The Centre for Applied Social Research (CASR) conducts nationally significant research on key areas of social change and social policy.
CASR is committed to the idea that effective and equitable policy choices need to be founded upon insightful public debate and that debate requires historically and theoretically informed applied social research. Research staff in CASR have a broad range of interests, but research work mainly converges around four themes.
Social policy and practice
Since its establishment in 1989, CASR has had a core focus on analysing and informing the policy process and on conducting social science research that helps shape effective and equitable responses to social issues.
The Social Policy and Practice theme provides the umbrella for a diverse array of CASR researchers and associates whose work contributes to key policy debates in the areas of housing and homelessness, domestic violence, disability, ageing, family and child services, multiculturalism and migration, and employment relations. Much of our research also looks beyond policy by seeking to understand the lived, everyday experience of work, health and welfare. More broadly, our sociologically informed research is framed by an abiding interest in the dynamics of social change and by a deep commitment to social justice.
One of the strengths of CASR’s work in these fields is our ability to bridge the gap between scholarship and application. While CASR has an enviable record of obtaining nationally competitive grants and producing academic publications, we place great emphasis on working with government, community and industry partners to produce knowledge – and to provide expert advice – that can be immediately applied in the context of policy formulation and service provision.
Evidence and evaluation
CASR’s research theme on evidence and evaluation addresses both methodological and broader political issues involved in generating and utilising evidence to address complex social challenges and opportunities.
We utilise and examine diverse methods for producing evidence such as: realist evaluation and realist synthesis to identify what works, for whom, in what contexts and why; co-design of new or improved services that involves ‘real world’ testing and refinement during development; and non-experimental as well as experimental approaches to impact evaluation.
We research and encourage debate about the impacts of current approaches to evaluation and evidence-based policy and practice by considering broader questions such as: what constitutes credible evidence, what types of activities and public sector expenditures (or foregone revenue) are subject to monitoring and evaluation, and what processes of evidence generation, transfer, adaption and translation are seen as appropriate by different stakeholders such as policy makers, practitioners and citizens?
We also investigate what supports or impedes the development and responsiveness of innovative approaches to wicked problems.
Social support and care
Social care and support, both paid and unpaid, is rapidly emerging as the education, training and research challenge of the next decades.
There are two main driving forces in Australia: the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the future provision of aged care. This parallels developments in many other countries. The giving and receiving of care and support is intensely personal, intimate and emotional.
At the same time, care is shaped by context and history with complex ethical, political and philosophical dimensions. In Australia, there will be a growing demand for the provision of care and support, especially in relation to older age and disability.
Demographic trends, policy reforms and changing funding mechanisms will propel new forms of care and support, and corresponding employment patterns. This will also need to further shape CASR’s own work; in 2015 –16 our biennial focus will be on identifying and undertaking research that informs and evaluates the design of emergent policy, practice and capacity building in the social care and support arena.
Social justice social change
Social justice underpins a large amount of the work that we do and epitomises what we strive for and expect in a just and fair community. However, what our research suggests is that people do not have equitable access to, and experiences of, our health, social welfare and criminal justice systems. This includes those who have experiences of homelessness, family violence, stigma, or miscarriages of justice, and members of marginalised populations.
CASR’s Social Justice Social Change (SJSC) research theme therefore aims to work collaboratively with industry and government to explore, understand and articulate these inequities and to provide an impetus for change.
The theme brings together a multidisciplinary group of academics whose expertise and research interests span a broad range of vulnerable and marginalised groups. With the long-term aim of social change as the focal point for the theme, the outputs of this research are translated into leveraging the need for policy and practice change.