Professional development of staff

Participatory practice and community engagement offers an increased opportunity for training and reflective practice. This is to enable facilitators to gain new skills, understanding and openly discuss concerns about communicating science with new or challenging audiences, or in unfamiliar environments. A successful programme will require that staff are suitably equipped to deliver the programme with full understanding of the needs of the participants. 

Top Tip

Experienced staff may still lack confidence for many reasons, such as a fear of going ‘off-script’ or doing/saying something that is disrespectful, inappropriate or damaging for participants. A great solution is inviting your community partner to come and talk about their participants or even deliver training. Open the opportunity to all staff, including senior managers. A few of you could even visit them for greater context and the opportunity to observe a session and meet the participants ahead of the planned engagements.

Case Study from Explore Your Universe

Xplore! Science Discovery Centre partnered with The Venture in Wrexham, an adventure playground which has the values of playwork at its heart.

On completion of the five-week science engagement project, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre could see that their community partner had unique skills that could benefit their practice. Therefore Xplore! invited The Venture to deliver a training session about Playwork Principles at an all-staff training day.

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Many community partners have worked with specific participants for a long time. Community partners have well-established trust, relationships and understanding of participant needs, including awareness of intersectionality, interests and characteristics. Community partners will also often have years of training, so working side-by-side with these professionals will not only support engagement with participants, but provides an opportunity for learning, development and practitioner CPD. During Explore Your Universe, science engagement staff relished the opportunity to gain new skills and flourished in their role as participatory practitioners.

Strong partnerships facilitate sharing of expertise, ideas and approaches, bringing new skills, perspectives and ways of working to both organisations.

Learning from the wider sector

Developed and led by the needs of the staff, the ‘Staff Ambassadors Programme’ at Glasgow Museums enabled staff to go on field visits to community arts projects, get involved in live organisations, do work swaps and access coaching and mentoring. This innovative staff training programme helped to develop understanding and skills around community engagement and participation and was key to the success of their change process during involvement in the Our Museum programme.

Case Study from Explore Your Universe

Where comfort zones have been pushed, structural changes relating to content, staffing, policies or accessibility have had to adjust to accommodate needs. The question then is whether the change snaps back? During Explore Your Universe, if the step back to ‘business-as-usual’ required a clear statement/decision from senior management, in many cases that structural change settled in as a clear organisational shift and progression to promote further opportunities for participatory practice.