We Are Rising: a celebration of public engagement stories

In the nicest possible way, the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) can be very hard to say “No” to…

…you said you would be interested in taking part in a PEPTogether. Would you like to be involved in a celebration of PEP stories? We want to hear from lots of PEPs and see what’s going in everyone’s world right now, be that new approaches, reflections on the current context, a story of experience, or something else entirely! We’d ask you to talk for up to 4 minutes, and then have time for some participant questions and reflections. Let me know what you think!

…I was a bit lost at first, but it got me thinking…

Happy to be involved if this useful – as I don’t technically do PE I’d like to tell some stories of what I’m hearing emerging across the sector:

  • stepping into the unknown, being asked to do what we’ve never done or even thought of before using techniques that are completely alien leading to a shift we probably wouldn’t have seen for ten years or more
  • the theme I’m seeing emerging of absolutely going back to basics and really tailoring for our audiences
  • the coming together of professional communities (PEP Together, Virtually Social, BIG Twitter chats) and how proud I am of everyone and being part of these communities

Maybe not a traditional story but something I’d like to tell and perhaps needs to be heard.

…Much to my surprise I was in…

That sounds really great, and I’m sure will be valuable for people to hear.

…so this is what I did

…and I was blown away by the outcome.

(An aside: this is the banner I was talking about, I will forever regret not getting a better photo).



The response

Was beyond anything I imagined: I thought people might be interested in reflections on our stories, but the response blew me away. I’d stumbled onto an unexpected undercurrent within our community — and one which a watery metaphor is very apt — where many of us feel out of our depth,  caught in a rip, treading water and possibly even drowning (although I hope not). The responses in the chat reflected many of these positions, as well as some I received privately afterwards. 

But firstly some caveats

I’m not a trained medical or counselling professional: I cannot mend anyone, . All I can do is bring you a perspective based on over half a lifetime’s experience of managing my mental health and wellbeing, through stress, depression and anxiety. On this day I had energy to give to others, on other days others give their energy to me. although I realise that everyone’s circumstances are different and I cannot know the nuances of anyone’s situation. Please look after yourselves and seek the support you need. 

“I wanted to thank you for your beautiful words during the PEPTogether this morning, very inspiring!”

Thank you, but I was just reflecting our communities stories, including yours. As a scientist I’m a bit loathe to talk about instinct, but as a PEP I could sense something in our community that needed to be acknowledged, and I think it has been: thanks to all of you reading this for acknowledging it too.

“I cannot express in words how much it makes me believe that everything is OK and will be OK!”

I can’t and won’t promise everything will be OK but I’m glad my words have helped, they come from experience. Whatever you’re experiencing is valid; whatever you’re feeling is valid, even if that changes several times a day or hour. So far I’ve always reached some type of OK — it may not look like what you thought it would, or arrive at a certain time, but all in all an OK is found somehow and at some point.

“I really needed to hear what you had to say, as I am struggling with anxiety at the moment over this whole situation.”

I hear you, anxiety is an utter bastard. Please get some support with this, it come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: your GP, a mental health charity (search for them online, find the one you can be friends with), the Five Ways to Wellbeing or 10 Keys to Happier Living, perhaps your employer provides support.

“Any advice for those whose roles are vulnerable?”

This is tricky, I don’t want to be unintentionally disrespectful, all too easy in words. Here are a few initial thoughts.

  • Look internally: is there something you can be doing or move to in the same organisation? Can you gain additional skills or experience at the moment? Think literally and laterally.
  • Work your internal and external networks to find opportunities, we’re here to support each other.
  • Ask yourself what you truly want. Do you want or need to stay in the same geographical area? Do you want or need to stay in PE? The skills are eminently transferable, and new opportunities are possible — I’ve never worked in my first degree area and from difficult situations doors opened I never knew existed.
  • Look after yourself, remember whatever you’re feeling is valid. Find the support you need, never neglect self care, you’re the most important person in this situation.

Thank you

Thanks to NCCPE for the opportunity to tell this story, and my PE community for their positive response: you and a colleague have inspired me to write a further piece on how I’m managing my anxiety, once I’ve recharged my metal batteries.

Please pop your thoughts and any tips in the comments, share your hints on wellbeing with others.

Now go and look after yourself. Oh, and wash your hands. 🙂

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