Public engagement is key for making better quality decisions for more sustainable outcomes. Through effective and inclusive engagement, we can work to empower voices which are often marginalised in scientific and policy decision-making and access the evidence we need to understand what works. This review provides the evidence behind what engagement is and why it is important, what the benefits are, the potential risks of ‘poor’ engagement and how to mitigate them, how different ‘types’ of engagement can provide useful classifications for practitioners, and how practitioners can use theory (different ways of thinking and knowing) to inform best practice. This includes consideration of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on how we engage in an increasingly digitised world.
This report outlines how the available evidence can be used to inform the creation of an evidence-led, best-practice engagement culture. It outlines a series of recommendations which consider engagement strategies, frameworks, standards, models, methods, toolkits (and so forth). One central message in this review is that ‘best practice’ engagement and its outcomes will vary between different situations. Practitioners should recognise that the quality of the process and outcomes will change depending on the purpose and objectives for engaging, as well as organisational cultures of engagement, institutional capacity, wider socio-economic and political contexts, and the characteristics of participants.