The Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee (SPEaR) was established by Government in 2001. The SPEaR Terms of Reference included a specific function to promote the utilisation of "best practice" approaches, tools and techniques through development (where necessary) and/or dissemination.
SPEaR agreed that guidelines were desirable as there were particular areas of practice where improvement was needed. It was decided to concentrate on four initial areas: Contracting, Ethics, Māori and Pacific Peoples, to be followed with Newer Settlers and Sensitive Topics.
The first phase of work involved searching for and assessing existing guidance material – produced in this country and overseas. The available ‘literature’ was almost exclusively around research ethics – mostly research ethics in a university context. ‘Codes of Ethics’ were almost exclusively limited to one particular academic discipline with the ‘practice’ focus on fieldwork (interviews etc) or on the use of human tissue. Research contracting material was extremely limited and covered a very small part of the contracting cycle. There was some material covering aspects of research involving Māori and some on Kaupapa Māori Methodology. Very little material was available on research involving Pacific peoples. The conclusion – that much of the Guideline content would need to be developed and consultation would be essential.
The Guidelines have directly involved some 200+ people over several years. There have been two major workshop consultations (2004, 2005), presentations and discussions at conference sessions and seminars, contracted working group sessions (Māori, Pacific Peoples), individual feedback, group feedback and peer review.
These Guidelines are primarily designed for government agency officials who design, commission and/or manage social research or evaluation contracts or undertake such projects as part of their employment. They will also have relevance for the many stakeholders in social policy research and evaluation - public servants, academics, students, private sector or third sector/NGO researchers and evaluators, research participants or communities of interest.
The Guidelines are ‘a living document’ and will be updated from time to time.