Champion change

How can you effect change in your institution and support public engagement long term?

The public engagement professional is a change agent. Championing engagement can feel lonely – especially when leadership changes, and engagement seems to lose its appeal. Whether trying to convince a researcher to engage the public with their work; or making a business case for the work that you do – championing change is a necessary part of being an engagement professional.

Here are our top tips for getting started:  

  • Assess your institution using the EDGE tool. The tool picks out nine key focal points for change. You don’t have to tackle them all at once, but knowing how things are currently, and where you would like them to be, helps you focus your effort. Doing this with colleagues helps to build shared understanding and common purpose – vital for making change happen
  • Check out the ‘support engagement' section to explore how you can support public engagement and inspire culture change in your institution.
  • Look at what other universities are doing. There are lots of university staff seeking to embed engagement within their institution – and keen to share their learning. Why not find an institution like yours, and see what engagement they are doing?  A good starting point are our ‘Culture change’ and ‘Pathways to Culture Change’ reports which summarise the lessons learned by the 18 universities involved in recent RCUK-funded culture change projects
  • If your institution isn’t a signatory to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement, encourage them to consider signing up
  • Increase your circle of influence. It is hard to drive change alone – so try to find some allies in your organization, who understand the value of engagement, and are happy to speak up for it. These allies might be professional services staff; academics; researcher development staff; partner organisations; early career researchers etc.
  • Celebrate the engagement that happens now. Finding high quality engagement examples, and showcasing them, is a great way to build your network. It also helps reward and recognize the excellent work that is already happening.
  • Go with the grain of the organization. It is important to have a sense of the culture of your organization and its strategic purpose. If you can align engagement to the direction of travel, it can help others get on board.
  • Pick your battles – universities are slow to change, and tend to have long planning cycles. Therefore it is worth considering where to put your energy and effort
  • Get help. The NCCPE is funded to support culture change in universities to support engagement. Get in touch to see how we can help you.

Do you have a top tip for culture change – why not share it with us?