Joan Burton TD launches New Institute for Lifecourse and Society at NUI Galway

New institute is dedicated to making a positive difference to people’s lives

ILAS

On Wednesday 11 November, The Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD conducted the official launch of the Institute for Lifecourse and Society (ILAS) at NUI Galway.

Representing a nine million euro investment consisting of significant philanthropic contributions from The Atlantic Philanthropies and Galway University Foundation, the ILAS centre is a rare example of an interdisciplinary research hub designed to examine and reimagine important social issues, especially for vulnerable populations.

The ILAS centre, under the directorship of Professor Pat Dolan, provides a newly designated research institute for the applied social sciences at NUI Galway, the largest of its kind in Europe.

Speaking during the official opening ceremony, An Tánaiste Joan Burton T.D. said; “The goal of the institute is to achieve international excellence in social policy and practice development through the pursuit of interdisciplinary research in the social sciences. This will be done by creatively integrating the rich and diverse intellectual resources from within the university and beyond.

“I believe the institute will become both a pioneering research institute for the applied social sciences and a flagship of the university. I look forward to reading the Institute’s work in the coming years – and to that work helping to guide and shape national policy.”

The ILAS centre supports applied research that informs policy development and practice, and brings together existing work in relation to targeted populations – such as children and families, persons with disabilities and older persons – into one domain of research, teaching and policy. Its core function is the pursuit of interdisciplinary research in the social sciences by creatively integrating the rich and diverse intellectual resources from within the university and beyond.

Amongst its members are nationally and internationally recognised authorities from the fields of children and families, and disabled and older persons; and the institute already has a strong record in influencing domestic, regional and international policy and practice affecting these populations.

Also speaking to open the ILAS centre, President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne said; “Today is a milestone in the development of the social sciences at NUI Galway. With the establishment of this Institute our university marks a concerted commitment to the application of knowledge in the social sciences in order to share knowledge and create positive social change.

The real benefit of the Institute for Lifecourse and Society is to future generations of citizens who will benefit from new approaches on how to improve lives of families, young people, older persons and those who live with disabilities.

The knowledge generated by those working in this Institute will help to shape advocacy, policy and interventions to improve the lives of so many citizens – right across the lifecourse.

The support of our philanthropic partners has been absolutely vital to this project. I would like to thank The Atlantic Philanthropies and Galway University Foundation most sincerely for their vision and their investment in this research facility.”

Director of the Institute Professor Pat Dolan said; “Essentially the focus of the institute is to bring together researchers and communities to develop new blueprints for social change, practice and policy.

“The ‘lifecourse’ side of things is a relatively new approach aimed at zooming out from the silos of academic disciplines and stages of life to look for solutions, patterns and strategies that provide for people and societies over the course of a life and over generations. Few such research institutes in this field aim for this kind of deep and far-reaching impact.”

Following the official opening ceremony, and the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the occasion, Professor Robert J Chaskin of University of Chicago (and Chair of the International Advisory Board at the ILAS centre) gave a keynote address entitled ‘Social Policy and Community Action for Children, Youth, and Families’.

In the course of his lecture, Professor Chaskin identified and evidenced an innovative model for community-led research which makes services and professionals more relevant in how and what they do with and for families that experience serious adversity.

Following on from its official opening, the next event staged by the ILAS centre will take place on Monday 30 November at 6pm, when President Michael D Higgins will give the centre’s inaugural lecture.

For more information on this event, please email ilas@nuigalway.ie.

By Neil Slevin

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