Meeting with The Beltane Public Engagement Network

Last week our communications strategist Silje Graffer met with The Beltane Public Engagement Network to get some tips on how to incorporate public engagement into our strategy. (See our blogpost about the MRC Engagement Skills training we attended for more info about public engagement). 

These are some of the tips she got:

  • Why are you doing public engagement, and what are you getting out of it? It's not just about sharing your research.
  • Who are you doing public engagement for, what is your targeted group?
  • What is your audience/are the patients getting out of being involved with you? Make sure you feed back to them, as public engagement is a two-way conversation.
  • Make sure your public engagement activity tells a good story! To engage people who know nothing about your subject to become interested is hard - a good story that's easy to follow is key.
  • Use your existing networks. Check out your academic and third sector partners - how are they involved with public engagement? Can you connect with their connections?
  • Be realistic. Set out what you intend to do, but respond to what comes up. It's important to have a plan and a clear path.
  • Think about your evaluation strategy from the start. Constantly ask for feedback using mixed methodologies (interviews, questionnaires, observation etc).
  • Any academic partners involved in public engagement activity should attend a dialogue and facilitation course. The Beltane Engagement Network run such courses, you can find them here.

Patient (audience) involvement:

  • Develop an understanding of your research that will affect the patients related to it in a positive way.
  • Take the patients views into account - what’s important to them at the different stages of a consortium?
  • A great incentive for patients to get involved is a sense of purpose - helping you help other future patients for example is usually a very rewarding purpose.
  • Make sure to get patients' insight into what they think is important to focus on so that this can influence your strategy.
  • It's important to allow the patients you work with to support each other and support their group community (or help it blossom) if appropriate.
  •  Working with patients is a great opportunity to create advocates of them if appropriate, so that they can help raise awareness of your research.
  • If you have a 'difficult' audience/patients group that's hard to reach, it can help to work through agencies that work with them already. It's important to go where they are rather then trying to make them come to you.
  • Be holistic in your research - what you ask can then be beneficial to all your partners (industry/ third sector, patients etc).

    Thanks to Heather Rea for meeting with Silje, here's a few more links about public engagement from The Beltane Public Engagamenet Network website:

    Project planning

    Online Toolbox

    And here's a few from The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE):


    Ethical issues

    You can follow The Beltane Engagement Network on Twitter (@edbeltane).