Towards better social sector decision making and practice - A social wellbeing approach

Towards better social sector decision making and…
01 Feb 2020
Towards better social sector decision making and…
01 Feb 2020


The Social Wellbeing Agency partnered with The Southern Initiative to explore the benefits of combining data, science, and lived experience – specifically looking at contributing to child, youth and family wellbeing in South Auckland. With this work, we wanted to better understand the conditions of prolonged cumulative stress South Auckland whānau were experiencing around the birth of a child, and identify what might help keep whanau strong and resilient.


A social wellbeing approach is about ‘real people’ – tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and communities – contributing to and benefitting from the work we do every day as researchers, data scientists, policy advisors or policy makers. It takes knowledge produced from science and data and makes it useful by melding it with the lived experiences of real people to create new insights for better social sector decision making and practice.

By using data alongside people’s lived experiences, we get the advantages of both. Large data sets let researchers see possible trends and estimate how many people might be affected. Lived experiences show us how such trends impact on people’s journeys and tell us what is important to people so data can look for patterns that matter.

Key Results

Resolving complex social and economic challenges requires the collective effort of government and communities. 

Working together, our diverse perspectives and skillsets can make smarter inroads into the heart of these challenges.

We make better use of data when we have a breadth of people making sense of it.

The South Auckland context demonstrates the need to better understand the challenges facing whānau, including significant life events, to ensure people have access to services and supports that work for them.

It is possible for agencies and communities to work productively together to enable government to respond to the challenges in people’s lives in a more transformational and impactful way.

Deeply meaningful, accessible and cost-effective whānau engagement can produce insights that help deliver better social sector decision making and practice. This case study shows the tangible value of whānau knowledge and wisdom in contributing to complex co-designed projects. It also encourages us, and other agencies, to think of ways of using big data to support and validate small scale, less costly whānau engagement in early prototype development and testing for policy, service delivery or other social innovations.

The partnership approach and methodology developed in this Project make an exciting advance in how to go about delivering better social sector decision making and practice.

Page last modified: 14 Nov 2023