Develop a strategy

Tips on developing a public engagement strategy.

As a public engagement professional you may already have a strategy you are working with, or you may be in a position to develop one. We are keen to see research organisations, and departments, consider who they want to engage with and why.

If you don’t have a strategy – don’t panic. You can still find effective ways to support engagement, and think about it strategically. Here are some top tips to get you started, or why not check out our ‘Developing a public engagement strategy’ guide  to see some examples of how other universities have approached the task.

  • Think hard about what you hope to achieve from your strategy. Are you hoping it will help you and your researchers make decisions about what types of engagement to do? Are you keen to see an increase in quality of engagement, or encourage more people to value the engagement you support. Are you longing for longer term partnerships with local organisations or wanting to develop a culture of learning?
  • Logic models can be a great way to map out what you are hoping to achieve and how, and we are keen to see them used collaboratively to help people consider where to put their energy. You can find out more about evaluation in our guide to evaluating your support programme.
  • Find out what types of engagement are currently happening, who is involved (both internally, and externally), and the purposes served by the engagement activity. Depending on your context you might just want to get out and talk to people, or may want to have a survey that could capture some of what is happening, as well as gain some insights about people’s attitudes to engagement, and the support they think they need.
  • Consider the overall strategy of your department or institution, and whether there are any specific references to engagement with people outside academia. Can you make any links to what the institution is trying to achieve that would help you establish more support for public engagement?
  • We believe strategies are there to help inform what you do, and therefore they are worth putting some energy into developing. Don’t make the strategy so long, that it doesn’t encourage action, or too short that you don’t have a chance to review how effective the approach has been.
  • A good strategy is often created with the stakeholders who will be involved. Therefore you will want to run a consultation process. You could involve staff and students in exploring the aims of your engagement work, and the groups you want to engage with. Ideally you would also involve your partners and potential publics – although remember if you do this, you do need to be in a position to act on their advice, and respond appropriately. Sometimes it is pragmatic to develop a strategy, and then review it with a wider group of stakeholders – whilst co-produced strategies have a real value, you have to start somewhere.
  • Being able to say no is a key part of being an effective engagement professional – and a strategy can help you make those tough decisions.

We are keen to support people to develop a strategic approach, and have lots of tools and resources to help. Get in touch if you want to explore how we can help you.