CCI Faculty Promotions Manager, Denise Callender, recently attended the Engage Conference 2016: Inspiring Innovation in Bristol attended by 280 people from universities, partner organisations and independent public engagement practitioners.
The conference was hosted by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) which is internationally recognised for inspiring universities to engage with the public. It champions meaningful engagement that makes a real and valued difference to people’s lives.
The conference offered 35 working sessions of interactive presentations and workshops over two days, showcasing innovative engagement projects exploring a diverse range of topics from ‘What is the meaning of impactful research’ to ‘A Poetic License to Thrill‘ which showed how using poetry can translate research topics to the public. Our very own Dr Matt Smith, from the School of Media and Performing Arts at the University of Portsmouth also attended and led a workshop on engagement practice entitled ‘Shadows, Boxes and Suitcases: Engaged pedagogy with objects and puppets.’
What is the engaged university?
The engaged university has Public Engagement embedded across the whole university – it is not a fringe activity. The NCCPE seeks to support a culture change in universities, “our vision is of a higher education sector making a vital, strategic and valued contribution to 21st-century society through its public engagement activity”.
At the conference, inspiring VCs and senior university leaders discussed how partnerships within their cities and can lead to research projects that positively change the lives of local people and those further afield. Sharing their public engagement experiences, topics were covered from suggestions that science needs to be more involved in engagement to learning how to use dialogue as evidence in research outputs. Steven Hill, Head of Research Policy of HEFCE announced institutional grants are important to develop change and “interventions that are disruptive make people do things more quickly!” – Read Steven’s blog here. Imran Khan, Head of Public Engagement at Wellcome claimed that universities have a huge social responsibility as well as being a commercially sustainable business.
At an awards ceremony several universities working with external partners across the world received accolades and financial prizes. The award winners and mini films showcasing the nominated outstanding public engagement projects can be viewed here. Are you involved in public engagement with research? Have you worked on a brilliant project that you want to share? The NCCPE are running this national competition every year to find and celebrate high quality public engagement with research projects, within six categories. Find out how to apply.
Who works on Public Engagement projects?
A broad range of academics, researchers and professional services staff have been working on a vast number of research and practice based projects that connect externally which has led to a dialogue about the role itself over the last 5-10 years. These staff are becoming experts and discussion revealed public engagement roles are becoming further professionalised. The professional development of these individuals includes realising their potential as change agents with the HE sector. Exciting news – there are now three engaged academies planned by the NCCPE to help develop you further, details here.
Additionally there are Museum University Partnerships Initiative (MUPI) networking events and symposia. NCCPE lead these events to facilitate small and medium sized museums and universities working together to mutually beneficial aims.
Where can I publish my public engagement work?
‘Research for All’ is a new open-access journal focusing on research that involves universities and communities, services or industries working together. A partnership between UCL Institute of Education and the NCCPE, and published by IOE Press, the first edition was out in January 2017. If you are interested in contributing to the journal as an author; peer reviewer; or associate editor please get in touch with the managing editor Pat Gordon-Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no charge for authors or readers. To learn more about the journal visit this webpage and watch this film.
What is the Engage Watermark?
At the conference Queen Mary University London was presented with the ‘Gold’ Engage Watermark. The Engage Watermark is an award granted to institutions to recognise their strategic support for public engagement and their commitment to improve the support offered. With 4 levels of award, from Bronze to Platinum, the process rewards excellence and provides critical insight to inform future planning. Applications for 2017 Awards are now open. Dr Jenni Chambers of RCUK attending the conference revealed they are interested to see where institutions are positioned in the process of public engagement.
New for 2017, NCCPE are piloting a version of the award at a faculty/research institute level. If interested in trialling this get in touch with the scheme’s administrator Lisa Adlington, email@example.com.
The Professor Sir David Watson Awards for Community University Partnerships
This is a new award designed to recognise the combined efforts of community and university partners towards making a difference to the lives of people in their shared community. £5,000 will be available to the winning scheme. Hosted by University of Brighton, overseen by the Founding Committee, these awards have been created in memory of Professor Sir David Watson. Share your story with the world by applying here. Nominations forms due 29 March 2017.
Dee Summers, Research Impact Officer for the University of Portsmouth and based in the Research and Innovation department at Purple Door, can advise on the role of public engagement and the REF. The NCCPE Executive Summary has been uploaded to the Impact Resources folder and can also be accessed at the NCCPE website. For advice and guidance on the REF, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NCCPE website is a great resource for colleagues working in public engagement.
If you’d like to hear more about Denise’s observations at the Engage conference, contact her at email@example.com.