KMbeing

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

Brokering The Role Of The Knowledge Broker

closing the loop

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about why it’s still a problem for knowledge brokers to be seen as credible to some senior scientists in many research/knowledge institutions, and how to overcome this barrier. My colleague mentioned that some senior scientists think the value of their research can stand on its own without any help from knowledge brokers, and often criticize the value of knowledge broker positions in the organization in the first place.

Knowledge Mobilization is about putting knowledge into active service for social benefit – and knowledge brokers have an important role in connecting various knowledge stakeholders together from multi-directional influences of producer-push (researcher), user-pull (research-user), knowledge exchange (anyone), and the co-production of knowledge (anyone). The bottom line is that it’s always about people sharing knowledge to make the world a better place.

My colleague mentioned that knowledge brokers were not being taken seriously by some researchers because of a feeling of a lack of credibility. There are certain researchers who somehow feel that the importance of their research cannot be fully “trusted” in the supposed “inexperienced” hands of “unskilled” knowledge brokers. As such, these misguided researchers would rather go it alone and not make use of intermediaries to disseminate or further enhance their knowledge.

My colleague and I discussed that in such cases there is a need for other credible scientists or stakeholders to champion the cause of these knowledge brokers.  Such champions can assist in bringing recognition to the valuable role of the knowledge broker, and ignite a passion for knowledge mobilization/knowledge exchange. In such cases the very role of the knowledge broker comes into play by connecting with these champions and acting upon these connections by engaging the champions in discussion about the organization’s current knowledge exchange challenges. This means constructing arguments for the champions to convince the skeptical researchers of the value of knowledge brokers.

If the skeptical researchers still see no value – and wish to go it alone – then the knowledge brokers need to be prepared to recognize such limitations and cut their losses while continuing to ignite awareness with other key decision-makers within the organization. Perhaps in this more indirect manner, skeptical researchers may eventually come around to recognizing the value of knowledge brokers for the institution – but never hold your breath.

barriers

The knowledge broker role itself is about finding ways to champion the current knowledge of the organization, continuing to inform institutional knowledge, and broker internal and external knowledge value among stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Knowledge brokers need to recognize that there may be barriers inherent in the organization that cannot be directly dealt with. Dealing with such barriers indirectly may mean ignoring them temporarily (or completely) while attempting to find other researchers or sources for knowledge exchange.

If knowledge brokers are not prepared to do this then you are not prepared to remain relevant to the organization. Knowledge brokering will continue to be a function that is misunderstood, and not seen as credible.

Quite frankly, it comes down to how you broker being a knowledge broker – whether you’re talking about organizational need, the benefits to the individuals who engage with the knowledge systems you create or the connections you’re developing for knowledge exchange. It comes down to how you ‘sell’ the role of the knowledge broker, your contribution and added value to the organization – as well as the people who fall within its influence.

David Phipps

As David Phipps points out, and we include in our co-authored field note, the role of the knowledge broker and knowledge mobilization is not new. Phipps references both Aristotle and the PARiHS framework  to summarize three key concepts for a knowledge broker to think about when developing their role in any institution. (I have added my own thoughts in brackets to further expand the concepts).

evidence = logos (providing the logic or evidence)

facilitation = ethos (establishing credibility for facilitation)

context = pathos (connecting to the stakeholder’s emotional or value context)

These key concepts can be used as a framework to develop greater understanding to broker a knowledge broker role within the organization by providing the logic behind having knowledge brokers.

Evidence: Do you have evidence to substantiate the role of knowledge brokers within your organization? What is the logic of having knowledge brokers within your organization?

Credibility: How credible are the knowledge brokers in your organization? Can your knowledge brokers speak the ‘language’ of the organization? Do the knowledge brokers in your organization have champions to assist them with their roles and help them establish credibility? Do the knowledge brokers understand the individuals within the organization and recognize those that may be barriers or facilitators?

Context: Can the knowledge brokers connect to the various emotional contexts within the organizational system to identify barriers (and possibly risks to the organization)? Can the knowledge brokers speak to the values of the individuals within the organization as well as to the greater values of the organization as a whole? Does the knowledge broker have the ability to know how to work around barriers while continuing to align with the knowledge objectives of the organization?

KTECop

The Knowledge Translation & Exchange Community of Practice (KTECop) often refers to the role of the knowledge broker as “closing the loop” as an apt description. If knowledge brokers are going to continue to deal with problems of credibility and criticism of their value, they must start with a framework that provides greater understanding to broker the role of the knowledge broker. If not, knowledge brokers must be prepared to deal with people who still don’t understand their role, what they can do, and the value they can bring – never being able to close the loop or overcome the barriers they face.

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