Engage 2019

Earlier this month I attended the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) Engage conference, the theme of which was ‘Disruption’. The conference took place in Bristol on the 4th and 5th December and was my first foray into public engagement conferences. 

The conference programme was filled with workshops, panel sessions and a ‘living library’, where you could ‘borrow’ a human book (chat with the author about their chosen topic). This was a world away from the familiar conference experience of sitting in one room for two days to hear multiple presentations with PowerPoint! 

At the end of day 1 I had the opportunity to present the Have You Heard? Project during the ‘poster party’. I loved the opportunity to share the project with delegates, to get some useful feedback and discuss our future plans. We are at an exciting time for the project, having recently launched our podcast and been awarded funding from the British Society for Immunology Communicating Immunology grant, so I’m looking forward to incorporating ideas into our new sessions. 

Photo credit: Dee-Ann Johnson

The most memorable workshop I attended was ‘Engaging with Disrupted communities’ with Sarah Buhler on day 2 of the conference. Sarah works with the Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City (CLASSIC) project to provide legal services to underprivileged communities in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. During the workshop, we discussed the disruptive forces that have shaped our lives, be those historical, social, political or colonial. Through this exercise we were reminded of the importance to situate ourselves when working with community groups, as our background influences how we interact with individuals and our work. 

Finally, I would like to share some of Kimberley Freeman’s reflections from the closing plenary of the conference 

“Research is so often painfully disconnected from the people and places most impacted by it, and I think that is fundamentally a bad thing.” 

Kimberley’s speech summarised the overarching tone of the conference, of the need for change, and I believe left us all with something to think about. You can read the full blog of the speech here

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