New Zealand church initiatives for international development : a taxonomy and assessment framework : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in International Development at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Individuals, groups and organisations are increasingly feeling compelled to take action and become
personally involved in the field of development cooperation in an attempt to alleviate poverty and
improve the lives of the poor. One such do-it-yourself phenomenon that has been observed in New
Zealand involves the Christian church.
A grey area has emerged where development activities are now carried out by churches which are
amateurs in the field. These initiatives are run by pastors and congregation members acting on the
teachings of the Christian faith but with little understanding of the complexities of poverty or
development. The altruistic and often selfless intentions of those involved in such initiatives are
commendable. But are these do-it-yourself solutions to complex issues of poverty and development
really achieving what they say they are? If these initiatives were tested to determine their level of
effectiveness, what would the results be?
Motivated by these observations and questions, this thesis seeks to explore this emerging
phenomenon. It asks, what does it look like? How might it be defined? Is it effective? This thesis calls
the phenomenon Church Initiatives for International Development (“CIID”). It argues that CIID is
conducted by new development actors and situates CIID in relation to current trends within the
industry: the emergence of a fourth channel of development cooperation and the role of religion in
development. CIID is compared to current actors in international development, specifically citizen-led
initiatives and faith-based initiatives to demonstrate its similarities and differences.
A taxonomy outlining the different types of CIID is presented which provides insight into the range of
forms that CIID takes. The research also explores how the effectiveness of CIID might be understood.
To achieve this, an assessment framework consisting of eight criteria was created drawing upon
mainstream and alternative approaches to effectiveness. This framework was then tested through indepth
interviews with six CIID case studies from donor churches in New Zealand.
By analysing information from the in-depth interviews with donor churches, the study concludes that
CIID is more effective across the criteria of local ownership & participation, collaboration, relationship
and partnership, and less effective in the areas of accountability, measuring success, holistic well-being
and attitudes and knowledge. The research also reveals that CIID is typically more effective when a
development organisation is involved in a partnership with a church that is implementing CIID.
The findings on the emerging field of CIID that this thesis presents contribute further insight into the
nature of do-it-yourself development initiatives in the fourth channel and the role that NZ churches are
playing in international development.