1 November 2016

A unique model for making social services more reachable to those who may be regarded as ‘hard to reach,’ has been developed by a Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) led collaborative team including, the University of Canterbury, Victoria University of Wellington and Indigemo Ltd.

The three year research project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), concluded this year and the findings will be presented at a national symposium hosted by the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (Superu) in early November. The symposium will be attended by policy workers, social service providers and researchers.

Early on in the project the researchers recognised that ‘hard to reach’ was a problematic way of thinking about individuals and whānau. “We felt that those considered to be ‘hard to reach’ may not necessarily see themselves that way - it may be that the services are hard to reach. The researchers chose to focus on making services reachable,” said Dr Jeff Foote. 

“The research took an ecosystems approach, highlighting how uptake of service comes from the interaction between a social service, a client and the client’s family, plus the wider service ecosystem.”

The research team has developed an evidence-based practical model to support the social sector to design, implement and evaluate services to make them easier to reach.

Working with three service providers - Family Help Trust, He Waka Tapu and Q-nique (now Pact Wellington) and their clients, the researchers developed the model that has already been used to inform the co-design of a housing initiative for ‘rough sleepers’ in Auckland. “The final year of the project built on past work to develop networks and relationships to deliver increasing benefit to the social sector. We involved the case study service providers in a cross-case analysis which enabled them to learn from each other about how their services can be made more reachable.”

Other initiatives under the collaborative research project included facilitating a capacity building workshop for Christchurch-based social services and providing briefings for organisations seeking to make their services more reachable.

The collaboration between the research organisations continues to be productive and has led to further collaborative research. Findings are also being applied beyond New Zealand. “Our research findings have been used in a community engagement to design an aid programme in Kiribati.” Interest has also come from as far away as Sweden, France and Mexico. 

Currently the team is working with Superu to enhance the wider dissemination of the research. The symposium on Friday 4 November, will share insights from the project and present a practical model for designing, improving or assessing how social service agencies establish and sustain constructive engagement with individuals and whānau in order to ensure their services are reachable. link)


Making Services Reachable: National Symposium

Friday 4 November   2pm

Nau Mai Meeting Room Ground Floor,

Te Puni Kōkiri House,

143 Lambton Quay,




For further information about the research contact:

Dr Jeff Foote, ESR


Phone: 03 351 0016



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