Maxim Institute has a primary focus in the areas of education, family, justice and welfare issues. The Institute has been involved in public debate in a number of issues; including school choice, teacher pay, free speech, social justice, democracy and constitutional issues. The Institute produces research and publications, and advocates for socially conservative public policy. The Institute is known for its support of citizen participation in New Zealand politics. It organised a series of political forums and constructed a website related to the 2005 general election.
Maxim Institute's mission statement is "to foster ideas and leadership that enable freedom, justice and compassion to flourish in New Zealand."
The Institute has undertaken extensive research in a number of areas. Most notable amongst their reports are a literature report on father involvement - Going Further with Fathers - and a modeling project looking at school choice - Roll Play.
It has published a wide range of op-eds and analysis on these and other subjects in newspapers, and also produces research and submissions on law and policy (See publications). Since its inception, Maxim Institute has also run an essay competition for tertiary students and an annual summer internship programme for university students.
Maxim Institute first gained public recognition in 2003 when it opposed the Prostitution Reform Bill. The Institute stated that the Bill would legitimise and increase the exploitation of women in New Zealand. It also opposed the Civil Union and Relationships Statutory References Bills in the following year, making the point that such moves would make "marriage meaningless". It instead advocated for a more conservative and "useful alternative", a reciprocal beneficiary model.
It has also supported other measures which "empower parents" and devolve power from the state. Maxim Institute has also endorsed restorative justice, parental choice of schools, democratic involvement, performance related pay for teachers, strong communities, limited government, low taxes and personal responsibility.
The Institute holds bi-annual forums, the most recent of which was held at the Auckland Town Hall and centred on the theme of social justice. Speakers included Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, University of Canterbury Professor David Fergusson and Researcher Professor Peter Saunders.
It has recently held the first of its Annual John Graham Lectures. This was delivered by Professor Jeremy Waldron of NYU Law School and titled "Parliamentary Recklessness: Why we need to legislate more carefully".
The Institute also holds regular public lectures on topics such as tax and social justice.
After serving four years as the Institute's Director, Bruce Logan was accused of plagiarism in some of his opinion articles, and retired in 2005. Maxim Institute's Christchurch office closed in early 2006. Currently, the Institute has fourteen staff based in their Auckland office, and their current CEO is Greg Fleming.
The Institute produces a weekly email called Real Issues, which focuses on "provoking analysis of developments in policy and culture in New Zealand and around the world".
As well as Real Issues, Maxim has also published an ongoing series of educational research reports based on research by Colmar Brunton, called The Parent Factor, related to parental choice in education access, government funding and opposition to centralisation.
The Institute also drafts submissions on a range of public policy issues. The issues have included seditious law reform, electoral finance, victims' rights, democratic reform, prostitution, civil unions, hate speech and section 59.
Maxim Institute has received several international think tank awards from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. The Templeton Freedom Prizes were awarded for: Institute Excellence (first place), Social Entrepreneurship (second place) and Initiative in Public Relations (second place).