Public Engagement for Impact Public Engagement for Impact

"Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit." NCCPE 

Engagement can often provide the opportunity for impact to take place, and can be referred to as a Pathway to Impact. Engagement allows a two-way dialogue between researchers and participants to take place. Working closely with those who are experiencing the area in which you are researching can lead to new insights and partners can actively contribute to your research. Alternatively, public engagement can provide you with the opportunity to stimulate debate, critical thought or encourage people to develop a new perspective based on key findings of your research. Engagement can be a reflective process, helping to shape your research agendas. 

1. Why are you doing the activity?

a. What research underpins the engagement? What aspects, or key messages, of your research do you want the public to engage with?
b. REF Impact goals could include; education, stimulating debate, informing attitudes, changing practices, raising awareness
c. Wider goals may include; informing research questions or processes, stimulating interest in your institution

2. Who will carry out the evaluation and how much time will they need?

a. Staff resources
b. Analytical time and skills
c. Professional consultants

3. How will you evaluate your event, and what methods will you use to capture evidence of the effect it has had on participants? (See table below)

a. Select methods of evaluation that will a mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence
b. Is it possible to produce or derive a benchmark prior to your event taking place?

4. Where will you store evidence of the impact of your event?

a. UEA has an online repository for impact evidence built into the PURE system. Please see the relevant portal pages for guidance on accessing the module, creating a record of the event and storing evidence.
b. If you have collected personal data, you will need to ensure that you are fully compliant with UK Data protection laws, UEA guidance can be found here 
c. SurveyMonkey should not be used as it is not compliant with the new GDPR, due to the physical location of any collected data is stored. The data protection team have confirmed that UEA’s ‘approved system’ for forms is Microsoft forms and that SurveyMonkey should be avoided.

5. Key links and resources:

a. UEA Engagement team 
b. National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement 
c. ESRC Guide to public engagement 
d. BBSRC Public engagement training handbook 
e. MRC Public engagement pages 
f. NCCPE –reviewing the REF Impact case studies and templates report 


Evaluation and Evidencing: The table below is adapted from an Inspiring Learning for All report and can be useful when considering different methods of evaluation for Public Engagement:

Methods Strengths Things to consider
Response cards
Comment cards
Comment books
•Are a flexible way of engaging with the public
•Can be used as part of a display and other people can
Be encouraged to read them ‐it can be made "fun" and interactive to catch attention
•Need minimal administration as people can complete the card or write in a comments book themselves
•Can encourage people to write, draw or record their comments in their own way and take into account different levels of ability
•Can target people engaged in particular activities depending upon where the response cards or comment books are placed
•Posing questions in a comments book or on a card will improve the quality of the comments
•Provide good quality pens and paper to indicate to people that their comments are being taken seriously
•Place comments cards so that everyone can see them and are encouraged to share their views
Questionnaires •Are good for large-scale collection of evidence where broad information is required rather than in-depth exploration
•Are flexible and can be used in a variety of formats – on site, by email or post
•Can include closed or multiple choice questions as well as open ended ones
•Can be used flexibly – they can be self-completion or administered by deliverers who can help explain questions that may not be straightforward for some people
•Collect demographic information for comparison across age/gender
•Have the potential to collect information from participants over time
•Questions need careful phrasing to reflect age, language and ability levels of your targeted public group
•The ‘look’ of the questionnaire is important and good design is crucial
•Be aware of questionnaire ‘overload’ – is this method suitable for the public you are trying to reach?
•It can be difficult to control who completes self-completion questionnaires
•Make them manageable so that users are not put off by (perceived) length or difficulty of questions
•It is essential to develop skills in using spreadsheets to analyse information especially for large-scale collection of questionnaires
Interviews •Can take place face to face or on the telephone
•Conducted by peers
•Used one to one, can provide good information about learning, attitudes, feelings, opinions and behaviour
•Have the potential to collect information from participants over time about their experience
•Find ways of setting participants at east – they need to feel comfortable and sharing their experiences with the interviewer
•If language is an issue use a translator or peer interviews where one person could translate for the other
•Plan how you will analyse the data in advance – an interview may produce a large amount of evidence that may be time-consuming to analyse unless the interview is structured (then answers may be more predictable
Focus groups •Can elicit in-depth information from participants about their views and experiences
•May encourage people to share their attitudes, beliefs and experiences more openly through group interaction
•Are a good way of collecting and reinforcing evidence of learning from groups participating in the activity/projects
•Enable you to collect different perspectives of the same experience or at different time periods if focus groups are carried out at different stages
•The facilitator needs to be skilled in leading the discussion and keeping the group focussed. He/she needs to ensure that everybody feels comfortable about sharing their experiences and opinions equally
•Make practical arrangements clear for all involved including location, maps, furniture and refreshments
•You may need to pay for participants attending a focus group or provide an incentive
•It may not be easy to extract the individual’s experiences from the group’s
•You will need to take notes (which may require a second moderator) or record the discussion
Graffiti walls •Are interactive as comments can be made to look attractive as part of a display – people can read others’ comments and may be encouraged to add their own
•POST IT notes can be used as a colourful/cheap way of getting people to share their comments
•Comments need to be fixed strongly to the wall or they might be lost
•Provide a posting box for people wanting to keep their comments anonymous
Drawings •Are useful when writing skills are limited and may be more “fun” or engaging
•Can be used in combination with written comments to aid analysis
•These are challenging to interpret without questioning and mediation
Observation •Observation can work well if participants “talk out loud” about their experiences while the observer walks around with them – an accompanied experience •May need to be combined with interviews or questionnaires
•If people know they are being observed their behaviour may be affected
Video •Is an appealing alternative to traditional comments cards – may be more fun and engaging for some users than writing comments
•Is potentially a powerful tool for gathering evidence for advocacy purposes
•Analysis of video may be time-consuming with too much material e.g. from a discussion
•Needs to be edited properly
•Not easy to set this up unless integrated into the design of a space
Role play/Acting •It may stimulate people’s memories by asking them to re-live it •Some participants may be reluctant to act out their experiences so you need to introduce the idea of role-playing carefully
•Requires a skilled moderator
Photographs/Images •Can act as a memory aid to people
•Can be used by people to convey their experiences creatively
•Can be used with speech bubbles in a display to convey experiences to others
•May be difficult to analyse if the context for the photograph is unknown
Voting •Audience feedback can be obtained using “response ware” with clickers or mobile devices
•Interactive method of asking questions
•Audience demographics should be considered
•Questions should be structures to allow simple, clear yes/no, category type answers
Social media •Can be used to advertise the event, record interaction and feedback and may extend the reach of your event
•Can provide quantitative data
•Can be used for post-event surveys/polls
•Branding at event to focus online activity (e.g. hashtags)
•Likely to be a fraction of your audience and not necessarily representative as sole evaluation/evidence

•Can be used in conjunction with other methods e.g. interviews and focus groups to obtain the context and help articulate the learning •May be difficult to interpret and analyse if the context is not known
Letters/Email •Letters and emails can show evidence of outcomes •Unpredictable and ad hoc source of outcomes
•Analysis may be time-consuming

Case studies/Vignettes
•Could be used as a stimulus to present different experiences to people in interviews or focus groups
•Explore people’s perceptions, beliefs and experiences in relation to a specific situation
•Get people talking and to present a broader view
•Vignettes need to be chosen carefully so that people can relate to the experience
•Not used in isolation as it may only give views about the experience contained within it rather than a reflection of their own experiences