In May of 2022, a group of like-minded individuals, organisations and researchers published the findings of a detailed study to explore the potential of establishing an ethnic, community-led research and evaluation centre in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Funded by the Tindall Foundation, partners from Fikun Trust, Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC), Litmus research consultancy came together to learn how the proposed Centre for Ethnic Research Aotearoa (CERA) could help to increase evidence-based decision-making about funding, policy and services for ethnic communities across the socio-economic spectrum.  In particular, the research focused on the needs of Middle Eastern, African, Latin American and Asian communities in Aotearoa.

Driving better outcomes for ethnic communities

One of the core team behind the research, Tayo Agunlejika (Fikun Trust), says the goal is to drive better outcomes for whānau, communities and, ultimately, Aotearoa.  “We want the CERA to offer a self-sustaining, independent, professional and objective research and evaluation space with the support, engagement and representation of stakeholders including agencies, businesses, NGOs, academy institutions and the ethnic communities of Aotearoa,” he says.

After working in New Zealand’s community sector for more than a decade, Tayo has invested a lot of time both on the ground with NGOs and as an advisor and strategic mentor for others in the social impact space. 

During that time, he says he has noted a real need for evidence-based advocacy across the sector.  “Often, when research is conducted, it’s done in a transactional way.  Perhaps it’s conducted for a community instead of by that community.  Perhaps the funder or researcher has their own research objectives which will inevitably shape the results.  The work we aim to achieve through the Centre is to capture the voice of the ethnic communities that we are prioritising: what do they want and need, and what are the issues that they want to put forward.  To do that, they need research-based evidence in order to make legitimate requests and advocate for programme or policy change.”

The hope, Tayo says, is to learn from community researchers who are already working in the space in a way that is respectful, appreciated and trusted by those communities.  In doing so, he says, CERA can expect to get robust, pure data without it first being filtered through a third party research organisation. 

Collaboration Already Underway

The team behind the CERA report have already begun capturing data in this way by collaborating with organisations like Hui E! Community Aotearoa and Community Research to reach out directly to ethnic communities and get honest feedback. 

“Hui E!, Community Research, Te Hononga Akoranga COMET, Aotearoa Ethnic Communities AllianceAotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangam Inc (ANTS) and the African Communities Council Wellington (ACCW) played a big part in the process of gathering information for the report; they helped us to share the survey among their network and provided us with access to interview several of their staff.  This enabled us to share the survey more widely and provided us with a platform to conduct interviews and focus groups with members of the communities we’re trying to reach.”

Research Key Findings

Some of the key findings so far have included the importance of merging the principles of mainstream and indigenous research methodologies, the need for robust governance of the Centre, and the need for careful consideration of how to position the Centre in relation to tangata whenua. 

“We look at this as an and, and, and equation,” Tayo says.  “We need the research to incorporate both mainstream and indigenous methodologies.  We need the governance of the Centre to be social entrepreneurship and independent, while also making it representative of the community.  We also need to place the centre in such a way as to respect and partner with tangata whenua, and we know that there’s a lot of evidence still to be captured around all of these findings.  We’re only just scratching the surface.”

Next Steps

The group is currently promoting the report, tapping into community organisations and collecting feedback about what its findings mean to them. 

The next step, Tayo says, will be to bring people together around this idea of the CERA.  “We need to create a forum that focuses on relationship-building so that we can get as many ethnic communities and as much diversity represented in our stakeholder pool as possible.  This next phase will include a fact-finding exercise to connect with other organisations who see the CERA’s potential.  From that network, we hope to build on our governance team.  The report, in its current form, is a sort of placeholder.  Now that we have it, there are a lot of conversations to be had about what comes next.  We want to connect with communities to see what they think.  They are the experts of their own story.”

Access the Community Perspectives and Responses to Potentially Establishing an Ethnic, Community-Led Research and Evaluation Centre report here: 

To connect with Tayo, get involved and learn more about the CERA, email cera.org.nz@gmail.com.