The Engaging Libraries programme, delivered by Carnegie UK Trust, supports library services across the UK to run public engagement activities on research within the themes of health, society and culture. Today the Trust published a new digital learning leaflet, sharing what has been gleaned from the delivery of two public engagement projects during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and first national lockdown.
Here are the top tips on digital engagement resulting from our learning:
- Practice with the technology — have a dry run to test both the tech and timings. On the day of an event, test that everything works ahead of time.
- If project partners can’t commit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to be involved — it might be that they can’t currently think too far ahead. Keep in touch with them but be mindful of their situation.
- Have a back up plan in case your technology doesn’t work or if participants can’t connect e.g. record the event, decide on a system of communication between facilitators and with participants if things fail.
- Develop and use a detailed checklist for each online event to make sure everyone is clear on their roles.
- Consider how to add in a social element so people can talk before or after and allow more time than you think for this.
- Think about what you’ll need to produce a quality online event as you would in a physical space. For example, do you need to invest in new microphones? How good is your internet connection? Do you need a better webcam? Are there any access needs to consider?
- Work out who is managing things behind the scenes — have a producer role as well as a facilitator. Having a behind the scenes ‘producer’ monitoring the waiting room, chat function and troubleshooting is the key to the facilitator being able to concentrate.
- Try out different technology options and think about what you want participants to get out of it. Consider offering run throughs or phone calls with participants who might be unfamiliar with the technology.
- Think about how to follow up with participants — how will you ask about their experience?
- Find digital solutions to replace things you would normally do in person, for example using online whiteboards instead of post-its and flipcharts.
- Things take just the same amount of time (or longer) in the digital space. Don’t assume people won’t want to talk. In our experience, participants have wanted to proactively have a social space.
- Put the effort into building up and nurturing your partnership over time as it will bring multiple benefits both for this project and beyond.
You can read our digital learning leaflet in full here.
You can find more resources about digital public engagement on the NCCPE website here.