Takoha case study: Nōku te Ao procurement process

14 Dec 2023

Takoha is a tool to help us understand if, and how, we are making a difference to the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

Nōku te Ao: Like Minds is the new strategic direction for the Like Minds, Like Mine programme, which was launched in 1997. Nōku te Ao: Like Minds seeks to end prejudice and discrimination against those experiencing mental distress throughout Aotearoa.

The redesign of the programme in 2021 was motivated by a need to strengthen focus on those experiencing higher and compounded levels of mental distress, such as Māori and Pacific peoples. The move to a new strategic direction brought with it new opportunities to engage with providers, or partners, in a way that honoured Te Tiriti o Waitangi and was mana-enhancing for those communities experiencing mental distress prejudice and/or discrimination.

To make the most of these opportunities, an adapted procurement process was formed to procure partners for three Nōku te Ao work-streams: Management of Social Action Grants, a Social Movement Initiative and Settings-based Education for Social Change.

Redesigning the process

The procurement process for Nōku te Ao partners was designed to strengthen the voices of those benefitting from the programme

The key aims of the new procurement process were to encourage a more diverse range of organisations to apply for provider contracts and to target organisations representing the priority groups of Nōku te Ao.

These priority groups, or benefit groups, are those with lived experience of mental distress and those more likely to suffer higher rates of prejudice and discrimination, such as Māori. As such, Nōku te Ao procured partners based on the goals and principles that informed the programme itself. This included kaupapa Māori principles - tino rangatiratanga, taonga tuku iho, mātauranga Māori, whānau and mana tangata. In addition there were principles specifically shaped for procurement:

  • Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • Investing for equity
  • Equitable procurement
  • Collaborative planning and design
  • Leadership and guidance by Nōku te Ao benefit groups
  • Having flexible contracting
  • Commissioning for long-term sustainable solutions.

These principles align with key enablers of Takoha:

  • applying Te Tiriti articles,
  • Ngā Manukura
  • Te Mana Whakahaere (community self-determination)
  • Mahi Tahi (strategic partnerships and collaboration).

What was done differently?

Revising old systems

Key changes to the traditional government procurement approach included increasing decision-making power for partners and communication efforts.

Standard competitive procurement models are process-orientated and revolve around transactions. In this model, programme teams have key oversight functions, with little involvement from those outside of the programme. Notification of the Request for Proposals (RFP) is usually made via the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) only, although it may be shared wider in some circumstances. Potential providers are generally given a timeframe to ask questions to inform their proposal, before submitting. Written proposals are received and discussed internally by the evaluation panel. Evaluation criteria are based on things like capability, capacity, cost and other specific needs for the programme. The proposals are scored by the panel against these criteria and a contract is drawn up for the successful candidate. For those who are not successful, feedback may be given so they can strengthen future proposals.

For Nōku te Ao, core requirements of a standard procurement model were used, including RFPs, evaluation criteria and panel scoring. However, some elements were revised.

Procurement design and early communications emphasised collaboration

Mahi Tahi, Ngā Manukura and Te Mana Whakahaere can be seen in the early stages of the process, as the procurement plan itself was designed with Nōku te Ao benefit groups.

This way of working was informed by Nōku te Ao’s principles of collaborative planning and design, and leadership and guidance by Nōku te Ao groups. The expert groups included the Tangata Whenua Advisory Group and Te Hiringa Hauora internal Lived Experience staff. Additionally, an independent Kaupapa Māori specialist from KPMG provided procurement advice and chaired all meetings and wānanga. This was to ensure and uphold tikanga and kawa through the process.

The expansion of the procurement communications also demonstrates Mahi Tahi and upholding the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In addition to standard GETS communication, a dedicated Like Minds procurement website was built to circulate information to a wider and more relevant audience. The website included a glossary of key terms, in-depth FAQs and a video, ‘He Karanga’, featuring Te Hiringa Hauora Chief Executive Tane Cassidy and Programme Lead Harley Rogers, inviting organisations to apply. The website took a unique approach to providing an easier and more personal platform for potential partners to engage with the procurement opportunities.

The Nōku te Ao team held three kanohi ki te kanohi hui in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to wānanga with people who were interested in the kaupapa. This way of working meant potential providers had more time and opportunity to ask questions and discuss the kaupapa before applying. This accommodated and increased accessibility for organisations outside of mainstream providers.

Interested partners were invited to submit Registrations of Interest, and short-listed respondents were invited to discuss their proposals before evaluation

To further increase accessibility for potential providers, Registrations of Interest (ROIs) for the Social Movement Initiative and the Settings-based Education for Social Change work streams were requested first.

An ROI allows potential providers to show interest and learn more about the programme, without committing the resource to a full proposal in the first instance. These were accepted not only in standard, written long-form but also written short-form accompanied by a short video. They were accepted in te reo Māori (or a mix of Māori and English). By increasing efforts to reach out to a wider community and increase forms of communication allowed, the response process was intended to be more accessible and encourage more benefit group organisations to apply.

Following ROIs, three short-listed candidates for each of the two work-streams were invited to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) then attend a wānanga with the evaluation panel, (kanohi ki te kanohi/face-to-face or via Zoom), to discuss their interest and the development of their proposal. Here, Te Hiringa Hauora could ask questions of potential partners, ask focused questions on behalf of the evaluation panel members and encourage potential partners to ask questions of their own, in order to balance and shift power indecision-making. This form of open communication was intended to lay the foundation for more authentic relationships with prospective partners. This is an example of how Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Ngā Manukura and Te Mana Whakahaere, and Mahi Tahi can work in practice.

Proposals were submitted for all three work-streams. The proposal evaluation panel included people who represent the benefit groups of Nōku te Ao. Additionally, the criteria for evaluation included:

  • prioritised cultural expertise and lived experience of mental distress
  • nationwide connections with the sector and lived experience communities
  • alignment of organisational values with the Like Minds kaupapa
  • the ability to work in partnership with other organisations (kotahitanga).

When partners were chosen, bespoke relationship agreements were negotiated between Te Hiringa Hauora and preferred partners, with support from Kaupapa Māori lawyers. Negotiations were made around the scope of work expected. The agreements helped to foster more reciprocal relationships and keep both parties legally accountable to each other, as opposed to solely transactional relationships. The standard contract templates, such as Government Model Contracts, used in traditional procurement limit the input of partners on agreements and give more weight to Te Hiringa Hauora priorities over community priorities. Relationship Agreements are more dynamic.

The evaluation panel and Relationship Agreements demonstrated a commitment to power-sharing by giving priority communities high-level decision-making power.

All respondents were offered debriefing following selection of partners

Debriefing for all applicants was offered, with kanohi kite kanohi debriefings being favoured, to continue relationship-building.

Overall, this adapted procurement process was focused heavily on relationships, communication, and power-sharing. It demonstrates how Mahi Tahi, Ngā Manukura and Te Mana Whakahaere, and the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi can be embedded into practice.