We are pausing the Engagement Fellowships

We want to explore how we can best meet the leadership needs of the public engagement community. To give us time to do that we are pausing the Engagement Fellowships, which means there will be no funding call for the fellowships in 2019.

People sitting at a workshop, sitting at a table

Credit: Steven Pocock / Wellcome. All rights reserved

We want to make sure we’re supporting fellows in the best possible way. This means designing a programme that clearly addresses the leadership challenges in public engagement.

In the Public Engagement team, we believe we can maximise the impact of health research by making sure people are at the heart of it. We work to connect people, research and society. To be successful we want to support a thriving public engagement sector with a diverse set of leaders, ideas and approaches.

Who we’ve funded

Over the past nine years, we’ve supported 26 fantastic fellows who challenged the way we engage with the public, innovate within the sector and influence how future research priorities are set. The fellowships have given them the time, freedom and space to explore solutions to the challenges they saw.

For example, fellows have looked into:

  • how surgery overlaps with the worlds of art, performance and craftsmanship
  • the development of science communication to connect the public with health research via television programming, podcasts and art  
  • new ways of combining cutting-edge research into the biological basis of consciousness with innovative approaches to public involvement
  • challenging biomedical engagement practices to develop community participation in science in the Global South.

See all the fellows we’ve funded.

Why we’re pausing the fellowships

The Engagement Fellowships have given fellows the opportunity to influence and drive innovation in public engagement, push boundaries with their work, and build their profile and networks. But, as a largely self-directed programme, it has its limitations. 

For example:

  • when the fellowship ends, it can be hard to transition back to working in an organisation where there may not be freedom to continue the innovation they have started, and for freelancers, it can be difficult to then jumpstart their portfolio career or start a new business
  • there are many barriers to attracting a diverse set of applicants in the first place; some people count themselves out of even applying for the fellowship, and we need to understand why.

We want to make sure we’re supporting fellows and future public engagement leaders in the best possible way. This means designing a programme that covers the diverse range of needs and contexts that we draw from, and that clearly addresses the leadership challenges in public engagement. 

That’s why we’re taking time to step back, reflect and plan. There will be no funding call for Engagement Fellowships in 2019.

What next?

We’re currently halfway through a review of how we support leadership in public engagement. Working with Nonon, a design agency, we’re using human-centred design [PDF 204KB] to involve our key stakeholders and fellows, who are an incredible source of knowledge about the fellowship experience and leadership needs in the sector.   

We’ve already gained lots of new insights – for example, about the need to support leaders to innovate. Over the autumn we will be developing ideas and prototypes on what our future approach will look like.

We’ll provide further updates on our work in early 2020.

More information

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