What is Public Engagement?
Public engagement with research involves intentional, meaningful interactions which facilitate mutual learning between academics and members of the public. The ‘public’ may be the ‘general public’ or a discrete stakeholder group outside the University. Mutual learning may include the acquisition of specific knowledge as well as the development of familiarity with different perspectives and world-views.
Why do Public Engagement?
Public engagement can be beneficial at different levels:
- At the level of the individual citizen – by increasing understanding, knowledge and engagement with research, and supporting individual decision-making
- At a societal level – by increasing public understanding, knowledge and engagement with research, and supporting societal decision-making and policy-making, and enriching culture
- At an institutional level – by improving the quality, social relevance and impact of university research, whilst also demonstrating the societal value of that research; by attracting the interest of stakeholders, funders and philanthropists who may invest in future research; by raising aspirations amongst young people and promoting careers in research
- At the level of the individual researcher – by enabling researchers to understand different perspectives on their own research, to find sources of insight, inspiration and innovation, to develop research that benefits the public, and to develop essential communication skills
Public Engagement at The University of Birmingham
Engaging the public is a core component of our civic mission, therefore the University of Birmingham has a dedicated PER Strategy and definition of PER, which were co-developed with researchers and Professional Services across the institution.
The University of Birmingham is a deeply engaged institution. The vision articulated in our Strategic Framework Birmingham 2030 is to be the UK’s exemplary civic university, firmly committed to engagement with the highly diverse communities, people, and economy of the city of Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Our new Civic University Agreement, which sees the University as part of a wider community which is engaged, supportive and shares objectives, explicitly states the intrinsic role of public engagement in this endeavour. The Strategic Framework 2030 seeks to transform the University, and for public engagement this means using our engagement assets (including The Exchange, our cultural venues and innovation sites) to move from a traditional model of knowledge transfer to a new model of equitable knowledge exchange. Our vision is that public audiences and community partners are empowered to share their views and perspectives and their lived experiences influence the strategic direction of the University and our research.
Our current public engagement strategy has resulted in the successful achievement of a Gold Watermark Award, granted by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). The award recognises the enthusiasm and commitment the university has for public engagement and the significant investment made in it with the opening of The Exchange a new space dedicated to public engagement in the heart of Birmingham. To align with the strategic Framework 2030, and as a result of the Gold Watermark Award, we have created a new public engagement three year action plan to continue the development of public engagement at the university.
Our Action Plan
The action plan reflects contributions from across the institution, maximising the strength that exists in the University’s scale of operation and the breadth and diversity of its research and teaching disciplines. You can review our action plan in full, or see the high level work streams below.
Our action plan focuses around seven key workstreams with tangible actions below.
1. Shared Understanding
- Development of Public Engagement Strategy
- Development of Researcher Hub as one-stop resource for training and materials along with an online training module in public engagement for staff and studentsDevelopment of Engage section of the UoB website for public and partners
- Development of Public Engagement StrategyDevelopment of Researcher Hub as one-stop resource for training and materials along with an online training module in public engagement for staff and studentsDevelopment of Engage section of the UoB website for public and partners
- Development of new College-level, academic Impact Champions
2. Audience Development
- Identify and develop a set of priority audiences for the University, building on a recent audience development review considering a range of parameters including ethnicity, social deprivation, age, physical ability and neurodiversity
- Develop more public facing digital channels including the new Engage section of the website, new website for The Exchange and interactive online exhibition programmes and educational resources
- Development of annual public exhibition and programme at The Exchange (themes 2,3 and 4)
3. Reward and Recognition
- Provide funding to pilot and deliver new approaches to public engagemen
- Provide support to maximise effectiveness of IAA funding particularly in relation to the user engagement funds
- Recognise and celebrate engagement practice internally in relation to the Engagement, Enterprise and Impact pathway of the BACF (Birmingham Academic Career Framework)
- Share insight and experiences of developing the BACF with other institutions
4. Engaged Training
- Development of a new Researcher Hub with digital training offer
- Expansion of IAA funded mentoring schemes around public engagement
- Development of a new Post-graduate researcher public engagement training offer
- Development and delivery of a public engagement leaders programme (Leading to Engage)
5. Equitable Partnerships
- Creation of a community partnerships Public Engagement fund
- Deliver the Culture Forward project which will provide gateway to the University for new and existing cultural partners and a platform for new and more coordinated collaboration.
- Co-creation of public programmes at The Exchange and also in relation to University Collections (e.g. Danford Collection)
- Establishment of a Cultural Partners Steering Group to advise, inform and challenge the University on its cultural engagement aspirations and initiatives.
6. Evaluation and Evidencing
- Development of evaluation framework for the University
- Development of new evaluation module within online PE training course
- Pilot impact audit within College of Life and Environmental Sciences
- Annual review and report of metrics related to new online digital resources including staff training resources and externally facing Engage content as part of the Annual Report on PE that is submitted to Research Committee
- Development of Community Engagement Guidelines and toolkits building on lessons learned from community-based champions as part of the 2 year CREDIBLE project
- Development of Knowledge Exchange training on how to evidence impact supported by a dedicated Knowledge Exchange Manager
- Audience Evaluation report –creation of benchmark
7. Dissemination and Sharing Best Practice
- Share best practice case studies online
- Attend conferences and networking sessions and lead sessions about our engagement projects and programmes
- Offer support and mentoring to HEIs completing NCCPE watermark accreditation
Our Future Aims
Through the delivery of this action plan we intend to:
- Coproduce a UoB Public Engagement Strategy with our community and cultural partners
- Encourage and enable our staff and students to be involved with /lead public engagement projects supporting the sharing of best practice across the institution
- Act as a beacon for public engagement in the UK by promoting the sharing of good practice to peers working in other Higher Education Institutes both regionally and nationally
- Further expand our training provision to support both staff and students
- Further align public engagement activities to leverage maximum social and economic impact, especially at The Exchange and our cultural venues
- Continue to increase our collaboration with civic partners, agencies and funders to deliver city-wide public engagement led by the needs of the city
- Better connect our cultural venues and activities with the city and our global activities
- Further embed evaluation good practice and encourage a reflective learning culture in our public engagement activities
- Engage with more people, and more diverse groups through increasing the number of people (publics) engaging with the University, its research and assets from 500,000 to 1.5m over the next five years.