Here we take a look back at the significant body of work CES has delivered on an All-Island basis since our inception in 2008.

Delivering on an All-island basis – the CES way

All-island collaboration


CES fulfils a unique role in bringing people together across the island of Ireland to share best practice and build capacity in research, policy development and implementation, and service improvement. Our initial focus was on children and young people with a special interest in prevention and early intervention, and since then we have bridged into implementation – ensuring that good ideas become a reality. We have established a number of networks which continue to grow and in which we are still involved. We believe our expertise in bringing diverse individuals and organisations together to share and learn from evidence is essential to maximising the collective knowledge of our people. We can play an important ongoing role in leveraging evidence to resolve the more pressing challenges facing this island.

Capturing the Learning from the Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative (2004-2016)

Our first assignment was to bring together the learning from the Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative which aimed to improve outcomes for children in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Initiative was funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, Government departments and other organisations, and was delivered through 52 projects, from 2004 – 2016. We produced a series of reports capturing the learning from each of these programmes on child learning, child health, child behaviour and parenting outcomes.

Learning from the initiative was then used to inform the design and delivery of new programmes in Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme, an initiative introduced by the Irish Government in 2013 which aims to improve outcomes for children living in disadvantaged areas, and the Early Intervention Transformation Programme, an Executive Office programme which aims to transform mainstream services in Northern Ireland.

Establishing The Parenting Network (2010 - current)

In 2010 CES established ‘The Special Interest Group – Supporting parents in their Parenting Role’ with support from Atlantic Philanthropies.

This all-island group included agency Directors or CEOs, funders and public officials, professional bodies and practitioners engaged in direct work, and academics and professional researchers in the relevant sectors.

The Special Interest Group then became The Parenting Network which aims to positively influence research, policy and practice to improve outcomes for children and families.

The Network promotes a cross-sectoral, cross-Departmental, interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to Parenting and Parenting Supports.

It has been a central part of an all-island approach to promote the value of Parenting Support and to secure the necessary policy and strategy to embed Parenting Supports as key elements of all child and family infrastructure in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It has had a key role in sharing the learning in evidence-based practice, new emerging research and innovative examples of best practice across the island of Ireland. The Parenting Network is now hosted by the Prevention and Early Intervention Network.

Growing the Children’s Research Network (2015-current)

The Children’s Research Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland (CRNINI), was established in 2010 with the aim of building long-term relationships across research, practice and policy in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Network supports researchers and those interested in research to build an inclusive community of researchers, practitioners and policymakers. It promotes high quality research that can be applied to real world issues, supporting evidence-based policy-making and practice development. It raises awareness of the research issues relevant to and across the life span of children and young people.

CES hosted the Network from 2015– 2019 and successfully developed the Network, growing membership across the island, hosting events, and establishing a regular ‘Children’s Digest’ Research bulletin to bring evidence to a wider audience in an accessible way.

The Children’s Research Network is currently hosted by the Childhood and Human Development Research Centre at UCD.

The Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland (2011 – current)

CES set up the Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2011, to share real world experience and reflections of implementing policy and practice. The Network reaches beyond Ireland, providing access to a European and global community of policy makers and practitioners interested in the theory and practice of implementation.

CES provides secretariat support to the Network and is represented on the Steering Group. CES has helped the network to access international expertise about implementation in the context of a wide range of policy challenges, from public health, to domestic and gender-based violence, sustainability and policing.

CES has supported members of the network to profile their work in Ireland and internationally, and has produced resources which share learning from implementation in Ireland, including guides, tools and a series of training videos.

Whole of Government Review (2014)

In 2014, the Centre for Effective Services reviewed international experience on ‘whole of government’ approaches in Ireland and other countries, including Scotland, Canada and New Zealand, and the valuable learning that emerged was distilled in a Primer on ‘Implementing Whole of Government Approaches’ published in 2015.

The research explored the barriers and enablers to whole of government work and what governments have put in place for it to be effective. It also examined the potential of Implementation Science to support a whole of government approach in a practical way.

AcCESs Evidence project (2014)

The AcCESs Evidence project aimed to provide practitioners from a range of sectors in Ireland and Northern Ireland who work with children, families and communities with access to up-to-date evidence to support their work in areas which are particularly important to improving outcomes for children and young people.

CES developed a series of evidence reviews that will contribute to the creation of a common understanding and a common language for practitioners be they in Health, Social Services or Education.

Access Evidence resources include key messages from research, data, practice wisdom and tools which are relevant for practice, and have covered topics such as Intimate Partner Violence, Childhood Adversity, Youth Mental Health and Coaching and Mentoring.

The Goal Programme (2016- 2019)

The Goal Programme for Public Service Reform and Innovation supported systemic change in public services in Ireland and Northern Ireland with the aim of improving outcomes for people using public services. The programme was funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, and delivered in partnership with seven government departments in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

The team selected nine large scale sectoral reform projects in Ireland and Northern Ireland to test new ways of working in the public and civil service. CES supported government departments to:

  • Connect policy domains – promoting collaboration across sectors and disciplines
  • Support leadership development
  • Build skills and capacities
  • Intervene at “whole” system level – both vertical and horizontal
  • Model and trial new ways of working
  • Capture and disseminate the learning from the exemplar projects to support systemic change.    

CES provided specialist skills to teams within participating departments, including data analysis and mapping, programme implementation, research, and evaluation. We conducted evidence reviews,designed and delivered professional development and training and mapped data. We worked together to support the teams and co-produced tools and resources tobuild capacity.

We created opportunities to share learning across the participating departments, and with a wider audience of public servants involved in delivering change. We held Learning Days which brought together those involved to share experience and learning, reflect on challenges and achievements.

An independent evaluation was conducted by the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) to provide useful learning for policy makers about change and what supports it.

The evaluation found evidence of increased collaboration as a result of the Programme. Staff were engaged in new ways of working and identified enhanced capacity and skills in areas such as leadership and evaluation.

Stable Lives, Safer Streets (2021 – 2026)

CES is partnering with the University of Limerick and Queen’s University, Belfast to deliver the Stable Lives, Safer Streets Programme with funding of over €3 million from the North-South Research Programme.

The programme will develop a new, sustainable cross-border research resource to support an established collaborative framework between government departments, state agencies, police services and non-governmental organisations in both jurisdictions. The structure will facilitate policy makers’ and law enforcers’ direct contribution to the research process. It will also provide accessible evidence to support policy makers, programme designers and practitioners make more effective and efficient decisions.  

The outputs from the collaboration will be of direct relevance to a far wider repertoire of human services.  

CES’ role in the programme is centred around: 

  • Producing a body of evidence on what supports the development and implementation of good social policy
  • Collaborating across a range of government departments and statutory agencies to understand what policy makers and policy implementers need in order to deliver policy that will be implemented effectively
  • Delivering resources that will support the successful translation of good policy into positive outcomes for communities.

CES is also engaged in building capability in University of Limerick and Queen’s University, Belfast for academics to use implementation practices to enhance the impact of their research towards better outcomes for people. 

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