The role of a public engagement professional

Who are public engagement professionals and what do they do?

Overview

Public engagement professionals (PEPs) are an increasingly significant and influential cohort of staff in universities.  They bring vision and commitment to engagement to an institution, and enable public engagement to flourish by equipping and motivating staff, supporting the development of new initiatives, and facilitating partnerships. The work of PEPs is key to drawing in funding for engagement. 

Typical roles

Engagement professionals are usually recruited by universities to support the engagement work that they are doing. Typically, they will be involved in a variety of roles, including: outreach, departmental public and community engagement, patient involvement, impact, institutional public and community engagement, partnership development, corporate social responsibility, student engagement, engagement with research etc. Some people working in these roles may also have responsibility for other areas of work e.g. research, teaching, communications activity.

Catalyst for change

While some PEP roles are specifically designed to deliver public engagement (e.g. as outreach officers) the majority of PEPs seek to support others in developing their own public engagement work. In addition, engagement professionals will often act as a key catalyst for change, championing the importance of high quality engagement, and encouraging effective support mechanisms to be implemented.

What do public engagement professionals do?

Public engagement professionals will often be involved in developing a public engagement strategy for their institution.  You can find out much more in our ‘Develop your Strategy’ section of the site.

Public engagement professionals will also take responsibility for planning and delivering a PE support programme in their faculty, centre or HEI.  You can find a step-by-step guide to this in our ‘Delivering your Support Programme’ section of this site. Here is a brief snapshot of the kinds of activities involved.

Support researchers                                       

  • Review and support skills development, through workshops, training, development opportunities and networking / learning activities
  • Provide easy ways for staff to get involved e.g. through established engagement platforms such as café scientifique, festivals
  • Equip researchers to evaluate their engagement work 

Partnership development  

  • Maximise links within existing partners, and develop new partnerships to support mutually beneficial outcomes e.g. community groups, charities, museums, festivals, local councils etc.

Access external funding 

  • Support researchers to create and cost their public engagement plans for research grant proposals
  • Identify potential funding opportunities and develop applications for external grant funding in order to support public engagement activities

Evaluate your impact 

  • Develop effective mechanisms to evaluate the work you are doing, both to reflect on your work but also to assess its value.

Build a network

  • Create internal networks to share learning, support staff to engage with the public, and recognize quality
  • Engage with networks outside of the organization to enhance development of your work

Communicate and share

  • Use internal and external channels to promote the value of the engagement work you have supported, and celebrate the staff and partners involved
  • Be visible within the organization, ensuring that people are aware of the support you offer, and the success of engagement work being undertaken

Champion change

  • Act as a catalyst for change within your organisation.

 

Help from the NCCPE

The NCCPE seek to support public engagement professionals in a range of ways. We offer professional development opportunities, including the Engage Academy.  You can join our Public Engagement Professionals network, with a range of events and activities to bring members together, to share learning, and inspire change. Find out more about other PE Networks here.

If you think your institution or department would benefit from a public engagement professional get in contact, and we can support you in developing your approach.

Where next?

Championing change is a key part of a PEP’s role – find out more about how to do this effectively