(Sept. 5, 2002, Gazette)
by David SorensenPenelope Rowe (seated) is the director
of the CURA. Dr. Larry Felt, (L) is CURA co-director, and Dr. Carla Wheaton,
is a researcher with the Community Services Council.
The Community Services Council Newfoundland and Labrador (CSC) is exploring
partnerships with Memorial researchers through a new project funded by
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
In 1998, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador published People,
Partners and Prosperity: A Strategic Social Plan for Newfoundland and
Labrador. This document highlighted the links between social and economic
development, and also presented new policy proposals for investing in
people and building on community and regional strengths. The Community
University Research Alliance (CURA) is a three year project funded by
SSHRC to allow CSC, an independent voluntary organization dedicated to
promoting social and economic well-being, to evaluate the strategic social
Penelope Rowe, chair of the CSC, said the groundbreaking strategic social
plan created a wonderful opportunity for some unique research.
She said the CURA program is an effort on the part of SSHRC to enable
academic researchers and community-based researchers to create partnerships
which would benefit both the academic researchers in their links with
communities and offer the opportunity for community based researchers
to partner with academics who obviously have different sets of skills.
Dr. Larry Felt, a sociology professor at Memorial and a co-director of
CURA, called the strategic social plan a ground-up way of developing
policy preferences that make sense.
Ms. Rowe said the $600,000 grant over three years is not enough to engage
in a great amount of research. During the initial phase of CURA, representatives
of community groups and researchers have been meeting to determine the
long-term impact of the strategic social plan. We spent the best
part of the first year really laying the foundation, studying the background,
she said. The group is now following up with agencies that contributed
to the strategic social plan to determine if theyve noticed a change.
A major objective of CURA is to create these partnerships and these
Its capacity building and networking and partnering,
added Dr. Felt.
Ms. Rowe said one of the challenges for the members of CURA is finding
additional sources of revenue and new researchers to bring into the process.
There are dozens and dozens of other pieces of research that we
would really like to be doing and that some of the individual team members
who are associated with us would like to be doing so were always
looking for additional resources.
Ms. Rowe suggested these are fertile research grounds for faculty members
and graduate students.
We spent the first year trying to put a solid foundation under the
so that all of us will be coming into this research with
a really good common understanding of what some of the factors were that
lead to the development of the strategic social plan and we really felt
that that was essential before we started to move on to some of our other
We will see individual team members taking on pieces of research
with some of their students. But any research we do under the aegis of
CURA would be something that would be worked through the group.
Ms. Rowe said governments strategic social plan created the atmosphere
for some arms-length, multidisciplinary research around a whole
series of elements of that strategic social plan. But our particular focus
initially will be around the relationship of that plan with the voluntary
community-based sector and how the functioning of that sector may be changed
and altered in this new climate that were operating in.
If researchers want to ground themselves in some profound changers
that are ongoing in this province and to do it in an interdisciplinary
team context, this is a wonderful opportunity, said Dr. Felt. If
there are young researchers or graduate students that would be interested
in some aspect of this, wed like to hear from them.
For more information about this project. see the CSC Web site at