Working well together : the roles of rural Men's Sheds in the lives of their members and the life of their local communities : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa (Massey University, Manawatū), Aotearoa (New Zealand)

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There are international concerns about the state of men’s health that are mirrored in an Aotearoa New Zealand context. Men in this country die at least four years earlier than their female counterparts largely from life-style related, non-communicable diseases that are potentially preventable through a proactive health promotion approach that promotes social connectedness. Given this, there is an imperative to understand the benefits of groups that promote and support men’s health and wellbeing. Men’s Sheds are one such group that have been operating internationally for thirty years and for twenty-five years in this country. Men’s Sheds have a growing, evidence-informed, reputation for being hubs of male wellbeing. This research investigates the connection between the health and wellbeing of men involved in Men’s Sheds in provincial Aotearoa New Zealand and that of their local rural communities. A generic qualitative approach to gathering and analysing data was chosen for this study. This approach utilized semi-structured key informant interviews and focus groups from two rural Men’s Sheds located in the same region. Thematic analysis was used to locate, order, and offer explanation of themes from the data corpus. The findings of this study endorse current literature regarding Men’s Sheds strongly enhancing the social connectedness of men with commensurate and significant benefits to their mental health and potentially to their physical health. Men’s Sheds are contexts for productive work that harnesses and develops, cognitive and physical skills and facilitates capacity building and collective wellbeing in their communities through constructions projects, events, and mentoring. As unique community organisations, Sheds face several challenges pertaining to material and social resources. Implications of this research include supporting the development of existing Sheds in the context of their communities and those communities considering developing their own Shed. Also implied is facilitation of reciprocal engagement with organizational stakeholders and supporting professionals invested in individual and community wellbeing. The physical and mental wellbeing, learning, mentoring and community development and capacity building outcomes of Sheds. Detailed recommendations regarding policy and practice based on these implications at local and national levels are provided together with a specially developed, comprehensive tool for Shed review based on this research project. It is hoped that these outputs contribute to Aotearoa Sheds and communities as they build on their history of working well together.