KMbeing

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

Monthly Archives: May 2014

Knowledge Mobilization, Storytelling & Tim Hortons Donuts

Gary since 1964

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Tim Hortons Donuts and also my 50th birthday!  In thinking about this I remembered an earlier KMbeing blog post about storytelling as part of knowledge mobilization – and donuts!

In honour of both our 50 years I thought I’d repost with an update. 

 

Sharing knowledge by telling a story can make a presentation, blog or conversation more interesting. Why?

When I was five years old, I was hit by a car. I fractured my collar-bone and was unconscious for nearly 48 hours. Doctors feared that I would suffer brain damage due to the impact of hitting my head against the pavement after being thrown forward by the force of the car. Fortunately, I was wearing one of those Sherlock Holmes-style winter hats for kids that my mother thought looked so cute on me. Thankfully, the hat cushioned the blow. I recovered, but my skull – though healed – still has a fracture line that I can run my fingers along.

Sherlock Holmes hat     donuts

I blame free donuts at Tim Hortons as the reason why I was hit by a car – well it’s not Tim Hortons fault, but their donuts are soooo good!

I crossed the busy street because it was the grand opening of a Tim Hortons  – and I wanted free donuts. Being five years old, I wasn’t really paying attention to traffic and more to the opportunity for free donuts…and…bam…thrown in the air to land on the pavement into unconsciousness.

What’s interesting about this story is that you are more likely to be able to visualize this incident and remember the details of the story with its connection to free donuts because of an emotional connection you’ve made to the knowledge I’ve shared. You would probably be less likely to do so if I simply presented this story with a list of strict facts:

  • I was five years old
  • I was hit by a car
  • There were free donuts

Since the very first days of tribal story telling, exchanging knowledge through stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. We all enjoy a good story. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that using stories to share knowledge is a much more effective way of retaining what’s being told. There’s also a neurological reason for it as well. When we are given information, the language processing parts in our brain are activated. When we hear a story many more parts of the brain respond. When a person shares knowledge through a story we connect intellectually and emotionally.

Sharing knowledge through storytelling is still very much a part of Aboriginal culture. I was reminded of this while thinking about a Knowledge Mobilization event I attended last year which focused on marginalized populations. Knowledge mobilization is about breaking down barriers and engaging with various groups in our society – including those that are homeless, of low-income, racialized minorities, Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis, Inuit), or from LGBT communities who are marginalized based on sexual orientation or gender diversity.

I have spoken about how I use social media – particularly Twitter – as an effective knowledge mobilization and storytelling tool and I am always surprised to hear that many knowledge mobilization leaders, knowledge brokers, scholars and educators are still not using social media as part of their own knowledge exchange work.

One of the more enjoyable presentations about knowledge mobilization and storytelling comes from David Phipps – a person who knows how to tell a great story and mobilize knowledge. One of David’s MobilizeThis! blogs is a great example of the power of story telling using social media for knowledge mobilization. In David’s engaging presentations he illustrates how understanding context is essential for effective knowledge mobilization – and how good storytelling can add to good knowledge exchange.

Fundamentally, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Mobilization, Translation, Implementation, K* (K-Star) – whatever you want to call it  – is about connecting the knowledge of PEOPLE. Each group has their own stories to tell in their own context – and each group can share knowledge through these stories. Knowledge doesn’t always have to be packaged in a formal, academic presentation or format. Sometimes simply being open-minded enough to listen to another person’s story – particularly those who are marginalized in our society – can be a powerful way of sharing and mobilizing knowledge.

But how do we engage marginalized populations using social media to better understand their context when some may not even have access to a computer? Or – more importantly – how can knowledge brokers collaborate with these often unheard voices and use social media for more effective knowledge mobilization?

One way that comes to mind is through digital storytelling.

I think of another great storyteller, Peter Levesque from Knowledge Mobilization Works, who also uses story telling as a KMb tool. Peter points to digital storytelling as “one of the MOST important forms of knowledge mobilization available to community-based organizations and citizens”. Peter uses a specific example of Aboriginal storytelling combined with digital technology as an effective method for understanding context, and conveying these stories through social media.

Additional examples of using social media for great and effective digital storytelling can be found at MindYourMind and HomelessHub who use both YouTube  and Twitter as knowledge mobilization tools.

As someone who strongly believes in the power of social media for knowledge mobilization, I see the combination of storytelling by marginalized communities using social media to convey context as an essential knowledge mobilization tool. If you’re a knowledge broker, scholar or educator – how well are you incorporating this equity tool into your knowledge mobilization strategy?

Now, for some reason…I feel like having a donut!

Gary 50 years

Why attend the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Forum 2014?

CKF 14

Why attend the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Forum 2014?

