Action Learning - Race Equity project

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All spots for the Action Learning - Race Equity project are now full. Subscribe to the NCCPE mailing list to stay up to date on all our projects and inclusion work.

As part of our commitment to inclusive engagement practices, we are hosting an action learning project pilot with a focus on race equity.

The project aims to review current practices, reflect on how improvements could be made and help put these improvements into place. The project will involve participating in 6 online meetings from September 2023 – May 2024.

The project is open to public engagement professionals and people who work in UK higher education and research institutions. Applicants will be selected on the basis of their application which includes the potential benefits to them and their work and an ability to commit to the action learning process.

Table of contents ice

  1. Why is the NCCPE hosting the Action Learning – Race Equity project?
  2. Is this for me?
  3. How will it work in practice?
  4. How can I apply?
  5. What support is available?
  6. What is action learning?
  7. Who will facilitate the action learning meetings?
  8. Background information

Why is the NCCPE hosting the Action Learning – Race Equity project?

Action learning provides participants with opportunities to review their current practices of inclusive public engagement, reflect on how improvements could be made, put these improvements into place, and review if and how they are effective at improving the inclusivity of their engagement work. We are expecting the approach to be an effective way to support public engagement professionals to develop their own practices. This programme will be an opportunity to explore if and how this approach is effective in improving individuals’ practices of inclusive engagement. It will also inform future NCCPE work.

There are a wealth of resources aimed at improving accessibility and inclusion in public engagement with research, but many of us continue to face challenges that slow down and inhibit progress. By creating a community of public engagement professionals who are invested in supporting inclusive engagement, we hope to accelerate inclusion in public engagement with research.

Read more about action learning

Action Learning – Race Equity project aims

  • To offer public engagement professionals an opportunity to develop their understanding and approach to inclusive and racially equitable engagement practices through an action learning process
  • To build capability in reflecting on race equity and how this might be achieved in public engagement professionals’ work
  • To build networks of public engagement professionals committed to race equity in their work
  • To draw out learning to share with others including the action learning project participants and  public engagement professionals (PEP) network members

Is this for me?

This project is intended for

  • Public engagement professionals (PEPs) and others whose main role is to support, conduct or facilitate public engagement
  • People who work in UK higher education, university and research institutions

Public engagement professional is a broad term which we use to describe any of the roles that support, conduct or facilitate public engagement. This will include people whose role does not reference the term 'public engagement', for example: Researchers, Outreach officers, and Impact officers.

Action learning group members will be people dedicated to supporting the development of inclusive public engagement practice that benefits communities and publics, particularly on issues of race equity in higher education and universities and public engagement, participation and/or involvement.

To be eligible for this project, you must:

  • Be based in the UK and work with or for higher education, university or research institutions or systems
  • Have an interest in and support for the development of inclusive public engagement practice, particularly around race equity  
  • Be able to make the time commitments required for the duration of the project
  • Be able to participate in the action learning process, have practice you can bring to the group meetings and the ability to take actions and reflect on these actions with group members

What are the benefits of this project?

Taking part in the action learning project should benefit you and your engagement work. The project is an opportunity to develop your personal and organisational understandings and approaches to inclusive and racially equitable engagement practices. It also provides an opportunity to build your network of people committed to inclusive engagement practice. You will develop your understanding and practices of action learning, including developing and practicing skills of questioning, listening, sharing, and working as a group.

How will it work in practice?

Meeting format

Action learning group meetings will be held online with Zoom. Each group will have 6 members and will be supported by an Inclusion Action Learning Associate who will organise meetings and facilitate action learning sets. Action learning meetings will be 2 hours long.

Meeting etiquette will be agreed within groups at their first meeting. This will include an agreement on what can and cannot be shared outside of group meetings.

Time commitment

We anticipate each group will hold 6 action learning meetings between September 2023 – May 2024. There will be an online orientation session in September which will bring together all members. There will be an additional opportunity to meet in person at the end of this project to reflect on the work of the groups and share learnings, which will likely a half-day event in May or June 2024. Likely locations include Manchester, Birmingham and London, although it will depend on the location of participants.

We estimate the minimum time commitment to be 30 hours over 9 months, broken down into:


Time required

Orientation meeting (28 September 10.00 am - 12.30 pm)

3 hours, including reflection after meeting

Participate in online action learning meetings

12 hours (2 hours x 6 meetings)

Action ideas formed in action learning meetings

6 hours

Reflect on learnings and contribute to evaluation

6 hours

Attend in-person reflection event

3 hours + travel


We will ask group members to take part in evaluative processes throughout this project. We also ask group members to take notes or keep a reflective journal for your personal use. You will not be required to share this journal. We will ask members to share learnings and reflections (such as writing a blog or sharing at our in-person reflection event) at the end of this project, for which members may wish to refer to their notes or journal.

How can I apply?

All spots for the Action Learning - Race Equity project are now full. Subscribe to the NCCPE mailing list to stay up to date on all our projects and inclusion work.

What is the selection process?

