PSEP funds assisted the development and completion of this action
research programme. Subsequently a three year programme with
major agencies in different sectors has evolved: 'A Worthwhile
Venture ?' Serious community relations in Northern Ireland is
a search for practical ways for people of different identities,
backgrounds and goals to live and work with one another with mutual
respect. The real and expensive effects of the division and the
tensions associated with it across many areas of life are undeniable.
Better working relations therefore constitute one of the most
important political and social tasks. Community relations needs
to become embedded in public and private institutions, encouraging
and supporting change in organisational structure and practice.
'A Worthwhile Venture ?' has evolved out of practical work and
action research ongoing since 1980, initially under the auspices
of the Corrymeela Community, and then supported by the Understanding
The need for 'A Worthwhile Venture?'
From earlier research it was clear that there was a major need to promote training support within the informal adult community group sectors. The Report on Staff Deployment in the Northern Ireland Civil Service by Maurice Hayes highlights the importance of the development of relationships of trust and respect in which even delicate and divisive issues can be discussed... to achieve this degree of trust and openness requires training and the development of human relations and the building of confidence. If such training provisions were complemented by schemes of support for staff in other Public Services who are also part of a divided society, and not above it, a significant contribution could be made to creating a more peaceful and just society. It is therefore important to assess what is already happening within different organisational contexts for 'business' and / or ethical objectives.
This research programme was therefore established to :
* Assess the impact of inter-cultural and inter-community thinking on community relations training provision over the last ten years (1986-95) through a sample of people's experiences on courses and their use of the training subsequently.
It is our hypothesis that this relationship infects the practices
of all agencies in Northern Ireland and that finding ways of acknowledging
and releasing this tension, and understanding the very practical
problems it causes need to be addressed. We argue that an 'equity,
diversity and interdependence' approach informing three different
levels of change - policy, structures and procedures, and training
- is a crucial step in addressing the divisions in this society.
With an eighteen month time frame we sought to employ a variety
of methods which would enable us to get beyond the polite and
illuminate the scale and nature of learning opportunities in a
wide variety of adult settings. From the outset we deliberately
combined quantitative and qualitative approaches. In an area
subject to social taboo, quantitative approaches are notoriously
unreliable as indicators of preferences and context. Nonetheless,
qualitative methods, especially within the short time scale of
this project, can easily degenerate into anecdotal studies if
they are not supported by a more objectively structured quantitative
Eyben, Morrow, Wilson (1997) : A Worthwhile Venture - Practically Investing in Equity, Diversity and Interdependence in Northern Ireland.
Eyben, Morrow, Wilson (1997) : Executive Summary of Research Findings of a Worthwhile Venture - Practically Investing in Equity, Diversity and Interdependence in Northern Ireland.
A paper on Diversity to the IPD Conference at Newcastle, June 1997
A paper on Diversity Training to The Permanent Secretaries Committee,
NICS, Stormont, June 1997