Collaboration was key to success in latest Public Engagement Fund awards

In August, we made the second set of awards under our new Public Engagement Fund scheme. Greer Roberts and Alexandra Parsons pull out some patterns we saw in the applications and have tips for future applicants.

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Credit: Michael Bowles / Wellcome

Alexandra Parsons

Greer Roberts

Alexandra Parsons

Greer Roberts

In the past two rounds we’ve seen unusually high numbers of applications from around the world. In general, we tend to fund projects in countries where we already have partnerships or largescale health research projects. Outside the UK and Republic of Ireland, that includes India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.

We'll write about which countries are eligible and what makes a good international application before the end of this year.

What worked – and what we'd like to see more of

The most exciting proposals we saw in this round were collaborative, bringing together researchers, creative professionals and members of the public.

Build on success to create long-term change

Many applications want to try new ways of working. It’s great to see so many different approaches being tested, but we also want proposals that learn from existing successful engagement activities and aim to create long-term sustainable change.

We’d like to see applicants thinking through how to contribute to the public engagement sector. In particular, we’d like to see established institutions taking a lead on thinking not just about disseminating the results of their projects, but sharing practice. That would mean a diverse range of people and organisations across the sector could benefit.

Outcomes are really important

We’ve said it before: outcomes and impact matter. One of the most common mistakes we’re seeing is that applicants describe what they want to do, but forget to show why the work is important for the audiences it serves, and what might change as a result.

Value for money

Some applications struggle to take a step back and think through whether their budget fits the plan they have proposed.

It’s important to make sure that the narrative you provide matches what you think it will cost, and that this fits together with the outcomes you’re hoping for.

Funding stats from this round of awards

  • We awarded almost £1.4 million to 15 projects.
  • The 15 successful projects were selected from a shortlist of 40 applications.
  • We used some of the underspend from the previous funding round to top up our budget this time.
  • For future rounds, we’ll be keeping our budget at £1.25m.

Three of the successful projects

These are a few of the most recent projects we’ve funded. You’ll soon be able to read about the other projects we've funded.

  • Still Life is a project looking at pregnancy and loss in the Jewish community, at the University of Manchester.

We liked: how the project brings on board partners with lived experience, the Jewish community, creative partners, the national pregnancy research charity Tommy’s and researchers in maternal health. Together, they will undertake a far-reaching engagement programme to empower the Jewish community to contribute to future research, and to diversify the wider pregnancy research community.

  • A partnership between the Documentary Institute of Eastern Africa, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and the Malindi District Cultural Association is seeking to promote inclusion for people with mental illnesses in rural coastal Kenya and encourage those with mental health issues to seek medical care.

We liked: the varied participatory approach, which includes coaching a range of people to become mental health awareness advocates, and using drama and videos to promote further engagement in the community.

  • The Barbican’s Life Rewired season will enable artists, scientists and diverse audiences to explore the question: what does it mean to be human when technology is changing everything?

We liked: that the season involves a series of research-driven arts and learning projects which investigate health-related science, focusing on how technology is both enhancing our lives and challenging our identities.

Do you find these updates helpful?

We plan to keep writing short updates after each of our quarterly Public Engagement Fund meetings. We’ll be working on analysis of the type, volume and value of proposals to help future applicants, so we’d love to hear what you might find useful. Tweet @wellcometrust, or leave comments on the Wellcome Facebook page.

If you’d like to pitch a proposal for an innovative project, have a look at our Public Engagement Fund or other more focused schemes

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