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Engaging the public with Census 2021

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Apply for funding for public engagement activity linked to Census 2021.

You must be a UK-based researcher at doctoral level or higher. Your research must focus on arts and humanities, or economic and social sciences.

We fund 100% of the full economic cost of your activity. This includes:

  • freelancers
  • expenses of significant participants
  • production
  • venue hire
  • transport
  • marketing.

We do not fund:

  • activity that would take place without this funding
  • staff salaries
  • overheads
  • catering that is not essential to the activity
  • activity aimed at academics.

Your activity must take place between February and April 2021.

Who can apply

To apply for the Census 2021 public engagement fund, you must be:

  • a UK resident
  • over the age of 18
  • currently working or studying at doctoral level or higher at a UK research organisation that is eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (you can find out more about your organisation’s eligibility in section 2 of the AHRC research funding guide)
  • working in a relevant area of research. Your research must have a focus in the arts and humanities and/or economic and social sciences. Interdisciplinary research across these disciplines is welcomed. You can find a more detailed list on the AHRC disciplines and ESRC disciplines pages of our websites
  • proposing activity that will take place between mid-February and April 2021, and ideally centred around March 2021 when the censuses for England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be taken. We require that applicants propose activity that is wise to and adaptable in the face of coronavirus-related restrictions, and that applicants consider safe and accessible, socially distanced or digital methods.

We encourage applications from a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, expertise and career stages.

What we're looking for

2021 marks a significant year of change for the census.

On 21 March 2021, the censuses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will run predominantly online for the first time and, in Scotland, the census will be postponed until 2022 due to the impact of COVID-19.

It is anticipated that this may be the final traditionally organised census in the UK.

To mark this major national event, we are looking for innovative and ambitious proposals for public engagement activity that will capture the public’s imagination in the census and take people on a journey of discovery.

We encourage applicants to think creatively about the project and to embrace diverse public engagement methods to engage people in the census and their research on a broad and/or deep level.

We particularly encourage applications that propose collaborating and/or engaging under-represented audiences and communities.

Engaging with the theme ‘Census 2021’

Applicants are encouraged to think widely about how they might engage with the theme of ‘Census 2021’.

Below is a list of sample topics that applicants may wish to consider:

  • historical perspectives (for example history of the census; social, cultural, economic or military histories; local and national histories)
  • human geography
  • demography
  • social anthropology
  • religion and spirituality
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • mental health
  • genealogy
  • ‘lost voices’, for example people not recorded or mis-recorded
  • longitudinal studies
  • economics
  • policy
  • ethics.

However, please note that applicants are not restricted to selecting a topic from this list and are invited to propose other topics that may be relevant to the census.

We are looking for projects that:

  • demonstrate relevance to the census
  • demonstrate excellent two-way public engagement and equitable partnerships with audience groups and/or collaborative partners, by making research relevant and beneficial to a non-specialist audience, and by responding to the needs and interests of this group
  • prioritise access to participation, diversity and inclusion, and target a specific audience group – we welcome proposals that involve people from under-represented audience groups and communities
  • demonstrate potential for community or cultural collaboration, consultation and/or co-production methods that are equitable, while using partners that are relevant and/or appropriate to the project
  • represent good value for money and are well-planned and achievable within budget and timeframe
  • demonstrate potential for positive long-term impact and/or for learnings and successes to be shared with the academic community and beyond
  • programme public engagement activity that takes place between mid-February to April 2021, and ideally centred around March 2021 when the censuses for England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be taken.

Example types of activities

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consider how they might deliver their activity in a safe way, given the potential health and safety regulations relating to COVID-19. We will ideally be looking for activity that combines a mix of digital and socially distanced methods, for example:

  • interviews and consultation
  • performances (theatre, music, dance, poetry)
  • audience-focused participatory events (walks, tours, talks that encourage audience interaction)
  • film screenings with Q&A discussions or introductions
  • displays and exhibitions (virtual and/or physical)
  • engagement components of oral history projects, for example, interviews or discussions
  • creation of media outputs (vlogs, podcasts, radio and tv programming, films, apps, zines), theatre, music, visual art or creative writing.

What we will fund

We will fund:

  • freelancer fees for delivery of project (for example for artists, musicians, performers, consultants, translators, non-staff speakers, brokers/mediators to support community engagement)
  • out-of-pocket expenses for participants (for example travel, subsistence) where involvement in project is significant and/or continuous over long periods of time
  • cost of producing outputs and essential activity materials (for example equipment, props, costumes)
  • venue hire
  • transport costs
  • marketing costs.

Please note that this fund will be paid to successful applicants upon receipt of an invoice from their research organisation (see ‘Successful applicants’).

Applicants are therefore advised to consider carefully the timeline of their proposed activity and whether any of their activity can start before funds are released.

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • activity that would have taken place without the support of this fund, for example pre-planned activity that has been upscaled or could be absorbed into institutional budgets
  • staff salaries
  • overhead costs
  • catering (unless consumables are essential to proposed activity)
  • activity designed primarily for the academic community (for example conferences, symposia or workshops).

How to apply

Applications are made through an online application form. From 5 November 2020 select the ‘Start application’ button.

You can then start answering the questions. By starting an application, you are not committed to submitting it. Equally, you can save changes as you go along and come back to it later.

Your answers must be entered directly into the text fields provided – documents cannot be uploaded. Once completed, click on the ‘Finish Survey’ button to submit your form.

Make sure you gain any required approval from your organisation and ensure you submit before the deadline at 16:00 UK time on 15 December 2020. Your application will not be sent to your research office – it will go directly to AHRC.

Guidance for applicants

You will need to answer the following questions when you apply.

