Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

Knowledge Mobilization: Turning Knowledge Into Action From Context To Context To Context…

My KMbeing blog posts have been an endeavour to educate about Knowledge Mobilization: definition, terminology, and theory. Each week to spice things up I provide a segment I call KMbits & KMbytes as both a summary blog post and daily tweets on Twitter. Each presents brief statements and questions about knowledge, and each week I receive some interesting answers to some of the daily questions I pose.

I always expect the questions to be more theoretically thought-provoking than being answered, but this week a few followers of @KMbeing on Twitter provided some important comments about one particular question I posed –

How do we measure knowledge?

University of Toronto professor Cameron Norman (@cdnorman on Twitter) and German Knowledge Worker Gerald Meinert (@Geraldmeinert on Twitter) from Düsseldorf pointed out the difficulty of answering this question.

Cameron Norman: Perhaps measuring knowledge is the wrong question. Maybe looking at what knowledge is useful for in what contexts is better?

Gerald Meinert: The question is even more complex, as knowledge in itself has no value. What is the right parameter? Knowledge Flow? Speed of Knowledge Flow?

ResearchImpact (@researchimpact on Twitter) – Canada’s Knowledge Mobilization Network also commented on the tweets by stating the usual context in which knowledge is measured.

ResearchImpact:  Only in academic is knowledge an end product and measured. Everywhere else it’s a process to impact.

Although I disagree that knowledge in itself has no value, each of these comments point to the importance of context (or parameter) and process when talking about knowledge. Knowledge is inherently about connecting – connecting people and experiences. But connecting is also about action, flow or process – and this is where Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) comes into play. Knowledge isn’t some stagnant content. It’s a moving and changing progression of human experiences, questions and activities. And just like all collective human experience – it’s never complete. And just like all individual human experience – it’s never the same.

Each human experience of knowledge is always connected to people and contexts, always being generated and contributed to.  Knowledge Mobilization provides the flow – the process – that connects knowledge and experience in each context.  One of my earlier KMbyte posts actually asked about context for theoretical pondering. This blog is my answer to the following question.

Saturday March 12, 2011 @ 12:00 PM

Today’s KMbyte: Why is context important for knowledge?

KMb is about turning knowledge into action and being able to inform and be informed about social and human experiences – and often problems – to bring about effective change in policy-making for greater social benefit.

Knowledge Mobilization does have a contextual element to it insofar as it turns knowledge into action for specific situations – but continues to move forward.  As mobilization implies, it’s always making ready for contribution and enhancement through the continuous flow of knowledge. KMb provides the mode of connecting contextual knowledge and then applying it within other contexts. But such applications of knowledge are never stagnant. What can be learned in one instance of knowledge mobilization can be further mobilized to another context or even be influenced further by another context. An example is when academic knowledge is informed by community experience and informs policy-makers; or when policy-makers influence community experience which informs academic knowledge. All are contextual yet all connect through knowledge mobilization in each context through the changing, multi-directional flows of knowledge.

As I also posted this week: Remember that change alone is unchanging. Knowledge is always a changing process. Knowledge is always a changing process because of context and Knowledge Mobilization turns knowledge into action from context to context to context…

4 responses to “Knowledge Mobilization: Turning Knowledge Into Action From Context To Context To Context…

  1. Gerald Meinert April 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Of course the statement “Knowledge has no value” is a reduction. Of course one might have the philosophical perspective that knowledge creation in itself is the purpose. But as I understand your efforts with Knowledge Mobilization also for academic instutions it is not enough to create knowledge – and hide it somewhere. From the corporate perspective the situation is even more extreme, knowledge (e.g. put in a database) is not creating any business value (OPEX, CAPEX, Revenues). Of course knowledge can create value, exactly when it is used, when it is put into action, when knowledge reaches the right people in the right time (knowledge flow or speed of knowledge flow). The term “knowledge has no value” has been coined towards the false friend of filling up databases with knowledge, however forgetting about re-using it.

    ps: fruitful discussion, hope to show you soon here what it has triggered (still working with me)

    • KMbeing April 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks Gerald for another insightful comment. I wanted to assume that when you made the statement “knowledge has no value” you were reducing it to its most basic element without any action attached to it. Thanks for your clarification on this. Although KMb has emerged from an academic (research/knowledge) to community (research/knowledge-users) outreach model, my interests in knowledge mobilization is to present it’s further societal benefits beyond the academic/institutional model. The inclusion of a corporate perspective is certainly part of the KMb model that I promote.

      As always, your comments are appreciated.

  2. researchimpact April 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Alex Bennett ( has written “knowledge is context specific” so she agrees with you about the context piece. Some say content is king but maybe content can only be king in the right context. But if the context matters then is knowledge socially constructed? By that I mean can knowledge mean one thing in one context and one thing in another context thus changing it’s “value” based on the context? most would argue yes; however, if so are there any absolutes to knowledge? The answer is no. knowledge is not an absolute. Knowledge only becomes a “thing” in context and the value of that thing is determined by the receiver not the producer of the knowledge (even if the receiver is an academic peer reviewer). This brings me to my colleague Kathleen Bloom (U Waterloo) who says that the impact of knowledge mobilization (and hence of knowledge itself) is measured at the level of the user. Context is key. Context constructs the value of knowledge.

    • KMbeing April 10, 2011 at 9:47 am

      Great point ResearchImpact! The first measure of both context and content is at the level of the user. Social construction theory states that everything is socially constructed – and therefore, knowledge as well. As I suggest, knowledge is never something static or stagnant. It can be compared to the concept of time. As each second, minute, hour passes – time moves. But within each second, minute and hour time is filled with a vast diversity of events and personal experiences. They can be captured (especially now with our digital technology), but something is always influencing time, never keeping it the same – as something is always influencing knowledge, never keeping it the same. Just as time is relative (thanks Einstein), so is knowledge – in other words, context is important for knowledge.

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