Working with champions

Enhancing buy-in and senior support for culture change

People talking

Table of contents

What you find on this page

1. Overview

The role of champions in culture change

2. Top tips

Some tips to get you started

3. Inspire me!

How the University of Oxford used champions

4. Useful resources

Champion role profiles you could adapt


When undertaking culture change within your institution, building a sense of common purpose and securing high level support is vital. Taking the time to consult widely and to make sense of how colleagues understand and value engagement is crucial. It is hard to drive change alone – so try to find allies in your organization who understand the value of engagement, and are happy to speak up for it.

Top tips

Senior champions can help drive culture change

Although allies might be professional services staff, academics, partner organisations, early career researchers etc. it can be useful to specifically seek out senior leaders as ‘champions’ for public engagement to capitalise on their political and professional authority.

Weigh up formality and informality

Many universities who are seeking to embed public engagement have chosen to identify formal or informal academic champions. Some institutions have found that formalising the ‘champion’ position gives extra weight to the role, enabling the work to be included in workload models as well as being rewarded as part of usual academic career progression.

Make the most of academic champions

As a public engagement professional it can be very rewarding to work in collaboration with academic champions as they are able to amplify your culture change work, advocating for your plans and providing a very useful ‘academic’s eye view’. In addition, academics with higher seniority can sometimes help with navigating the politics within your institution and advocate for public engagement work in meetings to which professional services staff are not always privy.

Inspire me!

Oxford University has used champions very effectively. Their final report on their Catalyst Seed Fund project identified the following factors as accounting for that success:

  • A senior, highly-respected academic of international standing.
  • Has the respect of senior staff across the University (not just within their Department/ Division).
  • In-depth understanding and real-life experience of PE.
  • The ability to champion across all disciplines – and an understanding of the PE nuances between them.
  • The right balance of a collegiate approach and strong leadership.
  • Having dedicated support and working together with a PE academic support staff (in this case the CSF Project Manager).

Useful resources