Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is about taking a holistic view to make research useful to society – and ultimately to make our world a better place for everyone.
It’s impossible to know the whole if we do not seek to understand the parts of it. It’s also impossible to move beyond the fragments if we do not seek to benefit the whole.
Researchers often narrowly focus on research projects in their own institutions and disciplines without taking the time to think about how such research can also connect and benefit further beyond the area or institution where the research is being done.
Fragmented knowledge limits us in being able to grasp how to begin to approach an understanding of local research that can fit into a beneficial global research perspective. KMb leads to social innovation and social innovation leads to making the world a better place. Keeping our knowledge fragmented within limiting techniques do not produce greater learning beyond the confines of our own research circles – and is only self-serving research.
KMb is about creating relationships with others and creating new knowledge beyond fragmented research, beyond one’s institution and beyond one’s self. I cringe when I hear post-graduate students speak about doing research for their Master’s degree or PhD. That’s the “old-school” way of thinking about doing research. That’s the self-serving reason for doing research. Research needs to be more than just for a degree. If a student isn’t deeply interested from the very core of their being to make a holistic difference in this world – even with their initial student research – I suggest they stop their studies right now and think about doing something else.
Research today is about incorporating KMb techniques into academia and teaching students about moving beyond fragmented research knowledge. The Faculty of Education at York University is offering a pilot Certificate Program in Knowledge Mobilization for graduate students particularly with this in mind. Students need to learn that they are doing research for public benefit with a holistic view that requires a sense of responsibility and commitment that can connect individual research to other disciplines, community sectors and regions around the world. This is the future-thinking about connected research.
I also cringe when I hear researchers speak about doing research for their institution, organization or discipline without any thought about how they can connect this fragmented knowledge to other institutions, disciplines, organizations – or community-based social circles. This question needs to be asked at the very beginning of any research plan. The problem with fragmented knowledge within disciplines is that it continues to maintain self-serving boundaries that unwittingly limit knowledge and social innovation – feeding into the very ignorance that researchers are attempting to overcome.
What is most alarming is when academic institutions themselves restrict research for their institution by refusing to create cooperative opportunities with other universities, colleges or community groups to learn from each other and work with each other to achieve the fundamental goal of making research useful to society. I’ve seen examples of egotistical universities who refuse to work with other universities and ignore or misunderstand what knowledge mobilization is really about strictly because of an out-dated sense of superiority ranking or some administrative agenda. Fundamentally, research isn’t about institutional or individual pride – it’s about making a holistic difference in the world.
We only need look at our history on this planet to see where fragmentation leads. Why do we never learn? Individuals in society label themselves “left” or “right” to create safe spaces of comfort and identity. Yet even today and far too often, divisive societies who fragment themselves into such extremes end up only destroying opportunities (and sadly even lives) to learn and develop cooperative knowledge that can bring us closer together. It’s not a pretty picture.
It’s the same for institutions and researchers who fragment their knowledge. Certainly not with the same tragic results from the social (and sadly violent) extremes of “right” or “left” – yet the underlying fragmentation is the same. Many disciplines or institutions have no desire to learn or ask what type of diverse knowledge can contribute to their own research.
Fortunately this is not always the case. A great example of universities and researchers who are working together to move beyond their limiting academic boundaries, beyond their fragmented knowledge and beyond the community/academia divide is ResearchImpact – a group of ten Canadian universities who are following a successful KMb model that’s taking research towards greater community-campus collaboration and greater social innovation.
I once was told by the President of the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization, Peter Levesque, that ultimately knowledge mobilization is an act of love. I think at its core this holds true for research too.
Love that is fragmented is self-serving love. Research that is fragmented is self-serving research.
It’s time to move beyond fragmented research knowledge with knowledge mobilization and make research useful – not just for our institutions or ourselves – but for society as a whole.