Public engagement: Wonder Initiative


Wonder Initiative phase 1: 2018 to 2021

The launch of Wonder in 2018 marked a long-term commitment by STFC to move our focus towards audience-driven public engagement, reaching under-served communities in the most deprived areas of the UK. We wanted to change our emphasis to working with people, reflecting their needs and requirements for meaningful engagement rather than just delivering to them.

Evaluation, learning and sharing good practice

The Wonder Initiative marked a change of focus for our public engagement portfolio, and as such it was important to capture the learning from all aspects of the initiative.

We contracted Cloud Chamber to undertake an independent evaluation of Wonder phase 1. Cloud Chamber’s evaluation looked at our activities and those of our public engagement grant holders. We also worked with Cloud Chamber to develop an informal and supportive peer network of those delivering Wonder activities.

Building on Cloud Chamber’s evaluation, we have produced a series of outputs to share with the wider community. These outputs include:

  • a summary of key findings and learnings
  • an infographic overview of the initiative
  • examples of good practice advice from project leaders
  • case studies from phase 1

Aims of Wonder phase 1

Our aims for Wonder phase 1 focused on delivery, developing effective partnerships and capturing and sharing learning from all aspects of the initiative.


We aimed for a significant increase in our percentage and absolute reach with audiences from socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK by 2021, with activities delivering outcomes for Wonder communities as set out in the STFC Public Engagement Evaluation Framework.

Project partners

We aimed to establish a range of new initiatives co-created by public engagement delivery organisations and community organisations. These would use existing good practice to work with audiences from socio-economically deprived areas of the UK and  recommend approaches for how STFC and others can do this effectively in the future.

STFC’s public engagement team as programme coordinator

We aimed to share and adopt good practice about working with the Wonder target audience, so that these approaches continue beyond the life of this phase of the initiative.

How we carried out Wonder phase 1

Wonder Phase 1 cut across all STFC public engagement work. We prioritised it in all our public engagement grant schemes and in the extensive public engagement programmes delivered through our national laboratories and facilities.

To ensure a wide geographical reach and to harness expertise in this area, we also formed national partnerships with the:

We encouraged co-production across all activities to support people in Wonder communities in helping to shape the types of public engagement they most want to be part of.

Within STFC, Wonder phase 1 was led by a small project team, supported by the expertise of the wider public engagement teams, a dedicated steering group and our  Advisory Panel for Public Engagement.

Working with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement we piloted a series of Wonder Match partnership-building events that brought together STFC-funded researchers and community organisations to explore potential collaborations.

We paired community organisations with researchers, and supported these emerging collaborations by up to £1,000 to develop ideas and potentially pilot activities for new engagements. Several of these new collaborations went on to develop successful applications for more substantive funding through routes such as our Spark Awards.

Last updated: 22 March 2024

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