A week in the life of a community engagement professional!
Published: 23 March 2023
SHW's community engagement officer Susan Grant shares with us a snapshot of her busy, varied working life, and the many interactions and activities that make up a typical week...
The latest School of Health and Wellbeing’s community engagement update by Susan Grant involves her sharing a bit more about her role and what she gets up to on a day-to-day basis on behalf of our school.
Not every week is the same which is part of what I love about my job, but it usually involves a mixture of on campus, in community and online meetings and events.
During the week commencing 06 March 2023, I kept a diary to be able to share a bit more about what I do. This was the week before the HAWKEYE copy deadline, which is why I chose it, but it also coincided with a week that I hope it gives you an idea of the variety of work for engagement roles within the higher education sector. So come along with me on a week in the life a community engagement professional!
In the morning I had an online internal meeting with Kathleen Boyd who is organising this year’s SHW Research Away Day on 18th April. Kathleen and the rest of the planning team would like an interactive session on community engagement to feature in the programme this year. This is a brilliant opportunity to raise awareness of the community engagement with research work and invite ideas for how we can embed Byres Community Hub and community engagement across the school. I emailed the Community Engagement with Research group to share initial ideas for this session based on our consultation and Theory of Change outlined in my November Hawkeye update and to invite members to be facilitators.
Moving into the new Clarice Pears building has been amazing as I am getting to know colleagues better but also, to bring people into the space on level 1 for meetings. My external meetings are to build relationships with external community organisations and understand better the needs of our communities. Sometimes these lead to brokering connections with research groups or individuals within the school right away and other times, this will be an ongoing contact which may lead to something in the future.
This afternoon I welcomed Jane from the Annexe community-led development trust and health and wellbeing centre in Patrick to come to see the new public engagement space in Clarice Pears that she had heard about through the consultation. I value Jane’s advice and so took the chance to run some ideas past her for Byres Community Hub opening exhibition which will tie into SHW 100 years of public health celebrations. It was sobering to hear how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting so much on the traditional community development activities at the Annexe although they are doing an amazing job at serving immediate needs such as distributing soup packs and continuing to support groups like their Dreams and Aspirations group. This group has extended a welcome to us to go out and as part of an interactive session with them, seek a community perspective on our research and engagement activities so get in touch if you would like to reach out to this local group.
Last thing Friday I had met with the team who are the research group contacts for our "Feel Good Future" community day as part of Glasgow Science Festival this year. We agreed the allocation of MVLS Engage funds towards the development of new public engagement activities thanks to the support of Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund and the college of MVLS Engage Fund so today I send a few emails following on this discussion so that can finalise content for this event and send an interim report to MVLS Engage by next week. The day itself will be on Saturday 10 June 2023. If SHW staff or students would like to volunteer to help with this day, we would welcome your help.
I also contacted the community groups that I had initials discussions with about Byres Community Hub opening exhibition photovoice project "The Public’s Public Health" to get some feedback now that they had spoken to their members on their interest in being involved. Internal and external funds are essential for delivery of community engagement projects, but many projects also involve contributions in kind from both the external and internal partners and each agreeing what we can bring to the table to make projects which will have mutual benefit happen. We as a university are very resource rich compared to many of the organisations we are reaching out to, and we have to be mindful of this and always be thinking about what we can offer groups or individuals in return for involvement in our research.
The start of any new project is so exciting as you are starting to plan the project according to the timescales and needs of external and internal partners, but it is also quite daunting as there is so much you can’t plan until you know exactly who your participants are and although you have aims, you won’t the exact direction the project takes until you are actually doing it and usually the process is as valuable as the output itself.
I am very lucky with the flexibility of being able to work from home sometimes such as today to balance the life of a full time working mum and I am especially grateful on days like this I was able to take an early lunch to walk the dog in the wintery sunshine and catch one of my children’s cross-country races for their school at my local park before heading to the north of Glasgow for an afternoon networking event.
This meeting of the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network took place at Civic House in Speirs Locks on the Glasgow Canal. Organisations working on or who support community-led climate action were welcome to attend. I was pleasantly surprised to be treated to a delicious hot meal on arrival and would return to Civic House’s café. Such local networking events are an important part of my role as I can learn from lots of organisations at the one time and I attend these in different parts of the city. It was nice to be back in Cowcaddens again as I spent 20 years working just along the road at Glasgow Caledonian University.
As the health of the planet is inextricably linked to population health and wellbeing and our school is committed to sustainability and is involved in research addressing many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, I thought this would be a good network to understand what going on in Glasgow post COP 26. I met some really nice folks and was part of some interesting discussions such as on the values of networks to be inclusive and participatory which chimed with the hub consultation.
Some of the groups there were interested in the space we are going to have as part of Byres Community Hub and at our neighbouring Advanced Research Centre building so I will follow up these contacts later in the week. If you are interested, you can join this network.
Continuing the sustainability theme, since coming into post last year, I have been so happy to be involved in a small grant’s community-led sustainability project Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) CIVIS Open Labs Initiative and other #UofGEngage Forum colleagues. Today was the showcase of our ten funded projects and a celebration of the amazing community-led work going on in Glasgow.
This event was made even more special by it being International Women’s Day as many of the projects were developed and delivered by and for women in community. Women on Wheels in Govan met The Scottish Arab Women’s Association at our launch event, and we learned in their presentations that they had since delivered some sessions with women in Pollokshaws who learned to ride bikes for the first time. The powerful film from this project and outputs from all of the organisations will soon be on the GCPH’s website.
