Big Questions at Engage 2014

Engage 2014

With Engage 2014 just around the corner, NCCPE's Sophie Duncan sets the scene with a look at some of the Big Questions that are being considered over the two day event.

There is under a week to go until Engage 2014, and we at the NCCPE are really looking forward to it. Over the last few weeks we have shared blogs about engaging places, engaging people and engaging ideas, and where better to explore these themes than at Engage 2014.

And whilst our delegates explore how to engage people with their work, the NCCPE team have been considering how conferences can be more engaging places to participate in. The tools we use to engage the public apply just as much to engaging our colleagues. So this years’ Engage conference provides a range of formats including:

  • Plenaries, to hear and discuss great ideas all together
  • Presentations, to sit back and listen
  • Story telling sessions, for those of us who love narrative
  • Interactive workshops, to build meaning together
  • Engagement encounters, to try things out
  • Seminars, to participate in indepth discussions about a topic of interest
  • Posters, for informal conversations about a topic of interest
  • Twitter and blogs for social media enthusiasts
  • And the magical Encounter and Poster party – for those of us who want to have fun at an interactive magical event!

We also wanted to give you a chance to ponder some of the big questions that are being considered over the two day event, and invite you to discuss them by leaving a comment below. And if you aren’t able to join us this time, remember you can join the conversation on twitter by following #engage_2014!

Here are some of the questions that have arisen from creating the programme, and we would love to know your views. Find out more by clicking the headings below.

  • Engagement practice is often found in disciplinary silos – how can we counter this to enrich all of our work?
    • This was one of the findings from our Towards a Knowledge base report (link). We met lots of people who used different terminology to describe their engagement; used different mechanisms to share or publish their work; and often weren’t aware of great practice they could draw on. We are trying to help address this through a range of opportunities that you can get involved in.

      Engaged Practice Learning Exchange: An opportunity for engaged practitioners to meet to share and  critically reflect on their work – with the next meeting on the 2nd December in the run up to Engage 2014.

      Research for All: A new open access journal developed in partnership with the Institute of Education which you can explore both at the EPLE and in a workshop on Day 2 of the conference. 
  • Are lectures an outmoded form of public engagement, or are they an important part of the engagement landscape?
    • There is a tendency amongst those working in public engagement to be a little dismissive of the lecture. However, discerning the right activity for your engagement purpose depends on your potential participants, and for some of us (including me) there is something magical about lectures as an opportunity to be curious, and to learn. So I was delighted to see some research that backed me up and suggests for some audiences, lectures are their preferred engagement style… 
  • Is culture change still the issue?
    • Six years on from the Beacons project, we have seen much headway in the embedding of engagement into Higher Education. One of the many drivers for this has been the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Early this year we reflected on how useful the REF has been for the culture change agenda and discovered that for many it had been positive. You can read the blog here. You can join this live debate at our conference on Day 2.

      In addition, you can come and learn more about the mechanisms to support Culture Change from the Catalysts, and former Beacons, who are hosting a seminar to get under the skin of interventions and if, why and how they work on Day 1.

      What’s the temperature at your institution? Why not take the EDGE tool test and let us know. 
  • Can threatening Edinburgh with a zombie crisis create an environment where people can learn more about cutting edge research?
    • Finding a way to interest people in your research can be a challenge, so threatening them with dealing with a live scenario is one way to get them talking. Deadinburgh used performance theatre to introduce people to the process of research, and how research can be drawn on to inform choices about what you do. Our Engagement Encounter evening is all about experiencing engagement first hand – a not to be missed opportunity to have a taster of engagement across the UK.

      We have a small number of tickets available just for this evening event from 17.45-19.30 on the 3rd December, so if you are in the neighbourhood and want to pop in. Let us know by e-mailing and we will try to squeeze you in…
  • What are the ethical implications of engagement? How can these be negotiated?
    • We all know ethics are important but what do we need to think about specifically with respect to the ethics of engagement? Do current university procedures act as just another barrier to stop innovative work happening? Ethical considerations are often most pronounced in more collaborative research endeavours. If this is something you want to explore look out for the protocols of dignity workshop, and the ethical guidelines poster. 

See you there...!

We are really looking forward to seeing you at Engage and exploring some of these, and many more questions together. If you attend you may be able to find out why I’ve been making giant sweets and a top hat…more will be revealed. If you aren’t coming – we will miss you – but hope you will catch up via twitter, and the event outputs we will be sharing later in the year!

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