by | Apr 25, 2023

A lightbulb moment in campaigning to make physics accessible to all

SMK was first commissioned by the Institute of Physics in 2021 to develop a bespoke campaign training programme. We have now run the programme twice and trained over 20 staff in total.

The Institute of  Physics is the professional body for physics across the UK and Ireland.  It strives to make physics accessible to people from all backgrounds. In this blog, Learning and Development Manager Iain Somerfield and SMK Head of Programmes Kath Christie reflect on the partnership results.

KC: Talk me through the Institute of Physics’ decision to start campaigning and how it’s going so far.

IS: The idea behind launching ‘Limit Less’, our first-ever public facing campaign in 2021, was about opening up access to physics – moving away from the idea that it’s just for ‘boffins’.  We wanted to consciously move the organisation from one that focussed on service delivery to one that influences, disrupts, and campaigns.

The campaigns team was set up to do influencing including the hard yards’ of phoning MPs and getting in front of Select Committees and spotlighting the fact that girls can do Maths and Physics.  Limit Less has been a game changer for our relationship with politicians and the media – it’s given us the direct ear of politicians for the first time and allowed us to be on the ‘first to call’ sheet for Guardian journalists looking for a quote. The campaign seeks to highlight the long-term opportunities available to young people if they stick with science subjects, including banking, legal and local government careers. We’ve worked with 100 schools across England so far.

KC: What inspired the Institute of Physics to introduce campaigning training?

IS: As part of Limit Less, we recruited a new Influencing and Engagement Manager who was given a mandate to build a regionally based team, focussed on collaborating with local stakeholder groups involved in Physics and across STEM subjects.  We wanted to upskill existing staff who were recruited into these new regional roles.  Training felt like the best route to do this, as staff hadn’t done any campaigning skills training before.  We therefore worked with SMK on training that helped staff consider how to approach building out their local networks, as well as developing their communications approach.

KC: What were the most useful bits of SMK’s training?

IS: Staff who participated spoke positively about what they learnt and how impactful the four workshops were. Real lightbulb moments occurred in terms of Institute of Physics staff starting to consciously think differently about the importance of having a clear message and talking passionately about our issues.  The idea of campaign learning then caught on across the organisation and led to a wider pool of staff wanting to take part, to build vital softer skills.  Some staff are now interested in taking part in the Campaign Carousel training programme where importantly, they can meet campaigners from other organisations.  The impact of this training is recognised at senior levels in the organisation.

Overall, SMK have been an absolute pleasure to work with. I love their creativity and they provide excellent facilitation.

KC: Describe the Institute of Physics’ campaign approach.

IS: The whole of the Institute of Physics has got behind Limit Less.  There is now a genuine thirst to engage in and promote the campaign more widely through friends and family, as well through colleagues. The campaign goes to the heart of our organisational values including on inclusion. This is reflected in the fact that the campaign stories get some of the highest engagement rates through our internal communications channels.

KC: So what’s next in campaigning terms?

IS: Our vision is to build membership support for the campaign and inspire people more broadly.  Limit Less is here to stay.




Kath Christie

Kath Christie is Head of Programmes at SMK.



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