The name ‘Ko Awatea’

The name Ko Awatea was gifted to CM Health by mana whenua to embody our focus on continuous improvement and excellence. It comes from the creation myth of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku were held within their parents’ tight embrace. They believed that beyond their dark existence (Te Po) there was a place of knowledge and enlightenment (Te Ao Marama). The children debated ways of escape, but it was Tane Mahutu, God of Forest and Mankind, who successfully separated his parents and let the first shafts of light enter the world.

Ko Awatea refers to the ‘dawning of the first light’ or ‘new beginning’ – when everything seems possible and the world is full of creativity and potential. We are honoured to carry this name and blessed that it was chosen for us by mana whenua and our kaumaatua.

Who are we

Ko Awatea is Counties Manukau Health's (CM Health) centre for health system innovation and improvement. Since 2011, we have supported clinical and non-clinical teams to improve processes that enable them to optimise health and wellbeing outcomes of our patients, whaanau and communities.

Principles of Ko Awatea

  1. prioritise work to align with CM Health’s strategic objectives.
  2. support clinicians, teams and departments to improve systems.
  3. use locally owned and clinically relevant indicators of safety and performance.
  4. use evidence and build evaluation into all improvement projects to ensure learning and assessment of the improvement gains.
  5. apply ‘systems-thinking’ recognising that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” This focuses improvement on system rather than on individuals working in that system.
  6. co-design programmes and projects to enable those who deliver services, and those who receive them, to create improvements together.
  7. adapt to local context and values.
  8. focus on building capability through increased understanding of improvement methods, both locally and nationally.

Innovation and improvement is at the core of the support Ko Awatea provides to CM Health staff.

Via a rigorous intake process of evaluation and prioritisation of projects, we support CM Health teams to co-design and deliver projects and improvement programmes using expert project management and improvement methodologies.

With a commitment to evidence-based decision making, Ko Awatea provides advice and support on how to improve the safety and quality of care, outcomes and experiences for patients and staff through recognised methodologies for improvement and change. Equity is taken into consideration in all stages of our projects. Ko Awatea provides expertise in quality improvement methods to tailor the selection and use of tools throughout the project lifecycle to best meet the needs of the project.

We also partner with services and teams to provide mentoring and support to develop a culture of improvement in CM Health so that we can continuously deliver better health outcomes.

To decrease operational costs and improve system efficiencies, producing realistic, evidence-based interventions, Ko Awatea embeds evaluation of activity and outcomes into all the projects. Meticulous evaluation provides explicit understanding of how the planned improvement activities have been undertaken, the impact on the intended population and the learning, challenges, and successes perceived by the team.

Organised into five inter-related areas of expertise, we work together with CM Health teams to deliver a systematic, robust, evidence-led and people-centred approach to improvement.

Innovation & Improvement

Our Innovation and Improvement team support CM Health staff to design and deliver improvement programmes and projects using expert knowledge and skills. The team provides advice and support on how to improve the safety and quality of care, through recognised methodologies for improvement and change, and provides expertise in quality improvement methods to tailor the selection and use of tools throughout the project lifecycle to best meet the needs of the project.

Our Innovation and Improvement team contributes to horizon scanning of local, national and international innovations that may be relevant to CM Health challenges.

Our improvement experts also offer training courses for internal and external groups.

Research and Evaluation Office

The Research and Evaluation Office (REO) works across the health sector to provide leadership, training and support to evaluate, research or audit health-related programmes, services, policies and initiatives. We also provide training and facilitation services in a range of areas including: research, audit and evaluation design, logic model development, data collection and analysis, reporting, publication and other dissemination forms, and more.

Our REO can conduct research and evaluation at many levels, from leading or supporting projects to being peer reviewers – depending on the organisational needs and existing research and evaluation capacity.

The team also organises and promotes our annual Research Week, which celebrates the great research happening across our district health board.

Should you wish to discuss how we can help you with your research and evaluation work, or if you have an idea for a research or audit project which could potentially improve the health in your community, we would love to hear from you and see how we can support your project. Please contact us at:

Library and Knowledge Management Team

Our Library provides CM Health staff and stakeholders with access to the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time, in the right place, enabling evidence-based care, high quality decision-making, learning, research and innovation; improving understanding and supporting them to make informed decisions for patients and staff. Click here for more on how to access our catalogues.

Ko Awatea Learn provides clinical and non-clinical staff access to 1,700 courses around clinical based knowledge, legislative training and mandatory organisational training via an e-Learning platform used by CM Health and 14 other DHBs and partners across the country. It is accessed by over 45,000 users.

Strategic Programme Management Office (SPMO)

Our SPMO provides guidance and support to portfolios, programmes and projects across CM Health using organisational frameworks, standards and tools ensuring a consistent and effective approach to delivery. The SPMO team facilitates the intake, evaluation and prioritisation of new opportunities in conjunction with CM Health strategic portfolios.

They provide regular portfolio level reporting and analysis to the Executive Leadership Team, Audit, Risk & Finance Committee and other executive governance groups to ensure the delivery of organisational strategies and objectives. The team also provide services and expert advice in areas including Project Management training, Value & Benefits Management, Risk & Assurance and application of the P3M3 framework.

If you have any enquiries please feel free to contact the SPMO team via email:

Business Support Team

Our Business Support team provides coordination and management of learning programmes, and resource and allocation of space within the Ko Awatea Centre.

The team also develops and manages key relationships with regional and national organisations for the benefit of CM Health, and supports the delivery of improvement and co-design programmes for external participants.

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