KMbeing

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

Whose Knowledge Is It Anyway?

I was recently at a Knowledge Transfer & Exchange Community of Practice (KTE CoP) seminar in Toronto where a University of Sheffield scholar, Kate Pahl (above photo) was presenting a research project about a wide-range of meanings that a community park space in the U.K. has for different people in the park.  Pahl was co-investigator on a project called SPARKS: Urban green-space as a focus for connecting communities and research funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Connected Communities programme which brought together anthropology, geography, linguistics, contemporary science and environment science to look at the role of public parks in language development.

Pahl’s KTE CoP seminar presentation showcased this university-community research collaboration project with an interview-style video (the video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/7m27DmiBHFQ) showing the usage and values that such a park space have, and the language used to describe the park by both academics and community participants.  (Pahl has also been a guest blogger writing about the value of stories and storytelling as spaces of unknowing and as works of art). The title of the KTE CoP presentation was “whose research is it anyway?” – illustrating the importance of understanding and valuing research (and knowledge) from within both the university and community sectors.

Interestingly, Pahl apologized several times to the mostly health-sciences audience for her somewhat “artsy” ethnographic research project after being questioned by several KTE CoP academics attempting to understand the significance, direction, scientific methodology and impact of the research project. Instead of recognizing the broader value and application of the project for community research participation and knowledge sharing – along with such diverse areas of academic research, including Urban Studies, Water Management, Social Work, Sociology, Linguistics, History, Recreation, Arts & Entertainment, to name a few- the seemingly narrowly-focused health-sciences group failed to look beyond their academic research silos to appreciate the broader fields of study and the more important university-community collaboration possibilities of knowledge transfer and exchange.

This event got me thinking about the idea of “evidence-based” thinking and ideas of “truth” in this world. There are many different people on this planet who think they have “the truth” or ultimate knowledge of life. Because they think that their knowledge is “the true” knowledge they’re always telling others what’s “right” and “wrong” – never being open to the knowledge of others, or learning how to share knowledge to create new knowledge for social benefit and ultimately make the world a better place. Alas, this seems to be the case even among academics purporting to be part of a community of practice open to knowledge transfer & exchange.

No one knows everything – there are many truths and many diverse paths in this life. Some of us do know more information than others, and some of us recognize the importance of evidence-based thinking. But information is not knowledge, and evidence-based thinking depends on circumstances and preferences that still remain subject to input from personal, political, philosophical, ethical, economic, and esthetic values“Best” evidence thinking is now starting to shift into “best” practice thinking as we recognize that “evidence” that may work in one setting may not necessarily work in another.

“Truth” and Knowledge are two concepts that have less to do with information and “best” “evidence”, and much more to do with openness to other human beings, awareness of the diversity of life and circumstances on this planet, and compassion and empathy for others to make this earth better for everyone.

  

Sandra Nutley and colleagues, in their book Using Evidence, point out the diversity of research approaches and uses stating that “research use enhancement strategies that encourage a greater variety of voices in opportunities for dialoge have the potential to give research a substantial, sustained, and sometimes critical, role in debates about public services” and that “research goes much broader than the preoccupation with the ‘what works?’ type of instrumental knowledge central to the ‘evidence-based everything’ agenda.” (Click here for more on the difference between instrumental knowledge and conceptual knowledge).

In my experience, I’ve learned that all people have knowledge to share, and the idea of “truth” is realizing we can never know any sort of absolute “truth” because knowledge is something that is always changing and always evolving as we combine our knowledge with others throughout our human history and create new knowledge each day with each person in our lives – and throughout this planet.

The greatest knowledge we can reach is that of knowing and understanding we all have knowledge to share – whether we’re academics or everyday people in community. It’s how we find a common ground to share and collaborate with this knowledge that is important.

Knowledge is not about judging other people based on our own knowledge of life and living – or judging other people based on their knowledge of life and living.  Knowledge is about being open to each others knowledge (no matter how limited or extensive) to combine our knowledge – not for ridicule or harm – but for social benefit. This is how we can make a difference on this planet. This is what Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is all about.

At a more formal or institutional level, KMb is a collaborative process of exchanging knowledge among academics and non-academics to inform decisions about public policy and professional practice.  At this level, KMb can enhance social innovation and develop long-term solutions to social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges – including many of the so-called wicked problems that continue to hold back our humanity.

At a more informal or personal level, KMb is also a collaborative process of exchanging knowledge – with every person we meet – to inform our personal decisions about “right” and “wrong” with the many truths that exist on this planet. At this level, KMb can enhance our social interactions and develop long-term solutions to the problems that stop us from connecting and finding common ground as human beings.

There’s a great difference between accepting others for who they are and judging them based on our own limited ideas of “right” and “wrong” and “evidence” – there’s a great difference between the many truths that exist on this planet and our own interpretation of “evidence” and “the truth”.

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