Clarify your purpose

How to build common purpose and secure high level support for public engagement.

The NCCPE's EDGE tool helps you judge the current state of support for public engagement in your institution. It starts by asking the most basic of questions – about WHY public engagement matters; about how effectively it is led; and about how well communicated that commitment is. It starts by inviting you to think about how robustly and purposefully your institution supports public engagement.

The EDGE tool can help you see where your strengths and areas of development are. But working out what to do next – and where to focus your efforts to bring about positive change can be tricky. We would like to help you to do this, and to share examples of how other universities have risen to the challenge.

So what have we learned?


Building a shared sense of purpose across your institution can take time. It involves talking to lots of people, and being curious about how they make sense of engagement and what they are currently doing. Over time, this curiosity needs to be locked down into an effective strategy or plan that sets realistic, achievable goals. We can help you to work out how to do this, and how to develop a business plan to secure investment.


If public engagement is going to thrive it needs people to champion it, at all levels of the organisation. We have learned a lot about the qualities those leaders need, and how they can best exert influence across the organisation


Universities where public engagement is thriving tend to have a very compelling and authentic narrative to describe why engagement matters to them, and what it means. What is fascinating, and important to understand, is that public engagement will mean very different things, and have very different flavours, depending on the institution, its history, its partners, and its stage of development. Some universities use ‘public engagement’ as the big idea to describe their ambition. Others use other terms – for instance, social responsibility, to provide the ‘big idea’ behind their strategy.

How we can help

The NCCPE is here to help you on your journey to embed support for public engagement. We have a host of resources that can help, built on the experiences of our partners working at the ‘coal face’, developing approaches that are tried and tested. We highlight some of these below. We are keen to talk to you about what your plans are and where we might be able to help. Do please contact us if you would like to arrange a conversation.

A snapshot of what is on offer

  • Developing a public engagement strategy: read our short guide to how to develop an effective strategy and explore links to how other universities have done this
  • Writing a business case: how can you write a compelling business case to convince colleagues that they need to invest in supporting public engagement?
  • Pathways to culture changethis 2017 report summarises the lessons learned by the RCUK-funded Catalyst seed fund projects about how to leverage change in their host universities
  • The About Engagement area of our site explores why engagement matters, and the current policy landscape

We have also developed 'mini EDGE tools' for mission, leadership and communication which provide useful tips about where to focus your attention.