The pathway to building a career in community and public engagement (CPE) is not well defined. The field is new and not valued equally by all organisations; some may pay less than others, some may expect different skills and activities than others. A group discussion at the 2018 Wellcome International Engagement Workshop sought to address the issue of career pathways for CPE practitioners, particularly in the Global South. Participants thought about what people wanted out of a career in public engagement, and compared the field with that of international development, which is much more established than CPE. In development you build capacity of community members to be the implementers. Are CPE professionals willing to devolve engagement in this way? And what is the duty of care around empowerment, as we don’t want to over-burden the community? Participants were also interested to know what training is currently available and whether it’s possible to do a degree or PhD in engagement (see our list of courses here on Mesh). 

Image: Workshop attendees working on a task | Minh Tan

As the group discussed what a career structure for an engagement professional might look like, it became clear that the role of CPE practioners is very different in each context and therefore a single, defined career structure would not be useful.  However, there was agreement that, even if roles and responsibilities for practioners in different sites may vary, there are some key competencies that are common across the field. These included:

  • Resilience
  • Problem solving
  • Strategic thinking
  • Communication
  • Relationship management
  • Knowledge/understanding of health and research processes
  • Applying evidence
  • Project management
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Facilitation

Potential actions to go forwards with developing career structures for CPE practioners  included: a sector-wide analysis of engagement professional job descriptions and the key skill sets asked for in different jobs, and the mapping of the engagement professional structures in different institutions. They also called for a scoping exercise to identify the training requirements in the field and the development of short training courses for CPE professionals.


The content on this page forms part of the online report for the 2018 International Engagement Workshop “Taking it to the Next Level: How can we generate leadership and develop practice in engagement?". To learn more about the workshop, access the rest of the report and browse the video presentations, discussion summaries, and tools, visit the workshop page 

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