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The Southern Initiative: reviewing strengths and opportunities

Ingrid Burkett, Australian Centre for Social Innovation TASCI
The Southern Initiative | Auckland Council
Publication date:  

The Southern Initiative is undertaking comprehensive, grounded and impressive work. A world-class place-based initiative, it combines a number of innovative approaches to shift outcomes in a community that has experienced some challenging issues over many years.

The first part of this review provides an overview of the core strengths of TSI. The second outlines the key opportunities identified that could further strengthen outcomes.

The ‘cradle-to-career’ spectrum outlines the key intervention points that have been identified in research as critical to addressing and reversing place-based disadvantage. TSI covers more points on this spectrum more deeply than any other single place-based initiative the reviewer has encountered.

TSI is systemic in its reach. This approach goes beyond a purely ‘social’ or welfare approach, to incorporate and join together community development and economic development.

TSI is an excellent example of how economic and social policy can be integrated and local growth inclusive. The TSI model could be promoted as a showcase of inclusive growth in action internationally.

TSI has work on both supply and demand sides of systems such as the labour market, undertaking projects focused on training jobseekers (e.g. Maori Pasifika Trades Training) and in building strong local businesses (e.g. through its procurement work). This too is a fine example of linking and integrating policy and practice.

TSI is able to effectively understand where to focus efforts AND how to engage people in creating the changes needed to generate real and lasting outcomes. This effectively links evidencebased practice with practice-based evidence.

TSI focusses on ensuring ‘solutions’ have transformational potential. So, for example, in the employment arena, rather than merely focusing on adding more jobs to the South Auckland region and linking people to available jobs, there is a genuine attempt to understand what kinds of jobs have potential for personal, family and community transformation. In this way TSI recognises merely linking people to ‘jobs’ that are unstable or only move people from a position of being poor to being ‘working poor’ actually exacerbates people’s levels of cumulative stress, resulting in poorer personal and intergenerational outcomes.

The work TSI has undertaken to develop approaches that not only put Culture at the centre of practice, but which actually grow practice out of Culture, is exemplary.

The review finishes with an exploration of three opportunities that could strengthen TSI’s transformative work. First, developing a stronger Theory of Change would assist TSI to reflect strategically on its future work, and evaluate the outcomes generated along the way. Second, focusing not only on developing individual programme areas but on the ways in which mutually beneficial connections between them could be intentionally built, could strengthen the transformative nature of outcomes TSI seeks. Finally, as clear outcomes start to emerge from the work, TSI will inevitably need to think about how to scale or spread these to other areas in Auckland and beyond. It is recommended that doing this intentionally and reflecting on it early will help keep the integrity of the initiative, and ensure scaling the work retains the transformative agenda so evident in the work of TSI

August 2017

See also

The Southern Initiative