A number of funders actively support public engagement projects. This is not an exhaustive list and other funders may also support public engagement activities:
- Their webpage provides the contact details for each country and area. There may be workshops running for potential applicants to attend. To see if your area is running workshops you should visit https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/in-your-area.
- For grants between £3,000 and £10,000 there is a ‘straight to application’ process so it is recommended to attend a workshop if possible, due to limited resources to provide pre-application advice and support.
- For grants between £10k and £250k, applicants can complete a project enquiry form. This will enable the fund to respond with tailored advice and support, which could be anything from an email or telephone call to a face to face meeting.
- For grants above £250k applicants must complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) which is a way of making sure the time and effort of making a full application will be worthwhile. Heritage Lottery states that they will respond to this EOI within 20 days, either releasing an application form or not and providing advice and support as appropriate (not all applicants will receive advice and support at this level).
As the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the US, the Mellon Foundation seeks to build just communities where ideas and imagination can thrive. They also fund arts and humanities in the UK & South Africa.
NCCPE has put together a useful database of public engagement funding opportunities
Grantfinder is an online database of grant and funding opportunities
- Project Grants can be used for this purpose where the public engagement partnership supports the public library Universal Offers and/or enables or is linked to cultural or arts activities.
- The Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) supports creative and innovative public library projects throughout Scotland.
- SLIC administers the Fund on behalf of the Scottish Government.
- Live Literature is a Scotland-wide programme that helps fund and support author events in communities all over the country.
- The Open Fund: Sustaining Creative Development is open to libraries as well as other organisations, and aims to enable organisations to explore ways of working that will help them to adapt and respond to the current changing circumstances.
The NCCPE has a wealth of information about how to design and deliver successful public engagement projects
If you want some inspiration about public engagement activities to run in your public library, take a look at our case studies.
Here are some specific hints and tips from Engaging Libraries projects on how to:
Design and deliver online engagement
Katie Ingham, from Kirklees Libraries shares learning from the Tickets to the Afterlife project on how to successfully deliver online events
Christine Stewart and Lisa Jaconelli from Glasgow Life talk about how they made their digital activities accessible
Carnegie UK has published a guide to delivering public engagement digitally based on the experience of two Engaging Libraries projects during the first national lockdown
Digital Culture Network from Arts Council England provides free support to libraries in England
Libraries Connected has produced a range of guidelines for running safe and successful events and online activities.
Siobhan Kneale, London Borough of Sutton Cultural Services talks about how the library service co-created a video game with school children.
West Lothian Libraries started their public engagement activities with a listening tour. These tours invited members of the public to meet with the library service and Higher Education Institution (HEI) partners to discuss the kind of research people wanted to engage with. The aim was for the library service, HEI and the public to design the project approach together.
FoAM (now 'Then Try This') worked with Falmouth Libraries. FoAM used their specialist expertise to match members of the public with academics for one-to-one conversations. You can find their details in the map of HEIs.
It can take time to build relationships and trust with schools. But investing in these relationships can lead to very strong outcomes and legacy for projects. Calderdale Libraries worked in partnership with a local primary school to develop air quality monitoring activities. Activities were linked to the curriculum and have resulted in the partner school securing funding to support better air quality in school grounds.
Hammersmith and Fulham Libraries worked with a number of local grass-roots community organisations to engage young people in workshops together with academics. This included young people from refugee and other backgrounds who may not have participated in less targeted workshops.
Glasgow Life worked with the council’s Early Years team to identify families at risk of not engaging with reading with their children. Workshops were designed to be accessible to these families and took place in-home and online. Glasgow Life received a grant to provide technology and internet connections to families who otherwise would not have been able to engage with the online workshops during the pandemic.
Use creative approaches to engagement
Alison Gill, Manchester Libraries discusses creative approaches to public engagement.
OnFife developed a creative project to enable members of the community to discuss menopause and break down taboos. This included bread making workshops, online comedy, a ‘paint a vulva’ workshop and culminated in a co-created community theatre production facilitated and led by Tricky Hat Drama Company
Sutton Libraries developed an interactive online game together with their academic partner and a freelance game developer. The game itself was co-created with the Key Stage 3 and 4 schoolchildren who were its primary audience. Because the young people were involved in designing the game they were interested in engaging with it once it had been developed.
City of London Libraries worked with Made By Play to design and place interactive outdoor exhibits to encourage interaction and reflection on the idea of ‘bumping spaces’. This was in response to the pandemic which made it difficult to achieve the project inside the library space. The public were more interested and engaged with the exhibits once they knew that they were a public library project.
