University of Limerick’s Greentown project has been awarded funding of €1.3m in recognition of its outstanding contribution to national strategic priorities and policies.
Greentown, which seeks to reduce the influence of crime networks on vulnerable children and families, was one of just five projects to have been awarded total funding of €5.5m, announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD.
The Performance Funding is awarded to institutions in recognition of the initiatives, and Greentown was selected for the work which developed a collaborative evidence-informed programme to reduce the influence of crime networks on vulnerable children and families.
Minister Harris said: “It is clear that our higher education institutions are having an impact across society. The Greentown project in University of Limerick has been transformational in helping children and their families in their communities.
“I would like to congratulate each of the successful institutions and look forward to seeing the impact of the work you are doing on education and society.”
The performance funding awards were based on an evaluation of Impact Assessment Case Studies submitted by higher education institutions to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in May 2023.
HEIs were invited to showcase a significant contribution made towards national strategic priorities and policies. The submissions were assessed by an independent panel of expert assessors.
Reacting, Dr Seán Redmond, Principal Investigator of the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project that runs Greentown and Adjunct Professor of Youth Justice in UL’s School of Law, said: “We were delighted and humbled in the first instance for the Greentown Programme to be selected as the impact case study for the whole university. This for us was recognition enough of the work we are so committed to.
“Winning the HEA performance award blew us away a bit really, being selected as one of only five research projects across the country and awarded almost €1.3 million. It is a massive vote of confidence for the work, but also for the way UL orientates itself as serving local communities as well as contributing to the global body of knowledge.
“However, as researchers we are just part actors in achieving better outcome for very vulnerable young citizens caught up in crime networks. Our performance as scientists and advisors has been so elevated by the energetic support of our funders, the statutory and voluntary agencies which have enabled the transfer of theory into practice in our two trial site locations and ultimately a small group of the most amazing professionals who are devoted to the young people who are so compromised by their circumstances.”
Commenting on the successful initiatives, which also include University of Galway’s Active Consent programme, South-East Technological University and An Cosán’s national Linked Provision programmes, Technological University Dublin’s major decarbonisation initiative and University College Cork’s ‘Barr na gCnoc’ project in partnership with Terence MacSweeney Community College, CEO of the HEA, Dr Alan Wall, said: “These awards highlight the vital role of the higher education sector in contributing to delivery of national strategy and policy.
“I am particularly pleased to see the range of partnerships formed with communities and organisations in areas including sustainability, access and participation, and community and campus engagement. The success of these initiatives demonstrates the impact of our institutions in society.”
Dr Redmond said of Greentown: “We have been involved in the research from its initial attempts to try and make some sense of how children are enticed and coerced into crime by networks of adults in their own communities; to develop a world class intervention programme to remedy this.
“The research was a good idea, lifting the lid on hidden groups of children subject to the most toxic social environments even though they are under our noses in many communities across Ireland. However, there are many good ideas. The Greentown Programme has benefited over time from the support of many individuals, departments and agencies.”
Dr Catherine Naughton, who works on the REPPP programme, added: “Programmes like Greentown don’t implement themselves. As well as aiming to provide excellent research with practical value, taking Greentown from idea to proposal, from proposal to realistic programme and realistic programme to contributing to beneficial change for young people has required us to be at various points; scientists, enthusiasts, cajolers, coaches; above all being in it for the long run because when you are dealing with complex problems things go down as well as up. Having an eye to implementation and the journey involved in bringing ideas into reality is, in our view, critical, but often underestimated or simply neglected.”