We will first assess eligibility. In the event there are more eligible applicants than action learning spaces, we will use the selection questions to determine group members, prioritising those who demonstrate strong evidence of:

  1. Clear benefits to their work, personally or for their organisation, through participation
  2. Challenge(s) / practice(s) to bring to action learning meetings
  3. Commitment to the action learning process
  4. Commitment to addressing race equity in their public engagement work

The NCCPE will use the learnings from this project to determine future inclusion programmes. Applicants who are not successful can opt into communication for future opportunities.

Selection questions

Please note that we will only review words within the word count limit, so please restrict your answers to the word count.

  1. Why would you like to join this project? This should include how participating will benefit you and/or your institution. (maximum 150 words)
  2. What challenge(s) / practice(s) do you want to work on through the action learning process? For example, this might reference current projects you are working on where the action learning process could inform your work. (maximum 150 words)
  3. Action learning requires participants to identify actions in one meeting, take actions between meetings, and reflect on these actions with group members in a follow-up meeting. How will you ensure you can enable this process? Please include any support you have to enable the action learning process. (maximum 150 words)
  4. How do you plan to incorporate / create space for learnings to inform or address race equity in your public engagement work? (maximum 150 words)

All spots for the Action Learning - Race Equity project are now full. Subscribe to the NCCPE mailing list to stay up to date on all our projects and inclusion work.

If you have any questions, please email

What support is available?

Members will have an opportunity to share adjustments that will enable their participation in meetings and events. We can cover reasonable costs for these adjustments, and we are able to cover caring costs associated with meeting attendance.

We will offer travel bursaries to support action learning group participants to attend the in-person event where these costs cannot be covered by an employer.

What is action learning?

Action learning is a form of peer problem solving where group members share challenges, reflect on them, and consider actions they can take. Action learning requires multiple meetings, allowing time for members to work on their actions and reflect back with the group.

‘Action learning is a continuous process of learning and reflection that happens with the support of a group or ‘set’ of colleagues, working on real issues with the intention of getting things done.’ (McGill and Brockbank, 2004)

Action learning is:

  • An opportunity to work on real problems and implement solutions
  • An opportunity to learn from others
  • A space for individual reflective learning and peer learning
  • Support and challenge from peers
  • An opportunity to explore new perspectives, and consider new ways to bring about change
  • A safe environment to explore new ways of thinking and doing

Action learning isn’t:

  • About finding quick solutions
  • About imposing ideas or values on others

Action learning requires group members to show up and lean into meetings. Members will be asked to sign a personal contract with one another to give participation in this group the time and resource required.

Who will facilitate the action learning meetings?

Each group will be facilitated by an Action Learning Associate.

Carol Sidney

Carol Sidney

Carol Sidney works as Research Analyst at the race equality think-tank, The Runnymede Trust. Her current projects include the efficacy of ethnicity pay gap reporting and improving access to flexible working for shifting workplaces into inclusive ways of working. Her broader interests encompass race, representation and the British media and a recently completed research-led Masters in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has a long work history with a large variety of not-for-profit organisations as well as a track record with freelance and voluntary work at grassroots and community level. She trained as an Action Learning Set facilitator with Action Learning Associates and is a passionate advocate for its transformative power. 

Suri Patel

Survi Patel

Suri is a skilled facilitator, action learning consultant and coach. She believes in making action learning an accessible tool for change and in developing leadership skills. Bringing a range of experience, from project, stakeholder and volunteer management across the international development, CSR and social enterprise sectors, she is passionate about supporting the development of people to make a real difference in their communities and teams.

Suri has facilitated action learning and delivered action learning facilitator training across a variety of sectors, including within NHS, local authority and charity. Examples include working with women of colour in leadership positions in the UK, UAE and Canada and US and with senior academics and researchers in universities across Africa, UK and Scotland. She has worked extensively with social entrepreneurs, community business leaders and creative arts leaders. Her action learning facilitation spans face to face, virtual, and internationally and, on the rare occasion, a combination of all three! 

Background information

The NCCPE is committed to inclusive engagement practices. We are keen to support individuals and organisations to develop effective approaches to inclusive engagement work involving universities and research organisations.

Working with an inclusion working group, the NCCPE published a statement on inclusion detailing our organisation’s commitments to inclusion. We are currently undertaking a Race Equality Framework self-assessment exercise to enable us to review and, where necessary, improve our practices.

We are now also looking at how we can support the higher education sector to challenge, address and problem solve issues relating to developing inclusive public engagement with research practices. For this, we are hosting an action learning – race equity project to support public engagement professionals who are developing their inclusion work. This will initially focus on race equity. We recognise the intersectional nature of many exclusionary practices and that such exclusionary practices cannot be tackled in isolation. Our focus on race equity provides a lens to begin working on these intersectional issues in an action learning context.

Whilst we are committed to supporting the development of inclusive public engagement practices, we recognise that this alone will not address the systemic issues that have historically excluded people. We want to help universities to engage, and involve, communities in their research in ways that are inclusive and relevant. To this end we are committed to supporting universities and research organisations to embed equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across all of their activities.

If you have any questions, please email