Top Ten of Engage 2016

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As ever, the Engage conference in November last year was packed with loads of great sessions from people all across the sector. We were there for the first time as members of the London Public Engagement Network and had the advantage of being able to work together to see and learn as much as possible over the two days. Even with that advantage it has still taken me all this time to actually sit and digest everything but with the help of my fellow members here are our ‘top ten’ of the conference, in no particular order:

(Bookmark this page, trust me, you’ll want these links!) 

1. Connected Communities

This was a brilliant session on the practical planning of collaborative research with communities. As a PE professional having access to excellent tools for facilitating collaborations others have produced is really valuable. These practical guides from the University of Bristol were my personal favourite of the conference:

As well as these the Connected Communities project has a huge depository of resources, all worth a nose through if you can find the time.

2. REF, Impact and the NCCPE

As you’ll know, there are some important changes going on with REF and Impact, and the REF consultation is doing the rounds at the moment. Thankfully the NCCPE are on the case and have done a full scale analysis of the last REF and produced some helpful ‘impact narratives’. Their report is due to be published shortly and Paul Manners summarises the salient points in his latest blog post. They’ll also be running a ‘What next in PE and REF’ session on the 7th Feb so watch this space for the outputs from that!

3. Networking

16105937_10158021547770570_7050849071642669487_nMeeting people and catching up with old acquaintances is always super useful and the NCCPE’s Engage Awards was a great opportunity to mingle. In addition the London PEN’s sister organisation London SciComm Socials teamed up with all the major Science Communication Socials in the Country to run a ‘Mega Social’ during the conference. The socials welcome anyone in Science Communication and Public Engagement so check out where your nearest social is happening!

4. Wellcome funding

We all know where the money is, so it is useful to find out how to get hold of it. Wellcome have produced a great ‘common pitfalls’ guide for their Provision for Public Engagement funding within research – very handy for any researchers thinking of applying.

Wellcome have also just launched their new Public Engagement Grants for people wanting to apply outside of a research grant. No more separation into Arts/Broadcast etc, it’s all under one big umbrella, so… anything goes, right? (It does say funding for anyone with a great idea…)

5. STFC’s Impact and Evaluation Framework

STFC presented their  Impact and Evaluation Framework and have also just published their Public Engagement Attitudes Culture and Ethos report. Along with their Public Engagement Strategy that is a whole lot of useful reading for anyone wanting to apply for their Public Engagement Funding.

6. Running a session yourself!

A number of our members were involved in running sessions at Engage this year. Being a speaker or convening a session is a great way to share new ideas and approaches. It gives you the opportunity to meaningfully bring up concerns or difficulties you may have faced and debate them openly in a ‘safe space’.  As engagement professionals we know how much value there is in discussing ideas and getting a different perspective.  

Want a taste of what you missed? Find out a bit more from Michael Eades on the Being Human Festival and Arts/University collaborations and Will Cenci on Why Scientists should learn to love reddit.

7. Creative facilitation skills

As a group the PEN were lucky enough to be able to go to almost all the sessions and we were impressed with all the creative facilitation methods being employed across the two days. There was a world café, a fireside chat, and all the coloured pens and post-it notes you could ever want. If you are stuck for ideas for facilitating meetings and workshops, and can’t wait to be inspired by the next Engage conference, a great toolkit is available on the Seeds for Change website.

8. Career development (or lack of it)?

Grace Williams and team ran a session, of significant interest to all of us, on career progression and development in public engagement. The sad news is that, at the moment, there is very little career progression or development opportunities. However, this session was the first step towards addressing the problem and the sector will be taking it seriously. If anyone is interested in being involved in the conversation please contact Grace from Exeter University (Grace(dot)Williams(at)exeter(dot)ac(dot)uk).

We’ll certainly be watching this space with interest!

9. QMUL

16409597_10158085675480570_2144871640_oOne of our favourite things was the plenary session by Queen Mary, University of London. It was really encouraging to hear senior members of staff genuinely articulating the benefits of engagement. Many PE professionals struggle to get this kind of support so it was great to see that not only did it exist, but QMUL was clearly benefiting from this support. Strategic endorsement from the University and the hard work of the University’s Centre for Public Engagement meant they were well placed to be the NCCPE’s pilot for the new Public Engagement Watermark and they were duly rewarded.

10. All the latest from the NCCPE

And finally, not only did the NCCPE announce the launch of the new Engage Watermark, there was also a tantalizing preview of the new Research for All journal available at the conference. The good news is the first volume is now available to read in full… Woop!

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