While working as Research and Engagement Manager for the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University I created the Institute’s first Public Engagement Strategy. It was a requirement of a £1million funding application to the Wellcome Trust in 2020 that we develop an engagement strategy and an evaluation framework.
I developed the strategy with reference to current best practice (based on my participation in the NCCPE’s Engage Academy), Wellcome guidance and the work of other similar organisations. I also consulted colleagues and partners. I produced a vision, strategy, detailed action plan and budget. One of the elements I introduced was establishing a non-academic ‘critical friends group’ (which became known as The Observatory). I also shifted the emphasis of the funding available so that it could only be used for engagement prior to or early in the research process, not for dissemination activities. The aim of this was to make engagement an integral part of research not an add-on, ensuring that partners could help to shape the research and be involved throughout the project.
Feedback on the funding application commended our ‘A much-improved approach to engagement, with sound and deliverable objectives and activities focussed on nurturing researcher skills and bringing in new voices.’