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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R019711/1
Title: Evolving Engagement
Principal Investigator: Pender, Professor G
Other Investigators:
Woolrych, Dr R Duncan, Professor R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Kirknewton Community Development Trust
Department: Research and Enterprise Services
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: RCUK PER Catalysts
Starts: 01 October 2017 Ends: 30 September 2019 Value (£): 89,357
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 Sep 2017 SEE-PER Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Heriot-Watt is an international university, with full overseas campuses and many partners. Our University-wide public engagement unit, HW Engage has been very successful, winning multiple awards and prizes leading to widespread recognition both inside our university and across the sector. We have brought the passion we feel for our science and engineering to a very wide constituency and we know that this has had a positive effect on our university community. Now, we aim to fully and permanently embed this in our University's global culture and long-term strategic plan, by securing the full support of community stakeholders and the most senior leadership in our organisation.

We will adopt an evidence-led approach to influence the culture change in our university that we seek, and we aspire to help drive this cultural shift across the sector. We have had significant success in driving culture change in our own organisation through our Athena SWAN effort (this is a sector-wide Charter recognising advancement of gender equality - representation, progression and success for all). We deliberately adopted a consultative approach in this, to help establish our 'baseline' to understand a wide range of policies and positions. Here, we will do a similar thing: we will consult widely with our university colleagues to understand what they do, and why, in terms of public engagement and try to understand what they get out of this. We will also consult extensively with our public and other audiences to determine what they want from public engagement. We will then design a 'good practice checklist' based on this 2-way consultation, keeping our public involved throughout. We will build an Action Plan to follow specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and measurable initiatives for the duration of this project, with all actions designed to help mainstream and embed public engagement in our organisation's culture and shape future strategy. Activities such as 'Themed Years' will keep public engagement prominent in the agendas of colleagues and senior leadership, as well as keeping our science visible for our publics. Training programmes will enhance our colleagues' abilities to design and deliver effective public engagement that the public want, and management and leadership processes will recognise and reward this.

We have already overhauled our governance of public engagement at Heriot-Watt with a newly established strategic committee Chaired by our Deputy Principal and reporting directly to our most senior leaders on our University Executive; we are very keen to establish a direct line between our publics and our Principal. This committee will also include members of our public community to ensure continuous involvement in our decision making. After 12 months, we will run further public consultations (using focus groups and innovative methods, like walking interviews around our beautiful campus), to see how perceptions have changed against our baseline understanding and to help refine our Action Plan moving forwards.

At the end of this process we will share our findings across the sector. We will share our Good Practice Checklist ('EngageMe') with other public engagement professionals or interested parties, so that they can begin to assess their own baseline positions and construct their own Action Plans. Ultimately, we will create an online resource to track public engagement baseline positions and progress in becoming embedded across a progressively Engaging Britain, to provide a database of activity for the entire sector that can identify 'gaps' and future opportunities. Our own measure of the cultural changes we desire will be reflected in the inclusion of public engagement in our university 2018-25 strategy, better, fit-for-purpose engagement with the public, a continuing 2-way dialog with our communities, and an upskilled and enthusiastic cohort of appropriately recognised and rewarded engagement colleagues.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk