CCRU Research Strategy

CCRU home background on CCRU community relations equality and equity research

Promoting excellence in
community relations


Purpose of this document

This document sets out:

  • the third edition Central Community Relations Unit (CCRU) research strategy relating to community relations and equality equity issues;

  • the key aims, objectives and research priorities of CCRU; and

  • a guide to the process of funding.

The document will be of interest to all those concerned with the development of information and understanding in the broad area of community relations. It is intended to assist academics, researchers and others who may be considering undertaking research and seeking funds in these areas.

Background to CCRU

The Central Community Relations Unit was established in 1987 by the then Secretary of State to report to him directly on all aspects of relations between the two main traditions in Northern Ireland. The intention was to ensure that, at the centre of the decision making process in Northern Ireland, the crucial community relations issues, in their very widest sense, were given the fullest possible consideration. Over time, the remit of CCRU has widened to include relations between all parts of the Northern Ireland community.

In conformity with the principles of equality, partnership and mutual respect, the Government's community relations policy is based on three prime objectives:

  • to ensure that everyone enjoys full equality of opportunity and equity of treatment;

  • to increase the level of cross-community contact and co-operation; and

  • to encourage greater mutual understanding and respect for different cultures and traditions.

In order to meet research and information needs in community relations, a research budget was established by CCRU in 1989. At that time there was little research being undertaken in the field of community relations and the number of active researchers was correspondingly small. In 1991, CCRU issued its first Research Strategy document. The second edition of the strategy was published in 1995. Both documents set out the general framework and priority themes which CCRU wished to set for funding research in community relations.

Between 1995 and 1997 the second strategy has been realised with the help of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) which has managed a substantial community relations research budget on CCRU's behalf. A commitment to periodic review was made in the original research strategy document in order to ensure that the prioritised themes were still consistent with policy needs, and that the research programme as a whole was delivering the sort of outcomes which can make an effective contribution to policy formulation and analysis.

As part of the consultation phase on the content of this strategy, a review of research funded under the second strategy was undertaken. The outcome of the review along with the experience gained by CCRU and NISRA in running the current research programme, have been used to set out the new strategy which appears below.

The overall aim of the CCRU research strategy is:

to stimulate and promote a wide range of research which will enable policy makers, community relations practitioners, academics and the general public to achieve a better understanding of all aspects of community relations and community conflict in Northern Ireland;

The objectives of the strategy are:

  • to encourage research on community relations, equality of opportunity and equity of treatment, and post violence relationships which is firmly located within the practice-policy-theory nexus;

  • to contribute to knowledge on the theory and practice of community relations work;

  • to evaluate the impact of specific community relations programmes; and

  • to encourage and support academic teaching and independent research on community relations issues in the university, voluntary and private sectors.

The strategy relates to minority ethnic communities, as well as the Protestant and Catholic communities.

Research priorities

As a result of its review of the Research Strategy, CCRU has identified a number of research priorities for the third edition of the strategy. The priority themes are not intended to be exhaustive, nor are they intended to exclude other worthwhile research. Furthermore, the interrelated nature of many of the issues require that the themes set out below are not interpreted as being conceptually discrete.

CCRU recognises that it is not possible to be fully prescriptive about what research is needed and it relies, in part, upon the academic community to come forward with other relevant and challenging areas. The priorities are, however, intended to be a guideline on the main issues which CCRU, at this time, wishes to see researched. The priority areas are set out below.

Theme 1: Community Relations Practice
The need is for a continuing examination of the way in which community relations work is practised. Of particular concern is the identification and promotion of examples of good practice in this field.

Theme 2: Post Violence Relationships
As Northern Ireland progresses towards a period where there is a lower level of violence, it faces challenges in dealing with new social realities. The changing perceptions of communities, the social and economic effects of reduced levels of inter- community violence and taking into account the needs of those affected by the "Troubles" are example areas for research which could produce practical outputs capable of informing policy and practice.

