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    Local Employment Coordination
    by Jan Francis

    from The Jobs Letter No.98 / 27 April 1999

    Me whakawhirinaki ki te whakawhiwhi mahi
    Working together for employment

    The network of Local Employment Co-ordination groups were set up by the National government in 1996 in response to the recommendations from the Prime Ministerial Taskforce on Employment. They have become an important resource in developing "local solutions to local employment problems". The initial goals of LEC were to:
    -- make sure all Government agencies are co-operating and working together, to ensure co-ordination of services to their communities, and
    -- resolve unemployment problems in a pro-active way through a co-operative approach between the public, private and community sectors.

  • Employment is still a critical issue in our communities that needs action and results. It is an issue within which no-one is "in charge" ... an issue where each area of action --government, business, community and individual-- sees the problem differently and offers different parts of the solution. This diversity of perspectives can be seen as an obstacle for co-ordinated action ... or it can be seen as a creative asset that has the potential to generate many innovative solutions.

    The leadership needed in this issue is one that brings together the goals and strategies of a variety of people and organisations, and understands the process of fostering co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation in order to achieve a common good.

    "The leadership needed in this issue is one that brings together the goals and strategies of a variety of people and organisations, and understands the process of fostering co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation in order to achieve a common good."

  • Partnerships, alliances, networks, clusters, co-operation and collaboration are all common objectives in strategic and business plans of the 1990's. Throughout New Zealand, these initiatives have included examples from the private sector (Joint Action Groups, "hard business" networks and regional clusters); the public sector (the Strengthening Families project, Safer Community Councils, The Foresight Project of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology); and the community sector (Councils of Social Services, Runanga committees, informal networks, local authority facilitated liaison committees).

    This range of initiatives illustrates the growing understanding that co-ordination of activities and developing working partnerships have the potential to improve economic prospects, strengthen social cohesion and increase sustainability.

    The LEC groups have been one more example of these growing partnerships. They have assumed that flexibility and responsiveness is best achieved by involving local communities in decision making and allowing autonomy at the local level. They have also set out to prove that this flexibility and responsiveness will deliver better outcomes for employment policy.

  • Today there are forty-two groups around New Zealand (38 geographic-based, two Maori, and two Pacific Island) with 750 participating members from the public, private and community sectors. These groups are now regionally-based under the auspices of the WINZ Regional Commissioners, and are serviced by contracted, part-time co-ordinators.

  • All LEC groups have been expected to develop and maintain local employment and labour market profiles, agree on goals to improve employment opportunities, provide better information about employment assistance to members of their communities and plan for collaborative action to improve the employment outlook at the local level.

    The groups have worked on a number of successful initiatives which have included :
    -- joint ventures to address unemployment and training issues and leverage local funds and resources to achieve better outcomes for their communities.
    -- facilitation of community economic development programmes.
    -- initiatives to assist economic development and employment on marae.
    -- public forums and debates on employment issues.
    -- front-line staff training programmes across agencies.
    -- development of co-operative protocols between agencies dealing with the same clients.
    -- development of seamless service strategies and the production of agency directories.

  • In 1998, an external evaluation of the LEC groups was undertaken by the WEB Research Team. In their final report, they pointed out that LEC participants were seeing the tangible benefits of the co-ordination, including :
    -- Being able to keep in touch with developments in the government sector which because of the amount of change occurring, was otherwise very difficult to do.
    -- Being able to break down and challenge the assumptions and `myths' that often prevailed around the different organisations involved.
    -- People's awareness was being raised and, in some cases, attitudinal changes were occurring through exposure to other viewpoints and realities.
    -- There were considerable professional development opportunities for individuals both in the information and networking areas.
    -- New relationships were being forged that were helping individuals in their own jobs as well as spinning off into other activities.
    -- LEC involvement was educational and helped raise the level of debate about important local issues.
    -- In a number of cases, LECs had helped relationships develop between key government agencies. This was one of the main benefits also mentioned by senior managers.

    (Source Web Research, LEC Evaluation Report, 1998)

  • As soon as the LEC groups were established, it became very clear that co-operative ways of working needed to be developed before any real progress could be made. Generally speaking this involves developing trust and building relationships across the cultural boundaries that define central government, local government, private sector and community sector agencies. Working on joint initiatives, sharing agency information and hosting local events have all aided this process. But the skill development and support for these activities needs to be on-going.

    The Local Employment Co-ordination initiative is still relatively new. The integration of LEC into the new WINZ department provides an opportunity to develop further strategies for local effectiveness on the employment issue.

  • A paper called "Local Employment Co-ordination What can a Regional Commissioner do?" by Jan Francis and Vivian Hutchinson is available on The Jobs Research Website at

  • Vivian Hutchinson has also just published his paper "Co-operation, Collaboration and Co-ordination the challenges of working together on unemployment and poverty" and it is available on The Jobs Research Website at

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