Canadian Environmental Issues — Special Call

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Community University Research Alliances (CURAs)

September 2009 Competition

Value and Duration
Evaluation and Adjudication
Administrative Regulations
More Information


As globalization, the communications revolution and other forces continue to reshape the world, our communities are presented with an increasingly complex mix of opportunities and challenges with multiple social, economic and cultural dimensions. The phenomena transforming the lives of individuals and communities alike include changing patterns of employment and demands for skills in a knowledge-based economy, poverty and homelessness, an increasingly diverse social fabric, transformations in family life, changing values, young people entering the workforce, new constraints on organizations and public services, both urbanization and depopulation of rural areas and new rules of business competitiveness.

Many of these challenges are best addressed at the local and regional levels by the local and regional groups that best understand the needs of, and the factors affecting, particular communities. In addition, issues which cut across geographic boundaries are also best addressed by postsecondary institutions working closely with groups that represent particular communities of interest. In service of these goals, stronger alliances between community organizations and postsecondary institutions can be enormously effective and yield important benefits for them both.

Alliances between community organizations and postsecondary institutions will foster new knowledge, tools and methods to develop the best strategies for diverse aspects of intervention, action research, program delivery and policy development that will be appropriate for our rapidly changing times. Public or private community and voluntary organizations represent major sources of expertise and innovation that are based on front-line experience. For their part, postsecondary institutions offer breadth and depth of knowledge and skills in the social sciences and humanities disciplines, which shed vivid light on the changing human condition and thereby offer new approaches to problem-solving.

SSHRC believes that by working together as equal partners in a research endeavour, postsecondary institutions and community organizations can jointly develop new knowledge and capabilities in key areas, sharpen research priorities, provide new research training opportunities, and enhance the ability of social sciences and humanities research to meet the needs of Canadian communities in the midst of change. The Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) program is designed to facilitate such collaborations.


The purpose of the program is to support the creation of alliances between community organizations and postsecondary institutions which, through a process of ongoing collaboration and mutual learning, will foster innovative research, training and the creation of new knowledge on topics relating to SSHRC's Canadian Environmental Issues special call.

Specific objectives of this call are to:

  • promote sharing of knowledge, resources and expertise between postsecondary institutions and organizations in the community;
  • enrich research, teaching methods and curricula in postsecondary institutions;
  • reinforce community decision-making and problem-solving capacity; and
  • enhance students' education and employability by means of diverse opportunities to build their knowledge, expertise and work skills through hands-on research and related experience.




  • is based on an equal partnership between organizations from the community and one or more postsecondary institutions; and
  • provides co-ordination and core support for planning and carrying out diversified research activities that reflect the program objectives, are centered on themes/areas of mutual importance to the partners and are closely related to their existing strengths.

Activities for a CURA under the special call will include:

  • a statement on how the proposed CURA will foster innovative research, training and the creation of new knowledge on topics relating to SSHRC's Canadian Environmental Issues special call;
  • a research component (short-term and long-term projects, action research, etc.);
  • an education and training component (in the context of research projects, apprenticeships, activities credited as part of coursework, etc.); and
  • a knowledge-mobilization component (workshops, seminars, colloquia, policy manuals and other publications, public lectures, etc.) that meets the needs of both academic and community partners.

The project partners jointly define a CURA's research activities as well as the participatory arrangements under which individual researchers and research teams will carry out those activities. The partners should continue to develop and refine the research activities and, in addition to strengthening the original alliance, should, where necessary, also recruit new partners during the period of the grant.

SSHRC expects that partners will develop the capacity to work together effectively (i.e., community organizations will develop the capacity to shape research agendas and postsecondary institutions will develop the capacity to work with communities).

In each CURA for the Canadian Environmental Issues special call, the partners will jointly define and bring together one or more academic disciplines in order to target one or more research themes or areas. These themes or areas should be sufficiently broad to lend themselves to the full range of activities described in the call. Depending on the CURA's governance structure, a researcher from a postsecondary institution or an individual from a community organization will direct (or co-direct) the CURA and champion its goals. The director (or co-directors) will:

  • provide leadership and contribute intellectual guidance for the development of the program of activities; and
  • be supported by researchers, by graduate and undergraduate students (where possible), by the partner organizations and, as needed, by professional staff.
SSHRC plans to administer the program in a flexible manner and anticipates that adjustments may be made as the program continues to develop.

Value and Duration

Applicants successful at the Letter of Intent stage are eligible for a development grant of up to $20,000. At the Letter of Intent stage, eligible expenses are limited to travel, workshops, meetings, secretarial support and communication and dissemination activities.

An individual CURA can receive funding of up to $200,000 annually for up to five years. These CURA grants are subject to:

  • SSHRC's fiscal ability to provide the support;
  • satisfactory compliance with the program's reporting requirements; and
  • a positive mid-term (third-year) evaluation.

The grant may be used to cover non-physical infrastructure costs for the support and co-ordination of the research teams and for carrying out some of the research activities. Applicants should familiarize themselves with the regulations on eligible and ineligible expenses. CURAs are expected to seek funding from sources other than SSHRC to help support their research activities.




