SEI Engagement methods (Part 1)

Myself and other SEI colleagues (Alison Dyke, Radek Rudnicki and Anna Taylor) have recently conducted a review of SEI’s work engaging ‘the public’ with our research. This has been a great opportunity to learn from our colleagues at SEI Centres around the world about the methods that they use for engagement, the types of groups they work with, what they hope to achieve through this work and how they go about evaluating the work. It is quite a large project, and so we’ll report our findings in separate posts.

Here, I’ll focus on the findings from a questionnaire I sent out to all staff in December last year, specifically presenting a snapshot of the range of methods that we use. We decided to focus on staff who do engagement work around climate change. I know from my projects that I use a number of different methods for engaging people, but I have to admit that I was surprised at the diversity of methods used by the 38 staff who do engagement around climate change.


This is a Wordle which visualises the responses to my question about the types of groups that staff engage with. If you’re not familiar with Wordles before, basically, the larger the word, the more times it was mentioned. Here, the word ‘meetings’ was mentioned 12 times and ‘interviews’ 10 times. The Wordle above is quite messy, and contains words that are unlikely to be particularly enlightening, for example, ‘conducted’, ‘early’ and ‘Sweden’. So, I think it’s good to clean up the Wordle by coding the responses into categories, and then making a Wordle again to show the frequency those different categories were mentioned. Here, workshop was mentioned 9 times. It is a little easier to see here the diversity of the methods that we use, which I think is pretty impressive! We’ll post more detailed findings from the research in the coming months.

Methods coded

Wordles have become a very popular way of displaying textual information, and are perhaps a little overused, but I like them as a way of starting my qualitative analysis, as they help me to think about what themes are likely to emerge from the data. I’d be interested to hear your experiences of using Wordle in a research context, as I think it is frowned upon in some settings.


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