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Community Engagement in Research
Connecting Communities: Research towards a leading edge theory & practice for Community Engagement
Public engagement in research is politically mandated, and is increasingly becoming a requirement of funding bodies for researchers to demonstrate how they have engaged, or propose to engage, members of the public in their research activities. This project sought to determine the extent to which complexity theory might offer the most effective means for understanding how communities can be successfully engaged in academic research. We adopted a case study approach, working with participants in a number of projects which had significant community engagement. These projects were all supported by the UK Beacons for Public Engagement, with which we also collaborated in our work. From the outset our research was informed by a Community Advisory Group, comprising community partners and engagement specialists. The findings of the research were fed back to participants, our Advisory Group, stakeholders and policy makers who further shaped our thoughts and helped us think about implications for commissioning and evaluating publically engaged research.
The objective of our research was to identify the initial conditions that facilitated the creation of enabling environments for community engagement. the results led us to develop a new way of conceptualising community engagement, which we propose to call an ‘engagement cycle’. We suggest that this engagement cycle comprises a number of differential ‘phases’, each of which is constituted by its own characteristic processes.
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