1. Name of primary contact

If you belong to a research team, either a PI, CoI or research assistant in the team, can be nominated as the project’s primary contact

2. Email address

3. Research organisation

4. Project title (max 20 words)

5. Project summary (max 300 words)

Give an outline of your project, explaining how your research is explored through this project and including a summary of the project’s aims, activities, target audience, project partners (if any), and intended outcomes and potential impact.

The assessors are looking for projects that can achieve one or more of the following:

  • inspire and engage the public in the census
  • demonstrate creative and innovative approaches to public engagement.

6. Personal eligibility (max 150 words)

Briefly describe your current employment or education situation, whether you belong to a project team (if so, please outline team-members), and which partner(s) (if any) you intend to work with on your project.

7. Topic eligibility

Select the primary focus of your current research activity within the list of AHRC disciplines and/or ESRC disciplines.

Your research could involve bringing together arts and humanities research with other non-AHRC funded disciplines, for example, economic and social science research. Choose the subject discipline(s) that best describe(s) your research.

8. Input the total expenditure for your project (up to £10,000)

Provide an itemised budget breakdown in the text box.

9. Describe your outputs (public engagement activity) (max 250 words)

Describe your public engagement activity, listing costs against activity.

The assessors are particularly looking for:

  • creative and innovative public engagement methods
  • well-planned and achievable activities, that represent good value for money.

10. Describe the public audience(s) you intend to engage (max 250 words)

Who is your target public audience(s)? Explain how you have identified them, why you want to engage with them and how this project will benefit them. Tell us how you plan to make this activity accessible and how you will overcome potential difficulties in engaging this group during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assessors are particularly looking for:

  • evidence of specific and well-targeted audience(s)
  • demonstration of relevance and benefit of activity to chosen audience(s)
  • understanding of potential barriers to access for audience(s) and plan of how to remove barriers.

11. Describe your project outcomes and methods for evaluation (max 250 words)

Tell us how your project will make a change to the public audience(s) it engages with, and how you will evaluate its effectiveness.

The assessors are particularly looking for:

  • clear outcomes
  • appropriate evaluation methods.

How we will assess your application

Before we assess an application, AHRC and ESRC will check it for:

  • eligibility
  • research subject.

Applications which don’t adhere to these rules will be disqualified and will not progress any further. Incomplete, obscene or fraudulent entries will also be disqualified at this stage.

AHRC will then share the entirety of the content of the applications, excluding the applicant contact details (email address), with the selection panel via a secure online portal.

The selection panel will represent diverse perspectives and specialisms, and will include experts from our project partner, The National Archives, representatives from AHRC and ESRC’s peer review colleges, and other relevant public and community engagement experts.

The selection panel will then assess all remaining applications against the assessment criteria below and assign an initial grade (one to six), where one is unsatisfactory and six is exceptional.

After considering all proposals, the selection panel will select the highest grading applications that meet our assessment and eligibility criteria.

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, we are not able to provide individual feedback if you are unsuccessful at the application stage.

Assessment criteria

1. Public engagement activity is relevant and beneficial to a specific audience group(s)

The applicant must propose public engagement activity that responds to the needs and interests of the audience group(s) and partners they have identified.

Audience group(s) must be specific to the project, i.e. the ‘general public’ is not specific enough, but ‘people over 40 living in the south west of England’ is.

The public engagement activity must be relevant to the audience group(s) and have the potential to positively impact upon them.

2. Equitable partnerships

The applicant demonstrates equitable partnerships incorporating collaboration, consultation and/or co-production methods that are fair and mutually beneficial.

3. Creative use of public engagement methodologies

The applicant makes creative and/or innovative use of public engagement methods to inspire and engage their audience group(s). This could be in the project’s design, collaborations, methods, participants, or in the challenge being addressed.

4. Facilitating access, diversity and inclusion

The applicant demonstrates an understanding of potential barriers to access, diversity and inclusion for their audience group(s) and provides a plan of how to remove these barriers.

5. Projects are logically and realistically planned

Projects must represent good value for money and present a clear delivery plan which is adaptable to changing coronavirus-related restrictions, an evaluation plan, and outcomes that are achievable and measurable against appropriate evaluation methods, within budget and timeframe.

Successful applicants

Successful applicants will be notified in the week commencing 8 February 2021.

They will:

    • receive their award through invoice. Applicants will be expected to provide AHRC with price quotations for their activity. AHRC will then generate a purchase order and request that the applicant’s research organisation generates an invoice. Once UKRI receives the invoice, payment will be made to the research organisation. Successful applicants are advised to send price quotations as soon as possible to allow for their fund to be processed quickly
    • be expected to update AHRC and ESRC on their activity to allow us to help promote their project
    • work with the AHRC and ESRC on communications and branding activity to support engagement projects – with guidance and information supplied on press releases, social media and digital (there will be opportunities for researchers to contribute to the AHRC blog, ‘Arts and Minds’ and one of the AHRC/BBC New Thinking podcasts which will focus on the census in spring 2021)
    • be expected to evaluate their project and report their findings within three months of the activity
    • be required to complete a smart survey to report on project outcomes as data, for this fund cannot be reported via researchfish.

Contact details

The UKRI Operations Team is here to help with any questions about the service and the Census 2021 call. Queries should be directed through the following route: enquiries@ahrc.ukri.org.

Additional info

Terms and conditions

This guidance, and these terms, constitute the rules of the scheme.

AHRC reserves the right to alter or amend any of these rules or cancel the call at any time in their absolute discretion.

Your participation and your data

Your offer to participate in this call is subject to continued acceptance of these conditions. By applying to the call, you accept these rules and guidance.

You must supply full details as required and comply with all rules of the call.

You recognise that your application and personal data will be shared with AHRC and partner organisations for the purpose of administering this call. You should also note that if we identify a need to do so, we may contact you at a later date for more information about you.

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