A Muslim association with a 20-year plan to improve community links says this work - rather than excessive government surveillance - can keep people safe.
Waikato Muslim Association says it received no government help with its strategic plan though it had asked for support.
Association president Dr Asad Mohsin said this type of work can help build a community where grievances can be more quickly spotted and addressed.
"This is where your engagement with the community becomes stronger," said Dr Mohsin. "You are able to find out if there are any extremist activities ... because when you talk to people, when they see something happening on the ground, they open up more to you.
Since the Christchurch attacks, Muslims around the country have spoken about seeking government support but getting surveillance instead.
Its plan has pencilled in social programmes for young men.
Read the Waikato Muslim Association Strategic Plan here
Dr Mohsin said there were gaps. "We are unable to really study some of the undercurrents in different communities, especially the minority communities.
"Extremist views [or] it could be people getting worried about some small issues which later on could become major issues. All these things, if they're not addressed, they can build up ... to an extent that all of a sudden they explode."
"If we knew these undercurrents, we could have given good pointers to the government, to the police or any authorities," Dr Mohsin said.
His association had asked the government for help, for instance for social workers at mosques, but had not received any as yet.
"Maybe the priorities of government would be different - I hope that they will change now."
Usually they were told the requests do not fit the criteria," he said.
Young Muslim men are a frequent target of surveillance by the SIS and security agencies.
One finding of research by the Human Rights Foundation was that local communities felt it should be the government agencies' job to tackle extremism, but it appeared the agencies wanted the communities to be front-and-centre on this, though they lacked the tools.
"There has been a general lack of discussion within the Muslim community about counter-terrorism initiatives and it was not until December 2015 that the first attempts to hold community meetings about ISIS [Islamic State] were initiated," the report said.
The Human Rights Foundation report said the people it interviewed wanted to get together to talk about the problems they have with Customs and the SIS surveillance. "There are, however, high levels of fear in the community in holding or attending such meetings," it said.