Why we’ve signed the Manifesto

"At Keele, we believe deeply in the capacity of education to improve the prospects of individuals, communities and societies, locally, nationally and internationally. We also strive to achieve the impact of our research by evaluating its social, economic, health, environmental and cultural benefits. For both of these reasons, public engagement is vitally important to Keele’s civic mission as a University which is committed to sharing and widely communicating our excellence in research and teaching. We are proud to sign up to the Manifesto of NCCPE because it demonstrates our determination to develop, share and, wherever possible, co-produce new kinds of knowledge; it also demonstrates our commitment to develop positive, socially beneficial relations between the Keele community of students and academic staff, and the range of communities, partners and stakeholders to whom they listen, and with whom they interact."

Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor

Our approach to public engagement

Born out of Keele University and Stoke-on-Trent’s New Vic Theatre collaborative Ages and Stages project, the annual Live Age festival is a vibrant space for enriching older people’s lives through the arts and cultural engagement. Photo credit: Moonbrushed Media.

At Keele, public engagement (PE) embraces all activities that enhance our sense of the university as a place that makes a direct contribution to society and the economy through ‘cumulative engagement’ with local and wider related communities for mutual benefit. For example, the Cultural Animation and Social Innovation Centre uses artistic methodologies for enhancing community resilience and addressing entrenched problems. The Keele Policing Academic Collaboration’s co-produced work focuses on community security. Our Astrophysicists have engaged over 20,000 schoolchildren with the mysteries of the universe through the inflatable ‘Stardome’ planetarium outreach project. Keele has also co-developed an approach to embed PE as an integrated sustainable, interdisciplinary team culture across its key research areas of social inclusion, sustainable futures and global health. PE also underpins the civic curriculum being designed by the Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence. The aim is for PE with research to be core business, with a joined-up approach that puts sustained engagement with external partners and publics at the centre, includes provision for training, and extends the scale of high-quality PE with research by linking it to staff career pathways, awards and recognition, and through institutional platforms such as PE events and festivals. 

Our public engagement hallmark

Stoking Curiosity, a university-community partnership festival, will be held at the historic Spode pottery site in the heart of Stoke town centre.

Co-production – engagement throughout the process of an activity – is the hallmark for PE at Keele and thus underpins the designing of a SEE-PER funded university led but university-community partnership ‘festival of ideas’. The very title ‘Stoking Curiosity’ emphasises the objective to embed the connection between Keele and Staffordshire Universities and local communities while creating a space that encourages curiosity and sparks ideas among people from across Staffordshire as they engage in research and debates around issues that have meaning for them – the respondents to the call-out include academics and the general public. Holding the festival (on 16/17 November 2018) at the historic Spode pottery factory site will also aid in developing deeper interconnections between the various constituencies that the factory site is currently home to – a heritage museum, an entrepreneurial venture supporting business and cultural events and showcasing local artists’ work, studios for artists supported by an education charity, and other spaces managed by the city council – as we work with them to build and nurture a community of curious people, where all participants could be the keynote speaker, where an award-winning UKRI-funded research installation and a ‘lay’ person’s nuanced imagination alongside will provide an enriching experience all around.

Our public engagement talking point

A key learning for us on the SEE-PER project has been that any talking point around PE hinges on the talk itself: being able to use language that is academically credible yet transparent in making clear to one’s public why you as a researcher wants to talk to them, to engage with them; and why you might want them to offer your research questions a provocation. Indeed, the ‘provocation’ put forward by one external partner at a workshop in the early stages of setting our university’s objectives for a joined up PE strategy was, ‘Please would you not use the word provocation as it isn’t inspiring me to provoke you.’ It was a light bulb moment for the project: addressing the communication and public aspects of the EDGE tool would clearly involve paying attention to both the art of talking and the science of dialogue. Neither researchers nor the public are monolithic entities, hence each PE experience might need to develop its own distinctive co-produced lexicon, with provocation in or out, to ensure a high-quality relationship and research process, outcomes and impacts.

Our public engagement people

Professor Mihaela Kelemen, Director of Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC)

Professor Miheala Kelemen, Director (left), and Elizabeth Riley, Administrator (right), of the internationally renowned Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre, Keele University

CASIC is a transdisciplinary, community-based research centre set up by Keele University in 2014 in collaboration with the award-winning New Vic Theatre. It currently has 185 members in the UK and abroad, including academics, community-based organisations, umbrella and non-governmental organisations and members of the public. CASIC’s innovative methodology of knowledge co-creation and public engagement – ‘cultural animation’ – has been widely adopted. It has also been attracting significant research funding (over £750,000) including grants from the ESRC, EPSRC, AHRC and GRCF. To date, CASIC has organised over 30 public engagement activities in the UK, Japan, Greece, France, Canada and the Philippines.

Professor Krysia Dziedzic, Academic PPIE lead

Keele’s Public Patient Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) Research User Group (RUG), comprising patients and members of the public, was formed 12 years ago to co-create high-quality primary care research. Working in over 100 local, national and international projects, over 100 members bring their ‘expertise by experience’ to support our researchers, from PhD students through to professors. They constantly drive up our standards of engagement and remind us that improving lives is central to PPIE’s research. They are supported by a PPIE team, whose members make an outstanding and unique contribution by placing RUG members at the heart of PPIE’s work.


Professor David Amigoni, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise