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Public Engagement at Manchester

Engagement Matters: Evaluating your public engagement

In this Engagement Matters post, Suzanne Spicer shares her top tips for evaluating the success of your public engagement activities.

Evaluation can be perceived as a daunting task but when used correctly, it is an effective tool to reflect on and improve your public engagement activities, and to determine the value and worth of evidenced impact.

How to start: Whenever possible you should plan your evaluation when you are planning your public engagement activity. Begin by considering why you are undertaking the evaluation. It is important to be clear of your purpose right from the start.

Write an evaluation plan: To keep focused have an evaluation plan, a step-by-step guide which summarises what you are going to do and how you will undertake the process.
Top tip: keep things simple.

Include the following in your evaluation plan:

1. Aims and objectives
Your aims are what you want to achieve overall and your objectives are how you will achieve your aims. It is important to keep them SMART so ask yourself:
Specific: do they state what will you do and with whom?
Measurable: can you measure their success?
Achievable: do you have enough time and resources to achieve them?
Relevant: do they meet your aims?
Time-bound: do they include timescales?
Top tip: only have one or two aims and up to five objectives.

2. Audience and stakeholders
It is important to identify who will be involved in your evaluation and what challenges may arise when engaging with them.
Top tip: if appropriate, involve the public in your planning.

3. Evaluation questions
These are the questions you want answers to. They should not only measure outputs (the results of your activity) but also outcomes (eg. an increase in awareness, the development of skills or a change in behaviour/practice).
Top tip: have between 2-6 questions and ensure they relate to the evidence you can collect.

4. Collecting evidence
Think creatively about how you will gather your data and how you might build it into your activity, so that it is easy for you to collect, and your public want to engage. There are a variety of methods you can use from the more traditional such as questionnaires to more creative methods such as graffiti walls or using a voting app. You do not have to evaluate everyone and everything – you can sample. Also remember to capture perspectives from everyone involved (including yourself). And if you are measuring impact then it is important to create a baseline from which you can evidence any change.
Top tip: if you are engaging with a new audience, look for advice from other sectors.

Whichever method you use, you will have to ask questions. Use a mixture of open (ask for open-ended responses) or closed questions (give a series of options for the participant to select) and ensure your questions are clear and easy to understand. Check that none are leading or biased and try to avoid asking people to predict their behaviour too far into the future. Also avoid asking multiple questions in one.
Top tip: test your questions out beforehand.

5. Analysing your evaluation data
Decide how much data you want to collect and how much time and capacity you will have available to analyse it. With quantitative data (numbers) you can use a spreadsheet to analyse your data. With qualitative data (words and images) you can group similar responses into categories that can then be counted and reported or expressed as a percentage.
Top tip: you can use audience quotes to illustrate points but check they are representative and give a balanced perspective.

6. Using your findings
Once you have analysed your data then you should interpret what you have found. List your key findings both positive and negative and link them to your evaluation questions and critically reflect on what you have learned.

7. Sharing your learning
Finally, think about how you will use and share your findings. Identify your key audience and who else might be interested and which formats you might use, such as a report or an infographic. Whatever platform you use, be clear about your key messages and share what you have learnt, both the positive and negative.

Some useful resources
You can find some useful evaluation links and resources here.

See also: Suzanne Spicer, The nuts and bolts of evaluating science communication activities, Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, Volume 70, October 2017, pp. 17-25 available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1084952117304494

Posted on behalf of Suzanne Spicer FRSA, Social Responsibility Manager, Office for Social Responsibility, The University of Manchester

Twitter: @UoMEngage | @csusies | #EngageMatters

Engagement Matters: Developing Table Top Science Activities

In this Engagement Matters post Sheena shares her six top tops developing a table top science activity.

There are lots of things to think about if you want to create a successful table top activity. Before you do this it may help to go (or help at) an event in which there are a variety of table tops activities to see what you think works and what you think does not work so well. Also do look at what happens in museums, visitor centres, exhibition spaces and galleries as often there will be examples of excellent practice there.

These are my six top tips for making a good table top activity.

1: Purpose: What is the purpose of your activity – what do you want people to take away from the activity? Do you, for example, want to share a research mechanism and therefore develop a game or prop to visualise this or initiate discussion and raise awareness about the field of research you are in? Always consider your purpose before going any further as it will help shape everything including helping you plan evaluation.

2: Audience: Who is the target audience that your activity is aimed at? One activity will not necessarily suit all ages so consider what is age appropriate and likely to hold interest. Can you trial the activity with someone else first – friends or family just to see if it works? I have used my children as guinea pigs for many of my activities and believe me friends and family can be amongst your harshest critics! On the plus side, my children know quite a lot about parasites now – a fact for which I am sure they are grateful…

3: The “Hook” and Levels of Engagement: Often it is helpful to have different levels of engagement to hold your audience. Ideally you will have a hook that draws people to your stand – this may be something eye-catching or something that resonates with people perhaps because it is relevant to them (the words eye-catching, relevance and resonance are important to consider when planning your “hook”). However, a hook is not enough to keep people involved and ideally you want a longer more meaningful engagement. So what games or activities do you have? If the activities are for children is there something for the parents too? Often this may be you yourself talking through the science and its importance and relevance. If you are struggling to come up with a hook or suitable games then do brainstorm with other colleagues, students and helpers.

Disclaimer: Do not necessarily use posters! I have put this in bold as many researchers are used to displaying information in poster format and therefore default to that. However, lots of small pictures, too many words and jargon are quite frankly off putting. In fact, so off putting can “the poster” be, I have found that some institutions have a blanket policy that does not allow you to display posters in an event. However posters can be a great way to frame your activity if used appropriately – either by using them as a screen to separate your activity from others or as an information source. So, if you DO use posters, ensure they are focused on key messages and use plenty of big, attractive images. Are there analogies you can use to help the message come over? Also consider where you place the poster – if posters are behind you then how can people read them-consider the size of text and where you place the key messages if the posters are to be placed behind you. I have previously put posters on the floor and found many people stopped to read them than perhaps would have looked at posters on the wall.

4: Flow through: This may seem obvious but ideally you want to structure the activity so you have a clear logical flow through of people. You may have your hook then for example encourage participants to move along the table or tables where your next activity (and perhaps another helper is poised) and so on. It is worth taking a little time to consider this as good flow through can really improve the activity.

5: Take home message: What is your take home message – what do you want people to leave with? Is there something they can take away with them to do at home or find out more info? Again, worth planning at the outset.

6: Evaluation: Last but not least – how will you evaluate the success of the activity? Has it worked for both you and the people you wished to reach? If you know the purpose (step 1) it is much easier to know what you will evaluate. I suggest, in the first instance you keep evaluation relatively simple. You can even see if you can build part of the evaluation into the activity so it is part of the fun. There is excellent guidance on evaluation through engagement@manchester here.

I hope these tips will help you plan your activity. Have fun and good luck! Do remember that all the best activities have been crafted from lots of trials, so don’t worry if not all elements of your activity come together – they may need refining to get them just perfect for your next event.

See related posts:

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, Academic Lead for Public Engagement, The University of Manchester

Twitter: @UoMEngage | @sheencr | #EngageMatters

Engagement@Manchester: Working with schools and young people 17 May, 1– 2:30pm

Engagement@Manchester: Working with schools and young people – 17 May, 1 – 2:30pm, G38 Coupland 1 Building.

In this session, led by the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation team, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from Staff and Students who have experienced a diverse range of outreach activities involving young people from across Greater Manchester and beyond.

There will be case studies from PhD Students, an academic school and researcher-led projects. We will also highlight support available for you to start/expand/contribute to schools liaison work in your academic school. A perfect event for staff and students brand new to working with schools and young people and wondering where to start.

There will be coffee & cake at this event, our final engagement@manchester for this academic year. The session is open to all, so please pop in and see how you can get involved.

If you have any suggestions or topics you’d like covered in next years Engagement@Manchester sessions – please let us know on engagement@manchester.ac.uk

We hope to see you there!

Emma Lewis-Kalubowila, UG Recruitment and Widening Participation Officer (Academic Enrichment STEM), The University of Manchester

Workshop: Engaged Research in the Arts

Tuesday 1 July 2-5pm, Contact Theatre (Space 3)

Researchers in the arts at the University of Manchester work with a range of arts and cultural organizations across the city and wider region. These collaborations can set research agendas, facilitate research, maximise its impact, ensure its social relevance and lead to creative outcomes.


This workshop will highlight engaged research in practice and explore different models and modes of engagement between researchers and arts/cultural organizations. It will also provide a forum for researchers and cultural partners to meet and share ideas, as well as an opportunity to foster new collaborations and ongoing conversations on social engagement across the arts. We’ll begin the afternoon with panel presentations followed by time for discussion, and conclude with a screening of creative work produced by the Delia Darlings followed by a wine reception and informal networking session. Support for this event has generously been provided by the Division of Art History, Music and Drama and the Division of English, American Studies, and Creative Writing.

Speakers include:

Registration and Queries

The event is free and please pass on the invitation to anyone you think might be interested, but please sign up in advance via Eventbrite as there are a limited number of places. For any further information, contact Dr. Simon Parry (simon.parry@manchester.ac.uk) or Dr. J. Michelle Coghlan (j.michelle.coghlan@manchester.ac.uk).

Posted by Dr Simon Parry, Lecturer in Drama and Arts Management, Drama / Institute for Cultural Practices, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester

engagement@manchester – 21 May – Engaging with Young People – beyond the usual approaches

Our next engagement@manchester event explores “Engaging with Young People”. All staff and students are welcome to attend this free lunchtime event taking place Wed 21 May, 1-2pm, Kanaris lecture theatre, Manchester Museum.

Often when we think of public engagement and young people we think of activities related to schools, but in this session we explore what engagement looks like beyond the classroom. We look at the challenges and opportunities associated with engaging with young people beyond the usual approaches, and share the learning from three different perspectives.

Speakers include:

  • Suzie Henderson, Head of Creative Development, Contact Theatre – Our work around young people’s leadership development: The Agency project
  • Elisha Bradley, Undergraduate – What it means to be a member of the Manchester Museum Youth Board  (Video: Nature & Me: Elisha Bradley)
  • Kate Sapin, School of Environment, Education and Development, Programme Director, Community and Youth Work Studies – Exploring participatory engagement.

As always there are opportunities to network with others who have an interest in public engagement. And you will also find out about a new publication, produced by the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation Team “A Whistle Stop Tour of How To Run an Event for Schools and Pupils“.

If you have any queries please contact: Dee-Ann.Johnson@manchester.ac.uk

What is engagement@manchester?
Engagement@manchester are lunchtime events to provide informal professional development/networking sessions for anyone interested in public engagement. We’ve looked at a diverse range of topics including public engagement in teaching, citizen science, presenting in unusual places, using social media. You can catch up on previous sessions (filmed events, presentations and resources) here.

Researchers in Residence Showcase, 16 June, Manchester Museum

We are inviting you to attend the Researchers in Residence Showcase.

The Researchers in Residence project is a pilot-scheme of funded internships for PhD students and Post-Doc Researchers, developed by UoM Graduate School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, artsmethods, and non-HE partners.

These placements will provide a way of conceptualising and developing collaborative work with non-HEI cultural partners – combining and reflecting upon mentoring, peer learning, researcher development, impact, knowledge exchange, project design, and employability.

Each of the selected institutions holds a wealth of archival and collections material which will benefit from researcher engagement. The projects developed would ideally harness the skills and research expertise of the student and contribute to the cultural institutions development. The projects might range from contributing to curatorial tasks to education and outreach work, from discrete research on a particular issue or the running of an event.

The event will showcase the projects undertaken in 2013-14 and will act as a forum for discussing wider issues surrounding research and engagement between Higher Education Institutions and cultural, heritage and charity organisations. The RinR project will run 2014-15 so your thoughts on how this should be structured will be very welcome.

Please see the attached programme for more details.

For further info on the RinR projects, please visit the blog:

To book a ticket: www.eventbrite.com/e/researchers-in-residence-showcase-tickets-11544021479

Posted on behalf of Jenna C. Ashton, Project Officer

A workshop on Understanding Participation

How do you analyse participation by individuals, communities or the public in your area of study? What criteria do you use to evaluate participation? What theories or models does your discipline use?

The Understanding Participation workshop, taking place Friday 21 February 2014 from, 10.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m will explore these questions and more.

Participation is a key element in research and professional practice for varied academic disciplines engaging people in making decisions about issues and procedures that affect their lives, from individual well-being to global sustainability.

Would You Like to Share Your Models, frameworks or examples?

On Tuesday 21 February 2014, we will be holding a multi disciplinary workshop designed to consider a range of models for analysing and evaluating participation, whether in virtual or face to face interactions.

We are looking for individuals interested in sharing their models, frameworks or examples of their application to practice at the workshop. It does not have to be a report of research undertaken: We would welcome posters, slides or slideshows that outline or sumarise an approach to evaluating participation.

If you would like to contribute a display click here to submit details of your examples
Please note that the deadline for the description is Monday 13 January 2014

Don’t have a model, but would like to attend the event, register here.

To discuss your ideas or queries, please contact:

Kate Sapin, Programme Director, Community and Youth Work Studies, Manchester Institute for Education, School of Environment, Education and Development. Email – Kate.sapin@manchester.ac.uk or tel: 0161 275 3523

Rachel Gibson, Professor of Political Science, Institute of Social Change,
School of Social Sciences.  Email – Rachel.Gibson@manchester.ac.uk or tel: 0161-306-6933

This event is funded by Manchester Informatics