Developing a strategy for your Public Engagement support programme

This section is designed to help you take a strategic approach to building support for public engagement in your institution.

We’ve broken the challenge down into four steps:

1. Assess your institution

It really helps to know where you’re starting from and where you’d like to get to, and to benchmark your institution. The NCCPE’s EDGE tool can help.

2. Involve people

A good strategy is ‘owned’ and understood by the people who will implement it, and we offer tools and techniques to help you lead those conversations.

3. Learn from others

There’s lots of experience you can draw on to help you plot your course. We point you to some great guides to help you get a head start.

4. Articulate your theory of change and build your business case

A good strategy has a clear rationale and realistic goals. A ‘theory of change’ approach helps you achieve this – and we show you how.

This work will take time and a lot of negotiation, so expect to be working on it for many months. We provide links to all the resources and guides below.

There are three key things that a good strategy helps you to achieve. It helps you to build a shared sense of purpose with colleagues. It takes account of the context in which you work, as this will shape what it is possible to achieve. And it defines clear goals and success measures to help you to judge your progress and share your success
Paul Manners, NCCPE

Assess your institution

A great way to engage and involve people is to use the NCCPE EDGE tool to invite colleagues to reflect on the current  levels of support for support for public engagement at your institution. It can help to build an evidence base for your strategy.

As a PVC and more recently as a vice-chancellor of two universities, I have found the NCCPE’s EDGE tool an incredibly powerful framework to use with colleagues to take stock of our support for public engagement and to work out where to focus our precious time and resources to make the biggest difference
Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor Solent University

Involve people

A strategy needs a lot of buy-in – from senior staff, professional services and academic colleagues to external partners. You need to stimulate lots of discussion as you work with colleagues to plot your course.

Tools for talking about Public Engagement

The Tools for Talking guide contains some practical tools to help you lead productive discussions about public engagement. Below is an example of one of the tools you can use to invite people to discuss why they think public engagement matters. 

Why is public engagement important?
Which of these arguments represents your view
It's our duty / responsibility to engage with the public
Engaging with the public helps us better research and teaching
Funders increasingly expect public engagement
In the grand scheme of things, public engagement isn't a priority

Learn from others

Explore learning from universities that have established support for public engagement. These resources provide comprehensive accounts of lessons learned by others, and practical examples of what they have done as a result.

Articulate your theory of change and build your business case

All of the above will help you to build a robust platform to create your plan for culture change and make your case for investment. These guides take you through a step by step process to develop your strategy, make your business case and work out how to evaluate your progress.

The best laid plans...

Anyone who has sought to develop a support strategy for public engagement has learned that flexibility is vital – always be prepared to adapt your plans to seize opportunities or to divert around round blocks.
Culture change is a lengthy process. Within the time it takes to make progress, landscapes shift, personnel change and new challenges and opportunities emerge. Taking stock of these shifting facets regularly and having the opportunity to adjust our plans and spend has been critical for our work
David Amigoni, PVC Research and Innovation, University of Keele and PI on the UKRI SEE-PER project

Where next?

For top tips on turning your strategy into action – visit the ‘Delivering your support programme’  area of our site for top tips and lots of useful resources.