Since 1999, the Community-University Institute for Social Research (CUISR)—formally established as a type B university-wide interdisciplinary research centre in 2000—has remained true to its mission of facilitating "partnerships between the university and the larger community in order to engage in relevant social research that supports a deeper understanding of our communities and that reveals opportunities for improving our quality of life."
CUISR is committed to collaborative research and to accurate, objective reporting of research results in the public domain, taking into account the needs for confidentiality in gathering, disseminating, and storing information.
Research partners are committed to the vision, mandate, goals, and holistic approaches (of the Institute):
- Ensuring open communication; sharing knowledge, rationales, and decisions; recognizing and resolving conflicts
- Learning and building knowledge together through multiple methods and approaches
- Responding to community and university needs, concerns and priorities
- Working co-operatively to achieve mutually beneficial decisions through consensus
- Valuing diverse contributions and actively listening to multiple points of view
Authentic partnership—built upon trust and respect between community and university participants—is central to CUISR. It is reflected in the composition of the board (50%
community and 50% faculty representation) and Co-chairs for the Institute.
CUISR research activities are firmly in the community in mutually beneficial partnerships that bridge perceived divides. CUISR has made significant strides in building networks in rural and remote communities and working with Aboriginal communities through partnerships with the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, Central Urban Métis Federation Inc., Prince Albert Grand Council, and Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association Co-operative.
CUISR is well equipped to support the work of its partners (community agencies, students, and faculty). Student internships supervised by faculty working with community partners provide rigorous and relevant research findings that can help community groups make informed decisions, support advocacy for policy change, or leverage funding, while also building capacity at the university.
A range of community groups, institutions, students, and faculty access CUISR services and participate in its activities. Research methods vary greatly depending on the needs of the community and subject of inquiry. As such, resources (faculty supervisors and student interns) from many disciplines and departments representing seven colleges answer the research questions posed by the community.
CUISR provides a forum for faculty with an interest in social issues to convene, share ideas, develop partnerships (with other faculty, students, and community agencies), shape policy, and contribute to the greater good of our community.
As a result, the University of Saskatchewan has gained recognition as the hub of community-university relationships and other institutions in Winnipeg, Waterloo, Toronto, Victoria, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Regina have looked to CUISR for guidance in developing similar centres.
Saskatoon is also acknowledged for collaborative social organizing and planning. CUISR matches students, academic supervisors, and community agencies to answer crucial research questions, thereby informing programming and policy. Community agencies receive guidance in the development of research proposals, while local and provincial governments receive reliable research results.
CUISR is working with the community to conduct research that can be transferred to other organizations and settings. For instance, a comprehensive, collaborative Poverty Elimination Strategy has been developed, guided, and monitored by data and evidence from CUISR’s Quality of Life research.
Knowledge mobilization: CUISR disseminates its research findings through newsletters, brown bag luncheons, reports, journal articles, monographs, videos, listserv, website, and the CUISR Resource Room.
Portal bringing university and community together to address social issues: CUISR supports interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty and academic departments and facilitates the establishment of partnerships with community agencies. A unique point of contact makes it easier for community agencies to access academic expertise and allows for improved coordination of work.
Public policy: CUISR continues to explore innovative methods to support evidence-based practice and policy. CUISR is represented at a number of policy tables, including the provincial Advisory Table on Individualized Funding for People with Intellectual Disabilities, the Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership, and the Saskatoon Regional Intersectoral Committee (RIC). Created by the Human Services Integration Forum and funded through the Province of Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon RIC’s mission is to work in partnership with community voices and researchers to coordinate linkages that shape and influence policies, programs, funding and resource deployment to meet the diverse needs of vulnerable children, youth and their families.
Student training: CUISR provides training and guidance to undergraduate and graduate students and encourages community agencies to provide community orientation in order to promote positive experiences with evaluators and researchers.