Developing your approach

A guide to undertaking consultation and gathering evidence to inform your agreement and build effective place-based partnerships.

About this section

In this section, you will find resources about undertaking consultation and gathering evidence to inform your agreement, and useful tips on building effective partnerships.

Key challenges when developing your approach include:

  • Ensuring that your agreement is based on a robust evidence base
  • Avoiding imposing solutions, and ensuring you are responding to local needs – including community and citizen engagement
  • Working effectively with partners to co-design your agreement and approach

Top tips

  • Identify key stakeholders and work openly and iteratively to develop your approach with them.
  • Beware of ‘tokenistic’ consultation.
  • Consider using independent and neutral arbiters to support this process. Also consider the possibility of using a range of expert user-centred methods (e.g. co-design, community listening and public opinion techniques etc.)
  • Remember to consult internally – to better understand what motivates your staff and students
  • Capturing high quality data and analysis should underpin the whole process
  • There is a great opportunity for HEIs to compare and share their approaches even if they are preparing separate CUAs for the same area.

Consultation & Evidence Gathering

This webinar recording provides a helpful overview of how to approach consultation and evidence gathering, and two case studies: Wrexham Glyndwr’s work with a range of partners to co-create their civic strategy; and work at City-REDI at the University of Birmingham to develop an evidence function for the city and region.

The slides and links from the event can also be downloaded here:

Key Video Case Studies

These case studies reveal how different HEI partnerships have gone about developing their civic strategies. Recorded at the end of 2020, they reveal very different approaches, and contain lots of practical advice about the lessons learned.

We have also summarised the key learning in this event write up:

The Manchester Story

The universities in Greater Manchester began the development of a city-wide partnership in the summer of 2020. Julian Skyrme, Director of social responsibility at the University of Manchester, provided this update a few months into the process.

This briefing note provides links to useful resources developed at Manchester.

You can also watch an update on the project here, which was recorded in January 2022 shortly after the launch of their Civic University Agreement.

The Keele Deals

The University of Keele is focusing its civic work through a series of sector deals, a process they began back in 2017. Ann Pittard, Director of Engagement and Partnerships at Keele, explains their approach.

This briefing note provides links to useful resources developed at Keele.

A Glasgow Civic Agreement

The story of how the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde went about developing a partnership approach and launched a civic agreement in the summer of 2020.

A Vice Chancellor’s Perspective

Trevor MacMillan, VC at the University of Keele, and the government’s Knowledge Exchange Champion, reflects on Keele’s approach to the civic agenda.

Other Video Case Studies

More case studies focusing on learning from universities developing CUAs across the UK

Developing the Newcastle Agreement

Jane Robinson, PVC Engagement and Place at Newcastle University, outlined their evolving approach in June 2020, and reflected on the impact of COVID-19 on their plans.

Sheffield Hallam’s journey to a CUA

In this video, Jacqui Robinson, Director of Communications & Marketing at Sheffield Hallam University, shares SHU’s approach to consultation and regional engagement.

“We went back to the core principle of the public and key stakeholders being at the heart of the partnership, informing the role of Hallam as a civic University”.

QMUL’S approach to community consultation

Sarah Gifford, Community Engagement lead at Queen Mary University of London reflects on how QMUL wanted to place citizen involvement at the centre of their scoping work. This case study explains how they went about this and offers tips and practical tools.

Effective Community Engagement

Ensuring you have effective community engagement is key to developing a robust Civic University Agreement. The case studies below show how universities across the UK have taken on this challenge. You can also download slide packs from the events here:

Eden’s Community Engagement Journey

Eden’s director of Development, Dan James, shares their ups and downs and lessons learnt about community engagement.

Principles of Community Engagement

Emily Morrison from the Institute for Community Studies provides some useful tools and principles for approaching community engagement.

You can also download the Civic University Network’s Effective Community Engagement Toolkit here, produced by Emily Morrison and Liam Harney.

Community Engagement: a fine balancing act

Nicola Gratton, Lead for Civic Engagement and Evaluation at Staffordshire University, explains how community engagement is underpinning their approach to the Civic agenda.

Engaging Communities in Big Local

Liam Harney from the Young Foundation reflects on his experiences working for Big Local – a 10 year Lottery programme investing £150m in 100 communities, with decision making resting with those communities.

Further Resources

Winchester’s Flourishing Communities Framework

The University of Winchester undertook a two year consultation as port of their community impact strategy.

This framework is the result – focused on seven features of a flourishing community. These features now focus and guide their civic strategy.

UEA’s Civic Impact

UEA recently published a report summarising their civic, social and economic impact. This evidence is providing a helpful resource to inform their future civic strategy.

Extending civic engagement to post-industrial towns

Research by Public First, commissioned by the UPP Foundation, reveals significant challenges in public attitudes towards and understanding of universities. You might find some of their findings useful in persuading colleagues of the need for a more strategic civic approach.

Other sections in this guide

Developing your approach

Undertaking consultation and gathering evidence to inform your agreement and building effective partnerships.

Striking your agreement

Deciding the most effective way to focus your agreement

Delivering your agreement

Setting appropriate targets and goals; putting in place evaluation and monitoring; implementing effective governance and securing resources and building a team to deliver the work.