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The development of the strategy drew on the findings of a review by the Centre for Social Impact of the current and emerging needs of the region.

 “We wanted to identify what our priorities should be to make the most of this opportunity for sustained investment.  Our overall vision is to use our grants to make a real difference for everyone who lives in our communities,” Foundation Strategy, Planning & Evaluation manager Chloe Harwood says.  “The Centre’s research provided the robust evidence base we needed to understand how the region is changing, where the needs are greatest, and where our grants can have the biggest impact.”

Kat Dawnier, CSI lead on the research project, said good data is a powerful tool for determining strategy.

“The challenge for the Foundation and for other philanthropic organisations that have a broad role of supporting community outcomes is to understand how the communities they serve are changing and how they will look in 15 or 30 years’ time.  Data can be critical in providing focus so that organisations are ready to respond.”

An initial evidence review completed by CSI highlighted that the trends of rapid population growth, particularly in Auckland, increased ethnic diversity, and a growing proportion of people aged over 60 will see the Foundation serving very different communities in the future. It revealed key systemic issues and disparities, and provided evidence that addressing disparities can lead to positive outcomes for everyone in the region. 

“This ‘big picture’ review showed how issues are interconnected, which helped the Foundation think about what they wanted to achieve in terms of enabling key outcomes, rather than supporting specific sectors or activities,” Kat says.  “This broad evidence base helped the Foundation to identify priority issues.”

More targeted research was then carried out in Northland, South Auckland, and refugee and migrant communities.

“This provided a richer and more nuanced look at how issues around housing, education, health and employment affect outcomes for families, whānau and communities. This was really useful in supporting Foundation North to start thinking about long-term strategies and approaches that might work best in moving the dial for communities.”

Kat stresses the value of including stakeholder and community engagement in the research process.

“Sometimes ‘cold’ data can be difficult to relate to or make sense of.  Speaking to key experts and people at the grassroots of community offers a different insight - not just about the issue, but about the unique role that the Foundation can play in enabling solutions.  The value of this engagement will continue as FN turns its attention from strategy design to implementation.”

The strong relationship the Centre has with the Foundation team was also an advantage, Chloe says. 

“There is a confidence that the CSI team understand our intentions.  They were also willing to co-design and work flexibly with us as information and ideas emerged.  The result of pulling together the skills and knowledge of both organisations was that we were able to deliver a process that met the needs of our board of trustees