Here we highlight a range of evaluation and research projects that Dovetail has led or partnered:

  • NZ-VR, an evaluation of technology that merges ocean conservation and virtual reality

  • Te Auaunga, an evaluation of outcomes and learning from a neighbourhood-based social procurement initiative

  • Signature Programme, exploring learning from an umbrella of innovative road safety projects

  • Virtual Health, a review of learning from electronic and mobile health initiatives

  • Te Ara Mua - Future Streets, a controlled before and after study of safer street interventions.


Blake (formerly known as the Sir Peter Blake Trust) and NZ Geo, with seed funding from Foundation North, partnered to bring virtual reality technology into ocean conservation. The result was NZ-VR, a web-based platform of New Zealand’s marine environment, combined with a schools programme using VR headsets led by emerging environmental leaders.

Dovetail partnered with Blake in the early development and piloting of the schools programme, where early stage technology and learning materials were tested, and where rapid processes of feedback from students and teachers enabled the design to be refined for wider implementation. As the programme rolled out over Auckland schools in 2019, we were able to explore with students and teachers the impacts of NZ-VR on new learning about the marine environment, changes in interest in protecting the ocean, and learning for the future.

Dovetail’s work with Blake and NZ-VR captured immediate programme impacts, as well as the value to teachers of the approach and resources, and provided an evidence base that has helped attract further funding for ongoing delivery.

Further detail on NZ-VR can be found at the Blake and NZ Geo websites.

Te Auaunga

Te Auaunga, or Oakley Creek, is a stream running from Roskill to the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland. Near its mouth it contains New Zealand’s largest urban waterfall and forested walks, but for decades, the waterways from its source were culverted and hidden away, and often prone to flooding. When Auckland Council decided to restore the stream’s habitat and reduce flood risk, they saw an opportunity to apply new thinking in delivering social value to communities.

Dovetail led a rapid evaluation of the social procurement components of the restoration of Te Auaunga. Social procurement is where business as usual purchasing and contracting is used to achieve extra social value beyond simply the initiative being funded. In Te Auaunga, Auckland Council and the Puketāpapa Local Board saw opportunities to bring about further social benefits to train and employ local young people, and set up a social enterprise plant nursery.

Our evaluation captured the benefits, challenges and learning for future implementation, and helped inform a growing area of practice, where Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are among the forefront in New Zealand.

You can access from here the evaluation report, and a more detailed blog on the project.

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Signature Programme

The Signature Programme was an umbrella of four regional road safety projects designed to showcase innovation, led by ACC and the New Zealand Transport Agency. Dovetail and Kinnect Group engaged programme leadership to develop a rubric and framework for a three year evaluation of the programme, and worked with regional leaders to share outcomes and learning from the projects.

Throughout the evaluation, Dovetail and Kinnect applied development evaluation approaches to engage regularly with project leadership, including annual project forums to share learning from the initiatives themselves, and the wider innovation literature. We drew on independent research commissioned for some of the projects, and undertook our own investigations, including interviews, surveys and road safety data analysis.

An important feature of the evaluation was not only exploring outcomes and learning from the projects themselves, but also understanding how the projects were helping shift business as usual activity in road safety. Using socio-technical systems theory, we were able to uncover the factors that supported or hindered successful innovation transfer.

Reports from the Signature Programme evaluation will be available soon.

Virtual Health

In 2018, Dovetail led a series of reviews that explored virtual health, where advances in technology enable remote forms of healthcare delivery. Virtual health approaches are gaining increasing momentum, and some anticipate that it will comprise a substantial proportion, if not the majority, of patient interactions in the future.

Our work explored emerging benefits of virtual health approaches, and challenges to their uptake. We found that understanding technological value and impact needs to look beyond the narrow confines of randomised trials, embrace the complexity of the different worlds of technology, and work developmentally and iteratively as real-life experience unfolds.

A copy of the synthesised reviews can be accessed here, where the above discussion is dealt with in substantially more detail. And we’ve blogged about it here.

Te Ara Mua Future Streets

The form of urban environments powerfully shape people’s experience and interaction with their communities. Te Ara Mua - Future Streets is a multi-year controlled before and after study of safe streets interventions in Māngere, working in design partnership with the Māngere community. Dovetail was a partner in the Future Streets research programme over its first six years, working with colleagues from Mackie Research, University of Auckland, Otago University, Massey University and TERNZ.

Partnering with Auckland Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency, the project included traffic calming, street and accessway landscaping, bike lanes, wayfinding, and design elements that brought to life mana whenua narratives.

We worked with community representatives, school children, and mana whenua representatives to bring their voices into the design and learning from the street designs. Following intervention, positive intermediate indicators are emerging, such as traffic speeds and perceptions of the neighbourhood. Ongoing work will explore impacts on physical activity and road safety.

A range of academic publications from Future Streets, and its successor, Healthy Future Mobility, have been produced and more are to follow. These can be accessed at our reports page. More detail on Future Streets and ongoing activity will be appearing at its website which will be updated regularly.

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