In the aftermath of the crisis of 2008, he has been one of a network of intellectuals across Europe who have tried to shape the idea of the ‘good society’, a project supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. He is a regular columnist for Social Europe, where this debate has taken online form. The crisis has however seen threats as well as opportunities, and in 2011 he and a colleague were commissioned by the European Network Against Racism to prepare a paper on the discourse of the far right.
For several years he has advised the 47-member state Council of Europe and helped draft the Council of Europe White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue published in May 2008. The council’s intercultural dialogue co-ordinator said: ‘Without you and your colleagues we would not have managed to bring this project to a positive conclusion.’ He became an adviser to the consequent Intercultural Cities programme, run jointly with the European Commission, and in that capacity has drafted intercultural strategies for members of the network. In 2015 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recognised this work as 'pioneering'.
He has worked with the two football assocations in Ireland on the battle against intolerance in the sport. He advises the Irish Football Association on its Football for All campaign and was principal drafter of the Football Association of Ireland’s Intercultural Football Plan, launched in 2007, which the Irish government presented as a model of good practice. In 2009, he was commissioned by the NGO Football Against Racism in Europe, which works in 38 countries, to help it reorganise to build on the successes of its first decade.
He and his Queen’s colleague, Prof Rick Wilford, honorary senior research fellows of the Constitution Unit at University College London, led for a decade the Northern Ireland team in a UK-wide research programme monitoring the outworking of devolution. This provided a unique chronicle of the Northern Ireland ‘peace process’. In 2007 he addressed senior Whitehall officials at the invitation of the head of the prime minister’s strategy unit, who described the seminar as ‘excellent’. On the evidence of this and other research, in 2009 he published a paper making the case for a renewal and realignment of politics in Northern Ireland, which led to the foundation of an NGO, Platform for Change, influential in securing strucutral reforms in the rigid regional governance arrangements, towards European-style consensual coalition and opposition.
In 2010, he was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Council for Volntary Action to produce four discussion papers on the future of the third sector. At a grassroots level, he has worked closely with the Ballynafeigh Community Development Association, an NGO which has for a quarter of a century struggled to preserve the cross-sectarian character of this south Belfast neighbourhood. In 2007 and 2008 respectively, he carried out research for the association on what makes this shared neighbourhood function in an otherwise divided city and how it should manage the area’s growing cultural diversity. In 2012 he performed an evaluation of the Belfast Friendship Club, which provides an integrative social milieu for individuals variously from migrant, refugee and indigenous backgrounds.
In 2013 he was approached by the global online publisher openDemocracy to apply to be lead editor of its openSecurity section, financed by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a position he occupied until the expiry of that support in 2015. He produced a new style guide for oD and contributed significant pieces in his own right,including a distillation of security challenges facing the globe in this century and how best to respond.