Engage Festival 2020

Engage Festival 2020: Engagement, innovation and change

We’re delighted to announce our plans for Engage 2020! With Covid-19 redefining our world, there has never been a more important time to stay connected, so we have decided to do Engage a bit differently this year…..

The Engage Festival is an online extravaganza which will take place from Monday 30th November – Friday 4th of December. Bringing together all of those keen to support the role of public engagement in reimagining our world, the programme is the ultimate in tailorable experiences, with delegates being able to develop their own programme that fits their interests and their availability.

The programme will include key-note plenaries, small and large workshops, and networking events. We are inviting the sector to develop and showcase high quality engagement practice both in terms of content and delivery. For those wanting to curate something really innovative, we are making small bursaries available, enabling our community to push the boundaries of online engagement, explore other innovative ways of bringing people together, or to develop tools and methods to approach engagement in our current context.

With a wide array of platforms, session formats, timings, and ticket pricing, we hope that this will be an event that is open to all.

The call for contributions is open now - click here to find out more

Engage 2020 Themes

Engage 2020 will explore these questions:

  • What is the role of universities in our rapidly changing context? With Covid-19 changing the face of society, how can we reimagine the contribution universities can  make? What is the role of public engagement in how universities respond?
  • As we develop new approaches to engagement, how can we ensure that our work is inclusive, and appropriate to the interests and needs of those we work with? Are our emergent practices creating new barriers to engagement, and how can we respond to this?
  • As we start the process of social, economic and cultural recovery, how we can work in partnership with others to generate and share knowledge together? How can we find ways to support engagement practice, in the face of reduced funding, and increased pressure on communities?

In a context where the very fabric of society as we know it is changing; where predictions about the future are contested and uncertain; and where engagement and collaboration is needed to lay the foundations for all our futures, this conference will provide a place to explore, be challenged, and to dream. 

We welcome poets, artists, thinkers, practitioners, funders, policy makers, dreamers, pragmatists, communities, publics, patients, to come and join us at the festival – to share perspectives, and to reflect on the future of engagement in a Covid-19 world.

This year we will focus on the following key themes, seeking to open up a framework for action that could change the HE landscape forever. 

Being trusted and ethical

Responsible research and innovation encourages researchers to situate their work within a societal context. As we begin to make sense of the pandemic and its consequences, and higher education institutions reimagine their roles in society, we invite a conversation about what it means to be trusted in a rapidly evolving context; the skills and approaches needed to be ethical in knowledge creation and use; and how universities can build relationships that last.

Acting on inequality and inclusion

As universities continue to tackle the lack of diversity within the academy, which currently impoverishes the sector, and reinforces inequality, we invite delegates to reflect on what the Black Lives Matter campaign has taught us about change – in our institutions, and in our engagement. The Wellcome Research Cultures report brought into question the very culture of academia – where significant numbers of staff reflected on being bullied or harassed, where institutional cultures breed competition rather than collaboration and respect. How can we reimagine the who and how of engagement, and what does this mean for the make-up of our institutions, and for the focus of our external engagement?

Working responsively

The last few months have seen a huge demand for experts to inform how we respond to a global pandemic. It has thrown researchers into the spotlight, requiring them to share their knowledge and expertise, but also inviting them to make their best guess about the future. Universities have made unprecedented efforts to share their people, facilities and resources. As we navigate the current content, we explore the need to be responsive, to be able to adapt and change, and to listen to others to inform what we do. And we ask – how do the ways we work need to change to ‘hard-wire’ responsiveness into policy and practice?

Mobilising knowledge

Whilst the academy has been an important site of knowledge production and application, it is part of an ecosystem of knowledge creators, many of whom seek to understand, to challenge, and to inform change. We want to stimulate a discussion about whose knowledge counts, how to bring in expertise from inside and outside the academy to address societal challenges that have no easy solution. We explore what it means to generate impact, and the participatory methodologies that are leading to change.

Demonstrating accountability

A significant amount of public funding supports universities to do research. We want to open up discussions about what it means to be accountable – drawing from examples from outside higher education as we consider how to involve publics in meaningful ways, ensuring their views inform how universities do their work. We want to explore how far our current systems of accountability are fit for purpose, for instance in focusing our effectiveness in addressing inequality and racism.

Remaining relevant

The world is changing around us – and universities could get left behind if their funding models, and their approach to knowledge does not evolve too. Remaining relevant will see us listen to others, value and respect contributions of non HE organisations, and begin to realise the specific contribution universities can make to local, regional, national and international agendas.  How can a strategic approach to public engagement enable us to build authentic, purposeful connections to wider society and how will that affect our relevance in the future?

Call for Contributions

If you would like to contribute to one or more of the above themes, have innovative practices to share, tricky issues to explore, or would like to stimulate discussion, reflection and action, we invite you to share your ideas. Online working sessions could include the following formats:

  • Interactive workshops (up to 2 hours): Host a workshop exploring the practice, principles or prospects of public engagement. Please make sure you tell us how you will ensure the session is tailored to the needs of delegates, and how you will use interactivity and the online platform to encourage participation.
  • Debates, panel discussions or webinars (1 hour): Convene a 60 minute debate, panel discussion or webinar. Sessions will provide opportunities to hear a range of perspectives relating to the conference themes. We welcome creative approaches to managing these discussions and innovative use of the online platform.
  • Storytelling: Storytelling is a powerful engagement tool, and we are keen to hear your tales. We invite you to create stories that will captivate and engage. Stories should be no more than 7 minutes and will be followed by Q&A. These sessions will bring together several story tellers to weave their magic.
  • A living library book: Would you like to offer yourself to other delegates for a 20 minute chat? Let us know what your areas of interest are and we’ll pair you up with ‘readers’ throughout the festival.
  • A video showcase entry (up to 7 minutes): Do you have a great story of practice to tell, or an interesting case study? Produce a short video and add it to our online showcase.
  • Contribution wildcard (up to 2 hours): Do you have a great idea for a session, but it doesn’t fit the categories above? We want to encourage our contributors to pilot, develop and share new approaches to engaging in conference settings and invite you to use the wildcard option to contribute something really different.

Using Online Platforms

Contributors are asked to specify which online platforms they plan to use for each session. The preferred platforms are:

  • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Zoom
  • Skype

However, we are open to hearing how other online tools may be used to support your session. Please do use the Webform to outline your plans.

Innovation grant

We are making some bursaries available to cover the cost implications of curating something really innovative. These are to enable contributors to push the boundaries of online engagement, explore other innovative ways of bringing people together, or to develop tools and methods to approach engagement in our current context. Examples of costs these grants may cover include new ways of using online platforms; contributor time; and time to develop/pilot your approach.If there are cost implications for your session that you'd like help to cover, please let us know in your application. 

Submitting your ideas

Please complete the form linked below with details of the contribution you would like to make. You are welcome to submit up to two workshop contributions to the conference, as well as one contribution to each of the other categories - please ensure that you submit separate forms for each one. You can be named as an additional contributor in as many submissions as applies.

The call for contributions will close on Monday 31st of August.

Application form: Share your ideas now!  

Download a PDF version of the call for contributions

Highlights from Engage 2019