The British Science Association’s (BSA) Community Leaders Programme recruits individuals who work with underserved audiences to become ambassadors for science engagement across the UK. Community Leaders are champions of their communities and the communities’ needs. This is why we believe they are best suited to deliver impactful science engagement that will truly make a difference.

With support from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), these Leaders attend four workshops where they meet each other, share ideas and develop the skills and experiences to engage their communities with science. This culminates in a £1000 grant to run long-term engagement activities and projects that incorporate British Science Week. This year, our cohort of eleven Leaders attended three in-person workshops before we moved online because of COVID-19.

These communities have faced unprecedented change and challenge in the last year. Despite these uncertainties, our 2020 Community Leaders cohort have embedded science engagement in their work. They have led coding classes, outdoor environmental workshops, wellbeing sessions and an exhibition of obsolete technology, just to name a few events.

It was a pleasure to see their confidence engaging in science grow and their definition of science transform. They widened their networks with others working in similar challenging circumstances, alongside science communication practitioners. For some, it has also provided the boost to imagine even bigger possibilities for what projects they can do next, trialling new engagement methods with our COVID-19 Community Innovation Grant or developing more projects with other science organisations.

The Leader’s own words celebrate these experiences best:

Erika Lye, Mountain Movers

“[The Programme] broadened my understanding of what [the BSA] consider to be a science. …I think you tend to get into that mindset, don’t you – science is biology, physics and chemistry?”

“[My application] was something along the lines of ‘I don’t really know anything about science, it’s not my forte’. Now, I don’t think I’m so afraid of it…

You have a thought, let’s see where that goes, let’s explore it, let’s experiment, let’s have those variations, how you support it, how you develop it and review it when you get to your conclusion. So therefore, I’m not so afraid to do those kind of scientific investigations and thought processes with the children.”

Amar Azam, Unleashing Potential

“[The Programme] further highlighted that science is not about Bunsen burners… It’s not being in a science lab, it’s about the real world. And that one year experience of being sort of part of the British Science Association family informed me that the organisations that we needed to partner with… needed to be real life organisations that are out there doing things.”

“It was such a boost to have that network of people to bounce ideas off and it did enthuse me and leave me really, really encouraged… The overwhelming feeling going away was one of that sense of community”.

Claudia McFarlane, African Caribbean Achievement Project

“It’s made me think bigger.”

For Claudia, the Programme has enabled her organisation to think beyond running “bread and butter stuff” to “some of our dream projects”.

Looking ahead to next year’s Programme, she said “[It’s] the ride of your life… For those that come from disadvantaged communities like us, you are about to enter a life changing programme that could really open doors for your organisation in the future in terms of what you can do in the field of science.”

The 2021 Community Leaders Programme is now underway. We’ll meet online for our second workshop on 7 December. While our Community Leaders face the current challenges of a national lockdown, we look forward to seeing their incredible work take shape in the coming months.

You can learn more about the 2021 Community Leaders at:

If you are part of an organisation or community group that reaches under-represented audiences, stay up to date with all our community programmes by joining our Community Engagement Network.