Co-production in a Maori context.

AuthorMcKenzie, Donna


In June 2006 six iwi and Maori authorities were engaged by Te Puni Kokiri to participate in a trial to develop an understanding of coproduction (joint development of policy and service delivery to realise shared strategic outcomes) in a Maori context. Co-production reflects a new approach, which is neither prescriptive nor intervention based, but is a shared outcomes method in which relationships are strengthened through redundant planning and action for joint outcomes. It is expected to become a way of working with iwi and Maori authorities to enable them to be influential in, if not the co-architects of, the design of policies and programmes that concern their people and their own resources. Te Puni Kokiri considers co-production has the potential to become a successful way in which iwi and Maori authorities and government joint ventures can accelerate Maori development aspirations. It is also an opportunity for co-production partners to engage in developing new Maori policy. Despite this, undertaking co-production has been, and is likely to continue to be, far more challenging in practice than thinking about it as a concept (Martin and Boaz 2000).


In recent years the New Zealand landscape of government--community relationships has changed significantly from a contract-only environment to one that encourages citizen participation and involvement in government activities. Te Puni Kokiri's co-production project has emerged from within this environment, primarily from what we have learned from the experiences and evaluations of our past policies and programmes. These have shown that better results are likely when government and Maori organisations are able to jointly plan and build strategies, infrastructure and capability.

It is this agency's challenge to provide quality advice to government on Maori issues and at the same time support Maori to realise their potential. This project aligns with Te Puni Kokiri's approach to Maori development, the Maori Potential Approach (MPA) (3). The MPA aims, by engaging in positive opportunities for interaction between iwi and Maori and government over the long term, to achieve the shared strategic outcome of Maori succeeding as Maori. The MPA is a strengths-based philosophy as opposed to a deficit or problem-centred model.

Te Puni Kokiri's ultimate aim is to better place Maori to build and leverage their collective resources, knowledge, skills and leadership capability to improve their overall life quality. The concept of co-production aligns with the guiding principles of the MPA in that it:

* affirms Maori as a diverse, aspirational people with a distinctive culture and value system

* recognises the Maori community and their indigenous culture as a net contributor to the identity, wellbeing and enrichment of wider society

* affirms the capability, initiative and aspiration of Maori to make choices for themselves.

In addition to the MPA principles, the core assumptions of the co-production project are that:

* it is a catalyst for Maori potential

* iwi and Maori authorities are the primary interface and are best placed for working with whanau

* iwi and Maori authorities of sufficient capability and capacity are the most appropriate organisations to engage with government in a strategic capacity to achieve best outcomes for Maori.


Co-production is more than a "bottom up" community development model and does not aim simply to promote community planning and user-focused services. It involves a more active role for iwi and Maori authorities in designing and delivering local services, as well as providing the opportunity to influence the policy process by working with government to invest in shared outcomes for Maori.

Because little was known of what co-production in a Maori context involves, Te Puni KOkiri has engaged in a multi-year trial in conjunction with six iwi and Maori authorities to test this approach. Thus far, it is clear to us that co-production is a shared outcomes method, characterised by an emphasis on high-quality, long-term relationships that are more than working or contractual relationships.

Part of this work has meant establishing a working definition, which states:

Co-production is a shared outcomes method premised on a long-term valuesbased relationship between organisations of sufficient capacity and capability with the ability to represent a Maori collective. This means each partner works together, within their distinctive and unique environments, to realise mutually agreed beneficial outcomes for the realisation of whanau, hapu and iwi potential. A values-based relationship in a Maori context necessarily involves acknowledging the importance of Maori cultural concepts and values to iwi and Maori authorities. Any engagement must therefore recognise the mana of all partners and the difference between "lore" and "law". Each partner must also have, or be able to develop, the organisational capacity and capability to undertake long-term, strategic policy and programme development and implementation. Although there are similarities with the Government's Managing for Outcomes strategy, the difference is in the kinds of organisations involved and, more particularly, the non-material rewards from participation.

In summary, co-production is both relationship and activity, both concept and process. Developing relationships, strategic planning, creating policy and implementing programmes all require time to be effective. A phased or measured approach is therefore most likely to yield the best results. Te Puni Kokiri regards co-production as a real opportunity to achieve best outcomes for Maori.


The concept of co-production was developed by a group of academics at the end of the 1970s in reaction to what they considered were problems with dominant theories of the time about urban governance and centralisation, and to address the failure of conventional development programmes (Ostrom 1996, Whitaker 1980). These academics were concerned with the idea of engaging citizens in both the design and production of public services. At the same time, Edgar Cahn was developing his concept of an alternative currency he termed "time dollars". Cahn developed a theory to explain why and how this currency could change the dynamics of social welfare programmes, which he too termed co-production (Boyle n.d.). Both models have similar aims: to give responsibility to and involve those who have in the past been regarded as "the problem" in creating solutions for themselves. It is the opposite of deficit thinking and offers an alternative to only public or only private service provision (Boyle n.d.).

Recent interest in the concept of co-production has coincided with a desire for increasing citizen involvement in the design and delivery of government services by many Western and other democratic governments. The form of participation is also an important factor in the kinds of activities undertaken. There are operational challenges for both government and citizens because co-producing and participation may take various forms. There can, for example, be a difference between consultation and engagement, and in the level and degree of obligation between partners (Martin and Boaz 2000). Co-production also requires a high level of active engagement by all partners in time, resources and energy that many may be unable or unwilling to commit. Such involvement may not suit everyone due to this high degree of activity, and there is the potential for it to be seen as a burden rather than a benefit as not all co-producers will have the same...

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