Providing a national opportunity to recognise and celebrate public engagement with research across the UK, the Engage Competition 2014 received a fantastic 230 entries. From inspiring young people with new advances in knowledge, to encouraging members of the public to contribute to research, the competition has shown university public engagement to be thriving. In this blog we take a look at the overall winner, the CAER Heritage Project.
The project centred around Caerau Hillfort, an important yet little understood prehistoric monument surrounded on three sides by the housing estates of Caerau and Ely, home to more than 25,000 people. Archaeologists and historians from Cardiff University teamed up with local community organisation ACE (Action in Caerau and Ely), local residents and schools to explore Cardiff’s prehistoric past.
It’s easy to look at this project and think that it is just a community dig. However what marks this project out is the commitment to co-production in all elements of the project design and execution. The dig has provided a focal point for so many other things. From the outset the project’s key objectives were to employ archaeology and history to develop educational opportunities and to challenge stigmas and marginalisation associated with these communities. The project has involved community participants in a variety of co-produced projects, including geophysical survey, Iron-Age themed art installations, museum exhibitions, adult learners courses, heritage trails and a large scale community excavation.
Judges thought this project had it all. They said:
“The project puts local people at the heart of research. There is strong evaluation, compelling transferable aspects, a cohesive narrative and a lasting impact on the organisations involved.”
You can watch a short video on the project below.
Co-production requires a huge amount of planning and an investment in partnership working, and what the CAER project demonstrates is that when this is done well, the results can be extensive, meeting the needs and interests of a variety of different people and groups – including academics, local schools, community groups and local people.
"Recognition by the NCCPE for a national award was a huge boost," said David Wyatt. "We have a lot of support locally, but it is wonderful to see this recognised nationally. Given their commitment to quality public engagement practice, to win an award from the NCCPE is a wonderful endorsement of our work."
We were delighted our judges nominated the CAER project for the overall Engage Award. Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director at the NCCPE said:
"The CAER project demonstrates the breadth of approaches to engaged research from inspiring school children to co-production of research and emphasises the importance of partnership to develop effective ways of working."
Partnership is never straight forward. In a recent event hosted by the NCCPE in Bristol, university staff and community organisations reflected on the challenges and opportunities presented by working together on heritage projects. Whilst there was huge energy and enthusiasm from all involved, there was a recognition that the pressures on universities and community groups can make long term relationships difficult. The CAER project is one of a number of inspirational projects that have facilitated community university partnerships that work to the benefit of all involved.
We’ll be revisiting the CAER Heritage Project in the future to see how winning the Engage Competition 2014 has helped with their work.
What do you think makes excellent engaged research? Share your thoughts and examples by leaving a comment below.