In 2014 the Families Commission Act was amended to give the Families Commission a new function alongside its role as advocate for the interests of families (and whānau). In addition to advocacy, the Commission was made responsible for monitoring and evaluating programmes and interventions in the social sector, and providing social science research into key issues, programmes, and interventions across that sector.
To make it clear that it was embarked on a new path, the Families Commission rebranded itself as the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit, or Superu.
It thus joined a long line of initiatives in New Zealand aimed at boosting the use of research and evidence in the social sector. Few of these past initiatives have survived, and indeed Superu lasted less than three years before it was given notice that it too would be disestablished.
This report was not commissioned to enter into the debate about social science, social research or social investment. Nor was it to fully analyse the reasons for Superu’s demise. Rather, the underlying consultation was seen as a high level sweep of knowledge about a relatively narrow range of past social sector research initiatives, to identify any generic factors contributing to their success or failure. The aim of this report is to inform future initiatives and improve their chances of success.