Community & Voluntary Organisations

Community & Voluntary Organisations - Information

  • Are you looking for research or information relating to your community or voluntary group?
  • Are you in need of specialist skills to develop your work?
  • Are you looking for an external review of your services which would allow the voice of your service users to be heard?

Community-Academic Research Links (CARL) could be what you are looking for as it provides independent, participatory research support from skilled researchers in the University in response to your research questions and usually free of charge (or for a minimal cost).

CARL is an initiative within University College Cork that supports community and voluntary groups to carry out research which is important to them. Your initial question is translated into a research project to be carried out by students on your behalf. The students are given an opportunity to develop skills and abilities, while being supervised by experienced researchers. Projects carried out through the university structures are seen as being scientifically impartial and thus can provide organisations with increased legitimacy in political debates or enhance their lobbying activities amongst other benefits.

This video identifies the benefits experienced by one community group who linked with CARL and features Betty Smith from the Bandon Network of Social Groups.  


How do Community & Voluntary Organisations benefit?

  • Access to hands-on support and university expertise.
  • Students’ energy, enthusiasm and ideas.
  • Low-cost help (the main cost is time spent working with students) and opportunities to tackle research tasks that could not otherwise be completed.
  • The chance to identify potential employees and possible staff development links.
  • Opportunities for local individuals and groups to gain a clearer idea of what a university is and what it can provide.

How does the process work?


  1. Complete an application form and send to Anna Kingston, CARL coordinator, Anna can also provide advice in relation to your proposal, should this be required, or she can put you in contact with relevant University students or staff. Application form is available here CARL project Proposal Form - Community Groups
  2. The finalised proposal will be sent by Anna to the CARL Advisory Group who will check to see whether it aligns with the CARL Acceptance Criteria for Proposals and also whether the proposal is a feasible research project according to student and University timelines.
  3. If accepted, the proposal will be posted on the CARL database and students will be invited to select the project as part of their undergraduate or postgraduate research projects for the coming year.
  4. If your project is matched with a student and supervisor, we will arrange a 3-way meeting involving you, the student, the supervisor and the CARL coordinator. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss and agree the scope of the actual research project, the methods to be employed, the format for reporting the research findings to the voluntary/community group, and the timescale of the project. A Research Agreement will be signed at this meeting by all meeting participants to make sure that everyone fully understands each other and to record the dates of the deliverables.
  5. The role of your organisation is to formulate the research question and to provide all relevant data that may assist the student in their work. It is a perquisite that the organisation can guarantee as far as is practicable that they will provide the student research with all the support and information possible to get the project done within the academic year.
  6. The student will first undertake a literature review relevant to the topic. This involves searching for data in, for example, scientific journals, policy documents, the Internet and other specific databases.
  7. Depending on the nature of the question, the research team may decide on further primary research: qualitative or quantitative. This is then carried out by the student in partnership with the organisation, or if the project is too large, possibly by another student(s) in a subsequent student intake for CARL projects.
  8. The student summaries the findings of the research into a user-friendly report and this is finalised in conjunction with the community partner and a series of recommendations or action points proposed.
  9. Communication between all stakeholders is maintained throughout the research process, from start to finish.
  10. The community and voluntary organisation should cover student expenses outside of the normal expenses usually incurred by students in undertaking their final dissertation. In certain circumstances, CARL may be able to contribute equipment.
  11. If the research falls outside of the disciplinary knowledge of the School or if parts of the project are not within our area of expertise, we will endeavour to try and link the project with students and supervisors in other parts of the University.

If you are still interested and you think this approach to research could work for your group, please contact Anna Kingston, CARL Coordinator,  to progress your idea.

Civic & Community Engagement

Comhpháirteachas Cathartha agus Pobail

University College Cork, Cork, Ireland,