Applications must be submitted jointly by one or more postsecondary institutions and one or more organizations from the community. "Community" may refer to either a geographic focus or an issue/interest focus.

This requirement reflects the fact that CURAs are partnerships between postsecondary institutions and organizations from the community established to jointly develop and implement research activities. While there may be cases where a single community partner is appropriate, it is expected that most CURAs will involve two or more community partners.

Institutions that propose to administer any grant awarded under this program must meet the requirements for managing SSHRC funds and must hold or obtain institutional eligibility.

Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal government departments and for-profit organizations are not eligible to administer SSHRC funds. These organizations may participate in SSHRC research projects as partners, and researchers from these organizations may participate as collaborators.

Postsecondary Institutions

CURAs must be closely associated with academic units (department, centre, faculty, institute) within the participating postsecondary institution or institutions. Specifically, these CURA must:

  • focus on an area of strength of the participating academic units as demonstrated, in particular, by a critical mass of researchers and students working in that area; and
  • have identified, at the time of the application, a sufficient number of researchers who will be actively involved in the program.

Organizations From the Community

Partner organizations from the community sector should have a research or research dissemination mandate and should be active in social, economic or cultural fields relevant to the research and training objectives of the Canadian Environmental Issues CURA.

Not-for-profit organizations, without research capacity, are encouraged to create alliances with researchers from established research institutions, in order to explore the possibility of collaboration.


Evaluation and Adjudication

The CURA program involves a two-stage application process:

  • eligible applicants must submit, jointly with their partners, a Letter of Intent application form; and
  • applicants whose LOIs are approved by the selection committee will be invited to submit, again jointly with their partners, a Formal Application.

Only those applicants who are successful at the LOI stage will be invited to submit a formal application. Candidates so invited will be provided with the required application material and instructions for completing their proposals. They will also be offered development grants of up to $20,000 to help in the preparation of the formal application (i.e., to round-out their network of partners and program of activities, and to consolidate their collaborative activities). For development grants, eligible costs are limited to travel, workshops, meetings, secretarial support, and communication and dissemination activities.

Note: Neither the applicant nor the lead organization can be changed between the LOI stage and the formal application stage.

Letter of Intent

A multi-disciplinary committee of both academic and non-academic leaders, will evaluate eligible letters of intent according to the following criteria:

  • likelihood that the proposed CURA will contribute to practical solutions for pressing environmental issues and a better understanding of how the environment affects the lives of Canadians in Canada;
  • demonstrated importance of subject area to the social, cultural or economic development of Canadian communities (relevance);
  • potential for significant outcomes (i.e., impacts on student training, capacity-building, curriculum development, new modes of service delivery and community decision-making);
  • soundness of the research approach (methodology);
  • quality of the alliances among the participating institutions and organizations, including the nature of collaboration and commitment on the part of all partners; and
  • appropriateness of plans for the dissemination and mobilization of knowledge.

The selection committee will be free to suggest to successful LOI applicants ways to strengthen their formal application. It could, for example, suggest the grouping of complementary applications, propose other possible partnerships or recommend additional sources for funding.

Formal Application (by invitation only)

Formal applications will have to provide:

  • more extensive information on the projects relevance to topics on the Canadian Environmental Issues special call and its potential to contribute to practical solutions for pressing Canadian environmental issues and a better understanding of how the environment affects the lives of Canadians in Canada;
  • more extensive information on the research, training and knowledge-mobilization activities, on the full budget requirements, on the director(s) of the CURA and on the research teams in place (professors, students and community);
  • a framework for the ongoing evaluation of the CURA (including performance indicators); and
  • further information explaining the conditions under which each partner is participating and how the funds will be shared and administered.

For formal applications, the evaluation criteria are as follows:

  • likelihood that the proposed CURA will contribute to practical solutions for pressing Canadian environmental issues;
  • importance of the research question(s) to the theme of Canadian environmental issues;
  • strength and feasibility of the proposed research, including the clarity of the research questions;
  • rationale for, and quality of, proposed approaches to achieve the stated objectives of the CURA;
  • track records of academic and community-based partners, both individuals and organizations, in their respective fields of engagement;
  • demonstrated quality and strength of partnership (level of commitment and engagement throughout the research cycle, clarity and balance of governance structure);
  • suitability, scope and timing of proposed knowledge mobilization activities;
  • likelihood of producing significant results and impacts by the end of the five-year funding period;
  • appropriateness of budget and capacity to leverage resources (financial and/or in-kind) from additional sources; and
  • quality of evaluation framework and process: clarity and feasibility of specific measures (i.e., performance indicators) to meaningfully assess the performance of the CURA.


Administrative Regulations

All CURA applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Community-University Research Alliances section of the SSHRC Grant Holder's Guide.

Note: SSHRC's plans for Canadian Environmental Issues special call funding are subject to final approval by the Treasury Board of Canada.

More Information

Éric Bergeron
Program Officer
Partnerships Portfolio
Tel: 613-996-1422
Fax: 613-947-0223