Engaging with a community has the potential to develop long-lasting relationships and foster trust. The community might be people who are end-users of your research, but that is not the only way to create links between the University and the local community.
Be open minded and honest. Consider meeting people away from university territory near where they live and work. Listen hard to work out how both sides will gain from the engagement.
Recently the University of Oxford has used funding from UK Research and Innovation and Wellcome to support eight community groups to engage with the University – a project dubbed Science Together. Facilitators and experts from across all four Divisions applied and were paired up with community groups with a passion and a project. The technical expertise of the university was used to support things that the local community cared about.
Your expertise might not be used in its usual context, but your expertise can be invaluable. One of our researchers used their experience of running surveys and statistical analysis in the context of medical science to assist a group trying to prevent bike theft. The project was picked up by National Neighbourhood Watch and is used on their website to provide advice on protecting your bike. Another project helped write a policy paper for the Oxford Play Association on the importance of play in education and development.
Volunteer facilitators and researchers are invited to step forwards by the end of July.