Earlier this year, I was awarded a place on the NCCPE ‘Engage Researchers’ Academy’: the first year long professional development programme for researchers with a passion for public engagement. The programme creates a challenging but supportive environment for delegates to reflect upon what it means to be an engaged researcher, and to explore the quality and value of engagement. It also supports participants to develop the skills and experience to work with others and improve the impact and relevance of their research.
The first workshop, back in June, concentrated on what public engagement is, and why it is a worthwhile activity for universities to be engaged in (requiring some cultural change). We were encouraged to think about the aims of the public engagement, who is involved and what each of the partners wants to achieve – and how processes can help facilitate that. We discussed managing agency and defining good leadership, undertook a media masterclass, including developing and presenting a pitch for a story.
I have just returned from the second workshop, which concentrated upon community engagement. At various points we had opportunities to feed back on what we’d been doing, and discussed how these fitted within the descriptor ‘public engagement’. We focused a lot upon ethical decision making (ensuring a good outcome for researcher/researched, and seeing it as a partnership rather than an inequitable balance), and dealing with pre-existing assumptions from academics and academic partners, especially where they cause barriers to projects taking place. We had a lot of creative activities in thinking how to communicate between partners, had presentations from two active public engagement academics, and considered how best to measure the impact of public engagement.
There’s one more workshop in February 2019, although there’s a hope/expectation that we’ll be able to continue those connections we’ve made, as well as bringing public engagement back to our respective universities.