Theme 3: Social and Community Impacts of Inter communal Division
Even in a period of reduced tension and violence, division between communities is likely to remain. Community relations practitioners argue strongly that the nature of communal division must continue to be taken into account when planning policies and delivering services. At one level, this can be pragmatic, for example, ensuring that local offices are sited so as to be accessible across, what are often, invisible peacelines. At another level, it can involve understanding why different communities react to policy and provision in different ways. There is a continuing need, therefore, for research into the inter communal divisions, particularly in the areas of demography, integration and segregation. Proposed research should be relevant to the needs of planners, policy makers and community relations practitioners

Theme 4: Minority Ethnic Communities
Northern Ireland has a number of minority ethnic communities including Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Traveller. There has been a small amount of research into the needs of minority ethnic groups and the relationships between them and other communities in Northern Ireland. This research identifies some of the barriers to minority ethnic communities in gaining access to services and highlights the nature of racial harassment. Further research might focus on planning and delivering services to these communities and on identifying ways in which good relationships between communities can be built and maintained. Proposed research should be capable of meeting the information needs of service providers and policy makers.

Theme 5: Monitoring, Evaluation of Projects and Programmes
Monitoring and evaluation of community relations projects and programmes has led to an increased knowledge of good community relations practice. There is a continuing need to evaluate the practical efforts of those involved in promoting good community relations so as to help refine their input and ensure the effectiveness of the resources committed to this work. The Government is committed to equality of opportunity and equity of treatment for all the people of Northern Ireland. Information on the impact of policies and programmes upon the communities of Northern Ireland remains as a key priority in the research strategy.

Theme 6: Dissemination
A considerable number of research projects have been funded to date by CCRU. In order to maximise the impact of the findings from this research, CCRU plans to encourage wider dissemination of findings from previous as well as future research projects. This will include unlocking the messages from research and evaluation projects in order to ensure that both policy makers and practitioners have adequate access to findings from such research, encouraging desk based research reviews and examining more effectively ways of disseminating findings.

Commissioning and funding

A number of approaches to commissioning research are available. Having set out its priorities for research, CCRU may wish to develop specific pieces of research which it would offer as commissions for the research community to undertake.

Members of the research community may submit unsolicited proposals for consideration to CCRU, provided the research falls within the themes outlined in this strategy.

CCRU has an annual budget for research and evaluation. However, in any one year, not all of these resources will be available for supporting new projects as existing projects may span more than one financial year. While CCRU would not seek to impose a financial limit on research proposals, recent practice has been to move from a position of sole funder for very costly projects, to one of part funder amongst a consortium. Projects which may have partial relevance to the priorities set out in this strategy may be considered for appropriate part-funding.

Demand for research funds is currently well in excess of available resources and even well designed and worthwhile proposals may be unsuccessful in their application for funds if competing proposals are judged superior or are awarded a higher priority.

Selection criteria for applications

Given the diversity of funding applications which CCRU receives and the necessity to retain flexibility in order to respond to speculative proposals, it would be inappropriate to set tight selection criteria. However, funding applications are likely to be assessed against some or all of the following criteria:

  • consistency with research priorities

  • contribution to understanding/mitigation of N.I. conflict

  • added value compared with existing research

  • likelihood of achieving the proposed outputs

  • appropriateness of methodology

  • likely impact of the research

  • demonstrated ability of the proposers

  • timescale

  • cost and value for money

The selection panel

CCRU holds a meeting of its Research Management group (RMG) about four times per year to consider proposals for funding. The group has members who cover each of CCRU's main interests (research, community relations, and equality/equity). The Group is chaired by NISRA. The dates of RMG's meetings can be ascertained by contacting the address given at the end of this document.

Submitting an application

An application can be submitted for consideration at any time. CCRU's application form for research funding must be submitted as part of the proposal. The application form is attached at Annex 1.

Consideration of proposals

Proposers will receive an acknowledgement that their applications have been received. Normally, an application will be considered at the following meeting of RMG. If further material in support of a proposal is required, CCRU will get in touch with you. Proposers should hear the outcome of an application for funding within two weeks of the RMG meeting. If the application has been successful, you will receive a contract for signature.

Steering groups

For most research studies which CCRU funds, a steering or reference group is appropriate. CCRU will wish to be represented on the steering group for your study.

Contact point

All enquiries and submissions should be addressed to:

Community Relations Information, Evaluation and Research Branch
Central Community Relations Unit
20-24 Donegall Street

Telephone 01232 544520

See also CCRU's application form for research funding.

© CCRU 1998-1999
site developed by: Martin Melaugh
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