CESI Team Awarded £2m Grant to Establish Global Research Group on ECD for Peacebuilding

An interdisciplinary research team from the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) has been awarded a £2m grant to study the potential for ECD (early childhood development) programmes to promote sustainable development and peacebuilding.


The funding, awarded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will be used to establish an international network of researchers from several low and middle income countries (LMICs) that have been affected by ethnic divisions and political violence. The network will seek to build research capacity in those countries and help to support the development and robust evaluation of ECD services.

The CESI team is led by Professor Paul Connolly (education) and includes Dr Laura Dunne (education), Professor Frank Kee (public health), Dr Mark McGovern (economics), Dr Sarah Miller (education), Dr Laura Taylor (psychology), Dr Karen Winter (social work) and Dr Kate Woodcock (psychology). The team will work with several strategic partners, including UNICEF, the Yale Child Study Center, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Global TIES for Children research center at New York University and the Early Childhood Peace Consortium.

In association with its strategic partners, the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development for Peacebuilding at Queen’s University Belfast will initially focus its work on six LMICs: Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. However, it will also aim to extend the network to include other countries and seek further funding to sustain its work beyond the initial three-year period of the current award.

Speaking of the new award, Professor Connolly said: “We are absolutely delighted to have achieved this major new award. The grant is testament to the growing international reputation that CESI has for its innovative research in early intervention and prevention.”

“Underpinning our new global programme of work is the belief that ECD services can make an important contribution towards sustainable development and promoting social cohesion in LMICs impacted by ethnic divisions and political violence. Through our planned programme of work, we aim to test this in a range of LMICs and to begin building a robust international evidence base to inform further work that reduces the impacts of violence on young children and helps to promote peacebuilding.”


NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development for Peacebuilding

Prior to the formal announcement of this new award, CESI hosted an international symposium and conference at Queen’s in May 2017 to explore these issues and to set out a programme of work. All the presentations from the event are available online to view. The final talk, given by Professor Paul Connolly, sets out the overall vision and plans for a global research network that will now be taken forward by the NIHR Global Health Research Group on ECD for Peacebuilding. 

Over the next few months, the Research Group will establish a website that will provide further information on its work and how others can connect and get involved.


Established by the Department of Health, the National Institute for Health Research: 

  • funds high quality research to improve health;
  • trains and supports health researchers;
  • provides world-class research facilities;
  • works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all; and
  • involves patients and the public at every step.

For further information, visit the NIHR website at: 

NIHR Funding Global Health Research Programme

This new global health research group is one of 33 new global health research units and groups funded by the UK’s Department of Health and led by the NIHR. The new units and groups are being funded with a total investment of over £120m drawn from the wider UK government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget.

In announcing the new grants, the Department of Health issued a press release that is available here. Full details on the outcome of the current grants awarded through the NIHR’s first call for global health research units and groups can be found here that also includes further details on the award to CESI at Queen's (PDF).



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