Each project had a member of staff assigned to them and I have been working with Freya from Boomerang in order to explore further links such as the engineering student who is looking at measuring the carbon savings of their waste wood into value products and they are going to be helping to make one of the new public engagement activities for our community science day mentioned above.
Following the showcase, I brought some guests over to have a sneak peak at our Clarice Pears exhibition area which is almost complete. I think they are the first community group to have visited our new space and they were happy to indulge me a photograph to make the occasion. The group in the photo are volunteers from Glenoaks Housing Association in Pollok and from there I took them up to the main building for a requested tour of the cloisters.
From community engagement to public engagement and next up was the MVLS Amplify final and Engage Awards 2023 at The Glasgow Science Festival. I enjoyed meeting up with fellow public engagement colleagues at this event. Most of them I already knew before moving to the university last year as we had collaborated on initiatives such as Glasgow Science Festival, Explorathon and FameLab or met through the Scottish Public Engagement Network but now I have this wider network of support to tap into.
SHW was well-represented at the award ceremony with General Practice and Primary Care’s Burden of Treatment concept in the Amplify final and MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit's Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Young Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) Network Festival shortlisted for an Engage award we got to see SHW’s Scottish Learning Disability Observatory (SLDO) named joint winners of the MVLS Engaged Research Project of the Year 2023 on the night for their inspiring "This is Me" campaign. SLDO’s Deborah Kinnear and Fiona Barlow are featured in the photo below with Aaron and John who were part of the campaign to reduce stigma for people with learning disabilities.
First thing I had an online meeting with Beverley Hooper, Community Involvement Coordinator at Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS). CHSS are doing amazing work on the ground in Glasgow through for instance their Health Hub in Wyndford and in hosting Thriving Places in Drumchapel and Chris at the Health Hub introduced me to Beverley last year. I have since spoken with her every few months which has been useful in sense checking the strategic planning of our respective engagement and participation work. The rest of the morning was spent doing emails such as confirming Byres Community Hub and SPSHU’s SHINE Schools Network table at next week’s health and wellbeing event at Glasgow City Chambers with education practitioners from Early Years, ASN, primary and secondary establishments.
I usually have a project management weekly catch-up meeting with my line manager Sara Macdonald on Thursdays but as I am helping Sharon Greenwood and Tracy Ibbotson this afternoon with facilitation at their Patient Public Involvement and Engagement workshop for post graduate research students, I sent Sara some updates via email instead and then looked over the materials for this afternoon’s workshop. My fellow facilitators were Christine and Geoff, both members of the MVLS PPIE groups and colleague Alessio Albanese. Its so important that research students learn about PPIE at an early stage and so I think its amazing to see it embedded in the curriculum.
Friday mornings are often a day I am out in community at networking events or meetings. Today I was pleased to be invited to Community Central Halls in Maryhill who had attended our coproduction workshop last year. It was so interesting to hear work that has been going on at the Halls over the past 45 years as one of the first community trusts providing facilities and services to the community and now serving as an essential anchor organisation in this year. Anna and Mark also showed me the Woodside Community Centre which the Halls hope to reopen and run for arts and cultural engagement.
Friday afternoon was spent as it often is, following up on actions from meetings during the week and tackling the urgent to do list items I haven’t managed to get to such as confirming approval for our visual story that the Dekko comics have cocreated with our Public Engagement and Knowledge Exchange workstream as part of our opening public health centenary exhibition. This week did feel like a week when a lot of things I have been working on either concluded or go the go head to proceed so it was a great week.
My working week doesn’t often include a Saturday, but I was invited by Margaret Lance who had been part of our hub coproduction workshop along to an event in the Gorbals to celebrate International Women’s Day and challenge racism through sharing songs and stories. The stories of some of the women in attendance and their experiences of coming to Scotland as migrants and refugees including former "Glasgow Girl" campaigner and the first refugee to be elected to Glasgow City Council, Roza Salih (below right) were really powerful. I will be following up with Bailie Salih, Councillor for the Greater Pollok ward and our local Hillhead Councillor Martha Wardrop, who was also in attendance and I hope to have the opportunity to meet with Margaret’s Women in Action group again too.
Summary and further links
It is almost a year since I took up post in SHW. This post signalled our school commitment to engaging in our place. Of course, community engagement cannot just be one person or one team; it must be something that’s embraced across the school for opportunities to be realised. With our research on understanding data, the determinants of health and solutions to health inequalities, Byres Community Hub and the community contacts who are interested to work with us, I look forward to the next year. I hope this piece has given you an insight into my role and into the wide variety of things that engagement leads get involved in which is alongside research, learning and teaching and the university civic mission. If you are interested in this engagement space, I recommend the following:
- Subscribe to UofG engagement mailing list
- Listen to Research Adjacent Podcast – a new podcast series from Sarah McLusky with stories from people across the UK and beyond working in research engagement, participation and communications.
- Join the NCCPE PEP Network
- Join the Scottish Public Engagement Network ScotPEN by signing up to the mailing list, joining the Facebook page or booking to come along to our Annual Gathering on Thursday 18 May 2023 in Edinburgh Annual Gathering 2023
I have found this gathering to be really useful and enjoyable in the past and am delighted to have recently joined the ScotPEN committee as an Ordinary Member.
Susan Grant (above left)
SHW community engagement officer
First published: 23 March 2023