In our latest blog, the Director of the Centre for Public Engagement Emily Burns reflects and shares her opinion on why now, more than ever before, it's vital to engage with society.
"Do you know what I miss? Those few seconds at the start of an event; the lights dim, seats shuffle, and voices hush. I miss the fold-up chairs at the back of the hall, next to the tea and shared plate of custard creams. The trellis tables and bunting, questions and laughter. I miss the energy in a room when ideas are being shared and built upon and you can just feel it’s going somewhere special.
We strive to be an engaged University; one which listens to, works with, and supports people who are affected by our work. But at times like these, it can be tempting to withdraw, convinceourselves that engagement just isn’t a priority now– that the task is insurmountable.
But the truth is that connecting and working with society has never been more vital. This pandemic we’re living through has highlighted and exacerbated the stark inequalities and challenges within our society – challenges we want our work as a University to address. And we are most likely to make positive change when we work in partnership; when our perspectives are challenged; when knowledge, resources and expertise are shared; when trust is built.
That’s why we’re taking this moment to listen and look critically at how we engage with society – whether that’s through research, teaching, or our role as a local anchor institution.
We want to ensure we’re building an infrastructure and culture at Queen Mary which enables you to work in partnership with people across society. We’ve made steps towards this, and in 2016 we were the first university to be awarded the Gold Engage Watermark for the public engagement support we offer. But it’s time for us reflect on this again: where we are right now and where we want to be in future. That’s why we’re inviting everyone to please share their thoughts and experiences of public engagement at Queen Mary through this survey.
Your insights will be used to determine our new Engage Watermark award, celebrating the exceptional engagement you, our staff and students, are leading – and we hope to be the first university to secure Platinum to mark your remarkable achievements. Your voices will also help to shape the future direction of public engagement at Queen Mary.
And we’re not just looking inwards. We don’t exist in isolation; every university has a place where it is rooted, with communities living and working around us. We play a critical role in the local economy, society, culture and environment. That’s why we need you to help us gather views from across east London on how we can work together moving forward. We want to hear from people living, working or studying in east London, as well as businesses and organisations of all sizes, to understand local needs and priorities. Alongside local partners, we’ll use this insight to develop a new commitment outlining Queen Mary’s role and responsibilities within our place.
I know that 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year in so many ways, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to help us move forward – for the benefit of your work, the University as a whole, and society around us."
Find out more about the NCCPE Watermark process and the Civic University Agreement on the Centre for Public Engagement website.