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Child Rich Communities:  Aotearoa’s ‘Bright Spots’

This report explores New  Zealand’s ‘Bright Spots' – local places and community initiatives that are making a positive difference to children and families. Instead of asking about the issues and problems for ‘vulnerable children’ or ‘high-needs families’, we ask ‘what’s working?’ What are ‘bright spots’ doing that is different from the rest of the country? Why are they having an impact?

A total of twenty-one initiatives were explored through informal interviews and conversations. The initiatives ranged in size and scale, age, geography, entity type (e.g. unincorporated community groups/ leaders, not-for-profit agencies, corporations). 

While there were many different approaches to working and supporting children, families and communities, ten key learnings emerged:

  1. See local people as the greatest asset, not a ‘problem to be fixed’: Local people should be viewed as an important resource, rather than being ‘vulnerable’, ‘high-needs’, or ‘broken’.
  2. If families are well, then children are well.
  3. Counter the culture of disempowerment: Local people should be encouraged to recognise their own power, reignite their dreams and aspirations. The focus is on what is working already in communities.
  4. Go beyond ‘social service delivery’: walk alongside people, use ‘soft doors’ (e.g. informal coffee groups, local events), and ensure reciprocity.
  5. No judgement. No stigma. Accessed by free-will.
  6. Change takes time – be there for the long-haul.
  7. Build on the positive first (before tackling the ‘negatives’): start with strengthening social connectedness and building trust.
  8. Relationships and individuals are key.
  9. Being a ‘local’ gives you a head start: some bright spots were started or championed by a member of the same community they were trying to effect change in.
  10. ‘Externals’ can still make a difference: Some bright spots were started by an external person/organisation. They had to work harder to build relationships and gain the community’s trust and ownership.
Author: Michelle Wanwimolruk Publication date: 01 Dec 2015 Read the report