Improving Existing Public Services
Hear our voices
We sponsored a team led by New Zealand’s Social Wellness Agency (SWA) to enter the Lightning Lab GovTech Accelerator programme – where government agencies can tackle problems using a startup accelerator approach.
SWA is now creating software that collects and combines whānau voices with existing government data to change the way social sector contracts are deployed.
Truth, lies, and statistics – the background to measuring social service ‘success’
Measuring the impact of social services, and their effect, has always been a highly challenging and contestable area – because it’s so subjective.
More recently, social service metrics have been increasingly based on a budget-centric, outcomes-based, and quantitative methodology. Money in. Results out. Who won? Who lost? But the risk with this approach is that it can present a very one-dimensional picture. Do we really know how communities and individuals are doing? This has been especially frustrating for Māori communities – who are heavy users of social services.
It’s a well-known fact that there are significant inequalities between Māori and non-Māori. This gap exists in many areas, but it also exists in trust, who is being listened to, and how the listening occurs. Without better listening, how is it possible to ensure the social services for Māori are best deployed?
Whānau Māori are a large part of the customer base for social services, however, the decisions about these services have often been made without proper dialogue, kōrero, and conversation. Without listening to whānau voice, the people who are most affected are often not involved in the solution.
Enter: Team Manawa
Team Manawa – which included two existing Māori social service providers (from Palmerston North and Whangarei) working collaboratively with the Social Investment Agency – sought to address this with the creation of a web-based app called Te Ia Kōrero (meaning: The Stories) to ‘amplify whānau voice in the social sector’.
What is whānau voice?
The app they created asked whānau about their current state of wellbeing and how they found the services provided by social service providers. The information was then combined with existing information to produce more holistic, whānau-centred insights for service providers and agencies to potentially adjust, change, and more effectively deliver their social services.
The Manawa team’s software was underpinned by a wellbeing philosophy based on the four Māori dimensions of Hauora, documented by Māori scholar and author, Mason Durie:
- Taha Tinana (physical wellbeing)
- Taha Hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing)
- Taha Whānau (social wellbeing)
- Taha Wairua (spiritual wellbeing)
Who they talked to and why it mattered
While the core idea was to find a more holistic way to quickly measure the impact that social services have on the lives of whānau, the team first undertook comprehensive face-to-face qualitative research to determine a benchmark for how whānau felt about the current service.
They discovered that whānau already felt a deep sense of suspicion and cynicism about the existing service provision. And there was a sense that their voice didn’t matter to Ministries.
Conversely, service providers felt that whānau voices were not reflected in their contracts and there was too much focus on output-focused reporting. These reports didn’t show the full progress whānau were making towards their social goals and what they required.
Agencies also felt a degree of separation from whānau voices which wasn’t providing them with timely and reliable information. This had become a barrier to designing whānau-centric wellbeing services. Nobody was really happy with the status quo.
Te Ia Kōrero – a solution that works at three different levels
So how does the Te Ia Kōrero app actually work?
Firstly, for whānau users, Te Ia Kōrero works as an interactive survey and dashboard tool that they can use when they interact with a service provider.
It asks whānau to rate the importance of each taha at a particular time and weights this against how well whānau are doing in each taha. They can see their own wellbeing journey, what works, and what’s important.
Secondly, for service providers, the creation of a dashboard allows for integration with existing data from the service provider’s records coupled with insights from Te Ia Kōrero.
These anonymous insights show providers patterns of what works well and provides a more accurate and rounded understanding of the journey whānau have through their service.
And thirdly, for Government agencies, they can better implement contracts that reflect genuine wellbeing sentiment while knowing what actually matters to overall whānau wellbeing.
The Innovation Fund is proud to stand behind social innovation in Government
With the Innovation Fund’s support, Manawa took Te Ia Kōrero from concept to prototype over just 12 weeks during the Lightning Labs GovTech Accelerator programme held in Wellington.
Smart, innovative, audience-focussed services like Te Ia Kōrero make interacting with the New Zealand Government simpler and more efficient – but perhaps more importantly, more effective and meaningful.
Te Ia Kōrero is more than just software. It can make a real difference in people’s lives, help improve government service delivery, and it’s a richer and more nuanced way of measuring wellbeing – with the potential to be rolled out to help measure other Government programmes and service providers.
The future? What’s next?
Te Ia Kōrero was awarded $795,000 from the DIA’s Digital Government Partnership Innovation Fund in early 2020 to further develop the platform.
“Without listening to whānau voice, the people who are most affected are not involved in the solution. This results in a system that is not working for Māori – a system that ignores our voice and asks for the wrong information at the wrong time, in the wrong way,” says Te Tihi’s CEO, Materoa Mar.
A sentiment echoed by Te Hau Awhiowhio’s CEO, Martin Kaipo: “It has allowed us to set up a pathway for whānau to voice their messages around social wellness and what works for them. Connecting this information with the existing knowledge and data we have makes sure that agencies have the full picture.”
The funding will be released in two stages: the initial stage to develop and pilot a minimum viable product, and the remaining funding for a beta trial and scaling.
At The Innovation Fund, we’re delighted to have helped the Manawa team create a product that is so clearly focussed on improving the way whānau receive social services in New Zealand. It demonstrates a potential path for better social investment by the government, and better communities as a result.
To find out how you can apply to the Innovation Fund, visit How It Works
Without listening to whānau voice, the people who are most affected are not involved in the solution. This results in a system that is not working for Māori – a system that ignores our voice and asks for the wrong information at the wrong time, in the wrong way
Materoa Mar, CEO of Te Tihi