'The baking was excellent and the chat was very informative. It’s good to hear other women’s experiences - it makes menopause less scary.' (Member of the public)
Loan kit as part of public engagement
Calderdale Libraries added air quality monitors to their library catalogue as they would any other asset, so that people could borrow monitors to conduct their own experiments at home or elsewhere.
The Engaging Libraries programme has shown that public engagement activities can have a big impact on participants and HEI partners as well as library staff. It also impacted public perceptions of the library service.
The next toolkit section gives some starting points for thinking about how to evaluate and develop your projects.
Your evaluation plan needs to
- Measure what matters
- Be realistic
- Work for you and your project
Don’t be scared to flex the models and approaches you can find in the links below. Some higher education partners may have specialist evaluation skills or resource they can draw on so do ask them about this when planning the project.
It’s important to think about what to measure and how you’re going to measure it before you begin your project. If you do this:
- You’ll have a clear roadmap of what you want to achieve
- You can design and pilot any tools before activity begins
- You can involve your Higher Education Institution, partners and target audience in helping to co-create your evaluation plan
- You can collect data from those you want to have an impact on, rather than retrospectively attempting to do this
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why are you evaluating your project in the first place?
- What will you do with the findings?
- What are your principles of evaluation?
- What type of evaluation will you need to do? (Front-end, formative, summative?) You can find helpful definitions of these in this Australian toolkit
- Which staff will need to be involved in the evaluation process? Do you have the resources and skills needed in-house or will you need to bring in expertise?
Centre for Cultural Value Evaluation Principles
Libraries Connected Evaluation Toolkit
Guidelines for Good Practice in Evaluation – UK Evaluation Society
Creative People and Places example evaluation of projects
- What are your overarching project aims, inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes?
- Who are the direct and indirect beneficiaries of your project?
- Can you involve your target beneficiaries in helping develop your evaluation plan?
- What does success look like? What evidence will demonstrate that you’ve achieved your intended outputs and outcomes?
- Which data collection methods will you use to capture the evidence you need?
- How will you evidence unintended outcomes?
- Will you embed reflective practice for your staff, volunteers, artists?
- How can you present and communicate your evaluation plan to colleagues?
Example logic model
Story of Change explainer
Gibbs Reflective Cycle
A guide to social return on investment evaluation (SROI) including downloadable ‘how to’ guide
Arts in Health evaluation guide
NCCPE guide to evaluating public engagement projects
ILFA Generic Learning Outcomes (GLOs) and Generic Social Outcomes (GSOs)
- When will you collect the data? Who from? Where? How will you make sure the sample is representative, robust, and free from bias?
- What are the most appropriate data collection tools?
- What might you need to consider in order to work ethically and legally when you’re collecting and storing the data?
- Do you need to consider any specific ethics or inclusive approaches e.g. if you’re working with vulnerable groups or those who may not be able to access other methods?
Creative Research Methods: A Practical Guide (Kara, H; 2020)
Family Evaluation and Audience Research
Collecting public engagement data online
NEF Measuring Health and Wellbeing
Happy Museum project evaluation tools
Market Research Society Code of Conduct
- How will you systematically collect and record the evidence? Where will you store it so that it’s safe? How will you stay on the right side of UK GDPR?
- Which method will you use to analyse your data?
- What is the data telling you? Be cautious of unconscious bias and look for insight rather than simply reporting information.
- How will you tell the story in a succinct and interesting way, presenting insight rather than simply information?
- Thinking about the audience for your evaluation findings, what is the best way to share and disseminate your findings? How will you use the evidence going forward?
Public engagement activities have the potential to change perceptions of the public library among the public and local authority stakeholders, open the door to bigger and longer-term project working and raise the profile of the library service in the local press.
There are many ways to raise awareness of your public engagement work, including:
- Create and disseminate a report about the project
Create a film about your project and promote it via social media and in your library
- Calderdale Libraries created a film about their Something In the Air project
- Libraries NI worked with a partner organisation to create a film about their Turning Heads project
Deliver presentations to other local authority departments and decision-makers about the project - use the findings from your evaluation
- A top tip is to think about the 'elevator pitch' for your project and if you had to get support from a decision-maker in 30 seconds or less, what would you say?
Work with your communications team to promote the project
- Libraries Connected have a range of tools to support advocacy and promotion
Use a successful track-record to bid for a more ambitious project.