What’s next for Beltane? In fact, what IS Beltane?
The Beltane Public Engagement Network is nearly four years old, and it’s more than eight years since the original Beltane project began. In the time that’s passed, the world of public engagement with research has changed, and Beltane needs to adapt. After some research, it’s becoming clear what needs to change and what should remain!
Since June of this year, the core Beltane team (Heather Rea and Sarah Anderson) has been working with service design agency Snook to envisage the best possible future for the Beltane initiative. We started this process after the spring 2016 meeting of the Beltane Advisory Group, at which all Beltane partners confirmed they wanted to keep the Beltane project going in some form. The work with Snook has questioned the fundamental premises of Beltane – what public engagement even is, for example – so we’re confident that the findings are robust.
So, without further ado, here are the headline findings!
Observed: People who use Beltane’s services are clear on the value it provides to them, but there isn’t a shared understanding of the Network’s services, aims, value and ways of working across services, users, stakeholders and partners
Recommended: Co-developing the Network’s definition would help build a presentation of Beltane that works outwardly for the publics partner institutions seek to engage, and inwardly for the partners and staff
Observation: Beltane was created over 8 years ago, during which time the public engagement landscape has evolved. The next priorities for Beltane aren’t presently clear
Recommended: *Possible* priorities which have emerged from Snook’s research need to be developed, selected and prioritised, but include:
- Communicating more clearly about Beltane (aims, services, expectations) and public engagement more generally
- Reflect deeply on the link between public engagement and impact
- Using public engagement to promote cross-disciplinary work
- Influencing local and national decision-makers
- Strengthen relationships between Beltane partners, helping them to balance collaboration and competition
- Dare greatly – consider to create novel and risky engagement opportunities like the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas
Observation: Public engagement at Beltane’s partner institutions has evolved in different over the last 8 years, meaning the partners need different types of support
Recommended: Develop a model whereby the different but equally valuable contributions of each partner are recognised, and Beltane reciprocates with the services that that particular partner really needs
Observed: There seems to be a gap between the core Beltane team of two members of staff and each of the partner institutions
Recommended: Put in place a clear and empowered Beltane contact point in each partner
These are just the headline findings; more concrete detail will be available as soon as the final report from Snook is signed off. If you have any questions in the interim, please just drop Heather or Sarah a line.