Place-Based Initiatives Evaluation – Social Wellbeing Agency

Social Wellbeing Agency

Learn how the Social Wellbeing Agency (SWA) evaluated Place-Based Initiatives to learn from this innovative collective approach as evidence for future resourcing decisions.


New Zealand needed to trial a new approach to social services to create better outcomes as called for in the Productivity Commission’s 2015 report. Once Place-Based Initiative (PBI) trials were undertaken, they didn’t know the extent of the success or how to improve.


The establishment of three unique PBIs focused on young people. SWA (then the Social Investment Unit) provided ongoing analytical and data support. SWA contracted an independent organisation to evaluate the PBIs to influence future funding decisions. The evaluation found "positive whānau outcomes and sustained system change" including whānau feeling heard, having someone reliable to turn to, and learning new skills.

Observations and lessons learnt

Collaboration with the public and non-government entities


PBIs are inherently about innovation, trialling a new approach to social investment using "the expert knowledge and judgement of local decision makers, in conjunction with national level data and analysis in order to gain a much improved understanding of what the local needs are."¹ One of the PBIs was iwi led (Manaaki Tairāwhiti), which is a new approach to services and the Crown-Treaty relationship.

¹ Bennett, P. (2016). Social Investment Approach for Māngere Children. Retrieved 14 March 2017 from


The team used the expression "managing the tension" to signal to the wider team that they were about to bring up a sticky issue that was important to discuss respectfully and safely. Without that mechanism, people wouldn’t have brought up certain matters. Partnerships are always a work in progress and part of an ongoing relationship.

Honouring Te Tiriti


Te Tiriti was the basis for the foundational principles of the evaluation success framework and reflected in the evaluation questions, ensuring a direct connection between the information gathered and the Crown-Māori relationship in the PBIs.

Processes and adaptability


One of the initiatives in Te Tai Tokerau stopped. Innovation is risky, but that didn’t kill the whole concept, nor should it. Each of the three trials was done distinctly to learn about different approaches. The initiatives also attempted to use the IDI and the Bayesian method to quantify value. However, this did not work (mainly as IDI is deficit based and not reflective of Māori wellbeing values)  so they too stopped before there were misaligned deliverable expectations relating to IDI use.



A formal evaluation can produce the evidence of success needed to craft a business case for future resourcing. In this case, ask the minister for more funding.


MID 2016


53 hui with 1047 participants in 27 locations.


LATE 2018

National support

SWA has national support function.


MID 2019


Implementation and emerging outcomes evaluation completed.


MAR 2020

Public access

Evaluation made public.

JUN 2020

Cabinet paper

Cabinet Paper seeking baseline funding.

MAR 2020

Confirmed funding

Funding confirmed by Cabinet.

More Case Studies

Learn how the Ministry For the Environment (MFE) automated some mandatory reporting requirements as part of New Zealand’s commitments under the UNFCCC to save time and resources, improve transparency, and streamline processes.

Learn how the Social Wellbeing Agency (SWA) evaluated Place-Based Initiatives to learn from this innovative collective approach as evidence for future resourcing decisions.

Read how the Social Wellbeing Agency (SWA) provides an open source tool and instructions to make Integrated Data Infrastructure’s (IDI) data wrangling faster and easier for researchers.