Child Rich Communities: Aotearoa’s ‘Bright Spots’Civic engagement & citizenshipCommunity developmentEducationFaith-basedFamily/whānauHealthMāoriMentoringPacificRuralSport/recreation/outdoorsYoung people working with young peopleYouth participationReport
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:
- 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’.
- If families are well, then children are well.
- 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.
- Go beyond ‘social service delivery’: walk alongside people, use ‘soft doors’ (e.g. informal coffee groups, local events), and ensure reciprocity.
- No judgement. No stigma. Accessed by free-will.
- Change takes time – be there for the long-haul.
- Build on the positive first (before tackling the ‘negatives’): start with strengthening social connectedness and building trust.
- Relationships and individuals are key.
- 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.
- ‘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.