UCC and CARL leverage research to address community needs
A UCC driven pilot-project is breaking down barriers and building bridges between students and community groups. Meet CARL (Community-Academic Research Links).
What is the key to even greater interaction between the wider community and UCC? What happens to all of the projects that undergraduate and postgraduate students carry out during their studies? UCC is the first Irish third-level institution to address these questions by initiating the pilot project CARL.
CARL facilitates collaboration between students and community groups on research projects in order to address specific needs in the community.
A recent CARL project concerned respite services for persons with intellectual disabilities in County Clare. This research looked at an innovative and cost-efficient type of respite called “Home Share”, whereby host families welcome children and adults with disabilities into their homes as an alternative to traditional group home settings. The students discussed their recommendations at two national conferences and the HSE referred to this research in their newly published report Respite/Residential Care with Host Families in Community Settings. Home Share Clare was also successful in securing funding of €30,000 for the continuation of the project and was featured on RTE’s Nationwide in July.
Another CARL project examined the impact of a local youth work project being undertaken in Cork City. It involved close collaboration between Gillian O’Shea, a Master’s in Social Work student at UCC, and YMCA Cork. Speaking about the CARL initiative, David Backhouse, Ground Floor project coordinator at YMCA Cork said:
“I would recommend it to similar organisations, absolutely. It brought UCC into our sphere and gave us a nice snapshot of what we have achieved so far, but also what challenges might be ahead. We also used Gillian’s research to connect with other YMCA projects.”
At the launch of the CARL Ground Floor report, Vice-President for External Relations at UCC, Trevor Holmes, emphasised the impact of CARL and community based research:
“An engaged university is a university that runs in partnership with stakeholders outside of the campus. It breaks down barriers but it also builds bridges, using academic theories to explain real life situations. It also makes graduates more employable in the future if they have had the opportunity to apply their academic skills in the real world.”
CARL invites non-profit voluntary or community organisations to suggest potential research topics that can be pursued by students across all academic disciplines. A total of 15 CARL-projects have been completed in UCC in the last two academic years and the topics have mainly concerned social issues such as disability, youth work and provisions for the elderly. There are currently more than 25 research proposals from community and voluntary groups available to incoming UCC students next year.
CARL has been included in the upcoming UCC Strategic Plan, which maps out the key activities of the University until 2017.