The forerunner to CRECS was a research unit in the School of Psychology known as the Community Services Research Unit (CSRU), created in 1996. This research unit provided an initial portal for community organizations to connect with the University of Ottawa faculty and students and to collaborate on research projects that contributed to the development and improvement of health and social services. In the fall of 1999, the CSRU received official status as a research centre at the University of Ottawa and became the Centre for Research on Community Services in the Faculty of Social Sciences. In 2006, an agreement between the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Education to co-sponsor the Centre established it as the first bi-faculty research centre at the University of Ottawa, renamed as the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services.
Since its inception, CRECS has made valued and substantive contributions to social betterment, especially for those communities whose members are vulnerable or have been historically marginalized, through the improvement of policies, programs, services, and practices in the education, social service, health, and government sectors. Through research, evaluation, and knowledge mobilization, training and capacity building, and community engagement, research-based knowledge and evidence have been collaboratively produced and leveraged into actionable influences.