘how’ they have worked towards the achievement and ‘who’ they have worked together with” (Inspiring Communities, 2013b).

Within the community-development literature, improvements in community capacity and processes are seen as a valuable outcome in themselves (Casswell, 2001). “In CCIs [complex community initiatives] the process of community change is both the intervention and the intended outcome…and as such, we need an intentional focus on documenting the factors that influence change, not just in what the change results in on the other side” (Kelly, 2010, p 21). Thus there is a blurring or overlap between ‘process’ and ‘outcome’ evaluation in the community-development context. Sally Caswell explains:

The extent to which the community voices its own understanding of issues and possible solutions, collaborates with the media to advocate for community positions, and manages conflict and controversy when they arise, are all measures of community processes that are relevant to assessing the impact of community action as a contributor to policy development (Caswell, 2001, p29).

Responsiveness to Māori is often viewed as a key dimension of effectiveness in the evaluation of generic community development/action initiatives in this country (Ministry of Health, 2008; Nowland-Foreman & Pipi, 2009).


Evaluation frameworks

There are several examples in the New Zealand literature of evaluation frameworks or indicators that have been developed for assessing the quality and success of community-level interventions – eg the Community Project Indicators Framework (Duignan et al., 2003), and the Community-led Development Outcomes Framework (DIA, 2012, p 19). There is also recent discussion in the New Zealand literature about how and why community organisations should enhance their evaluation practices (Nowland-Foreman, 2013; Tunnicliffe, 2013). In 2013 Community Waitakere commissioned a review of best practice in community development evaluation (Tunnicliffe, 2013), and Victoria University/Volunteering New Zealand published a literature review on impact measurement in the voluntary sector (Blue, 2013). As discussed earlier, the Community Research-initiated ‘What Works’ project is currently developing a website to help to assess the impact and outcomes from the work of tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector organisations, including case studies and example tools (see the Community Research website).

Another key development in the New Zealand context is the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘Investing in Services for Outcomes’ workstream. This has included the development of a strategic investment framework, which is described on the Ministry of Social Development website in the following way:

“The Strategic Investment Framework supports getting results in our priority areas. These include:

  • reducing long-term welfare dependency (Welfare Reform)
  • supporting vulnerable children (Children’s Action Plan)
  • boosting skills and employment for young people (Youth Services)
  • reducing crime committed by children and young people.

The framework will guide funding decisions across the Ministry by:

  • defining the outcomes the Ministry wants to see and how the services we fund will help achieve these outcomes
  • outlining a robust process for identifying what services communities are currently receiving and what is needed
  • identifying funding priorities, including the mix of preventative and intensive services needed by communities
  • identifying a reliable and consistent way of showing the positive difference services are making in people’s lives.” (MSD website2)

Recent international literature also focuses on the question of how to measure success – for example, a series of reports from Tamarack in Canada (Weaver et al., 2010; Whaley & Weaver, 2010).


How do Māori and Pacific communities and evaluators define ‘effectiveness’?

Kaupapa Māori evaluation frames ‘effectiveness’ within a Māori worldview, acknowledging that Māori communities may have different interests and priorities from government departments or non-Māori researchers:

Rather than trying to describe programmes in terms that are accepted and largely legitimated in non-Māori research, we try to frame evaluations within a Māori worldview. For example, showing how a nutrition programme may have led to strengthening marae and iwi structures and why this is a successful impact has been part of another Whāriki evaluation (Moewaka Barnes, 2000).

Moewaka Barnes explains other distinguishing features of Māori evaluation:

Evaluation in general and Māori evaluation in particular is usually placed within the context of value and power. Below are some points likely to distinguish Māori from non-Māori evaluation:

  • It is controlled and owned by Māori
  • It meets Māori needs (although it may meet other needs as well)
  • It is carried out within a Māori worldview, which is likely to question the dominant culture and norms
  • It aims to make a positive difference (Moewaka Barnes, 2009).

The Whāriki Research Group (Massey University) have produced tools and guidance for Māori evaluation of public health programmes (egāori/HMB_Māori-Evaluation-Manual-2009.pdf). This guidance is not focused on evaluating community-level initiatives specifically, but is inclusive of such interventions. Katoa Ltd also provide a Māori perspective on evaluation –


What are the key tensions or challenges in evaluating the effectiveness of community-level initiatives?

It is widely acknowledged that evaluation of community development and community action is fraught with methodological challenges and complexity. There are a number of issues, including:

  • Many of the desired outcomes are difficult to measure or quantify, particularly capacity-building and social-capital outcomes (France, 1999).
  • Traditional impact/outcome evaluation is unlikely to capture impacts on community processes and capacity (Kelly, 2010).
  • Attributing causality is difficult in a complex community setting (Cram, 2013; France, 1999; Kelly, 2010).
  • Central government agencies are not yet sufficiently committed to, or skilled at, engaging with community organisations to jointly tackle societal problems (Building Better Government Engagement Reference Group, 2009).
  • There is a fundamental mismatch between community-development processes, which are evolutionary by definition, and ‘outcome funding’ models in which outcomes must be specified before funding is allocated (Burns & Brown, 2012).
  • Community development/action takes time; funders may have unrealistic expectations about how quickly outcomes will be achieved.
  • Community organisations have limited resources and capacity to collect and analyse data (Major & Brennan, 2011).
  • Funder expectations regarding reporting and accountability are often seen as overly onerous – eg the Community Intersectoral Action for Health evaluation report noted:

DHBs reported that hidden costs in meeting the Ministry of Health’s reporting requirements have been onerous, and the groups themselves have supplied high numbers of voluntary hours. The total cost of the projects is therefore much greater than is shown by the funding provided (Ministry of Health, 2008).

  • Funders and communities may have different priorities and information requirements. They may have conflicting ideas about what ‘success’ looks like (Moewaka Barnes, 2000; Major & Brennan, 2011).


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Last update: 26 May 2016