It’s a genuinely important question to ask as there are so many other events or conferences that you may be considering attending this year.

The Canadian KMb Forum provides a variety of engaging relationships that developed and continue to develop out of the first Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum in 2012 in Ottawa. Last year’s KMb Forum in Toronto gathered attendees from 10 countries and lead to the successful inaugural “sister” event in the UK in London this past February 2014.

And for one of the most original and amusing report titles…

  • 2013 UK KMb Forum Report – A cat, an elf-lord and a spaceman walked into a room … the first
    UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum had begun (scroll to page 283)

Four themes were part of last year’s Canadian KMb Forum: Building on existing capacityand building new capacity; Learning from each other – Comparisons across sectors; The Next Generation —Students and Apprentices in knowledge mobilization; and Methods, Tools, and Theories – The Art and Craft of knowledge mobilization.

This year’s theme Putting Research to Work: Social & Economic Innovation continues to build on the conversations started since the inaugural event in 2012 and continues the history of co-construction of knowledge and shared understanding.

The event takes place June 9th and 10th in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As one of the organizers and KMb Forum report writers I am pleased to see this theme as an extension of knowledge mobilization that can lead to social and economic innovation.

Here are 10 reasons why it’s important to attend the Canadian KMb Forum:

  1. The Canadian KMb Forum will provide an opportunity to learn about key issues in the knowledge mobilization field that pertain to a wide variety of sectors.  Attendees come from a mix of sectors including health, academia, children & youth services, workplace safety, environment, addictions & mental health, education, disability services, business, agriculture, domestic violence and social services – and the 2014 KMb Forum promises a similar mix.
  2. The Canadian KMb Forum is a place to meet people and learn about organizations addressing how to make research more useful to society through knowledge mobilization activities.  The Canadian KMb Forum will provide learning and professional development experiences for students, practitioners and scholars (“pracademics“) and other stakeholders interested about and/or working in knowledge mobilization from around the world.
  3. The Canadian KMb Forum will bring people together who have established a relationship on social media and will provide in-person connections from those relationships – as well as continue to invite remote participants to join via social media.  It will also initiate new relationships with others that can be continued by social media.
  4. The Canadian KMb Forum will be a chance to learn about professional and student jobs, projects and funding possibilities that further advance and compliment the successes of such outcomes that were created by previous KMb Forums as part of the work we are engaged in as KMb professionals.
  5. The Canadian KMb Forum will offer valuable insight into the experiences of others who face challenges similar to yours, as well as learning about approaches to find concrete solutions to create benefit from the results of research in your field and other sectors through social and economic innovation strategies.
  6. The Canadian KMb Forum will present opportunities to learn about publications and other KMb resources relevant to your areas of interest, and create ideas for articles, books, blogs and other professional and social media writing.
  7. The Canadian KMb Forum promises to help establish and strengthen existing partnerships locally and globally in promoting knowledge mobilization efforts around the world.
  8. The Canadian KMb Forum will identify opportunities for knowledge mobilization within various professions and the possibility of developing communities of practice (CoPs) within your own local community.
  9. The Canadian KMb Forum will provide a space for you to demonstrate your commitment to your profession in making the world a better place through knowledge mobilization efforts.
  10. The Canadian KMb Forum is taking place in a central city of Canada with urban parkland trails, the breathtaking South Saskatchewan River beneath vibrant skies on the edge of nature with endless beauty that allows you to become familiar with the area, culture and entertainment that makes Saskatoon an ideal place to hold Canada’s third Knowledge Mobilisation Forum.

For further information and to register click here.  I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow knowledge mobilizers at the Canadian KMb Forum!

Community BUILD Includes All Sectors Of Society

Community BUILD

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is about moving available knowledge into active use across a variety of sectors.  I recently made a comment about the requirement of action as part of KMb on a LinkedIn post which asked –

“Is teaching science knowledge mobilization?”

Knowledge Exchange + Action = KMb

KMb is most effective when knowledge is exchanged and co-produced with collaboration among all sectors of society for social benefit:

  • Community/Voluntary
  • Academic/Institutions
  • Business/Private Sector
  • Government/Policy Makers

kmb-model-final1.png

A great recent example showcasing the effectiveness of knowledge mobilization across sectors comes from the collaborative efforts of United Way York Region (Community/Voluntary) working with York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (Academic/Institutions) and ventureLab (Business/Private Sector) and funded by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment (MEDTE) through the Office for Social Enterprise (Government, Policy Makers).  Working across all sectors is the development of the Community BUILD program.

“Sitting at the intersection of community engagement and entrepreneurship, Community BUILD is a Collective Impact organization providing a system of supports for social ventures in York Region.

The overall objective of Community BUILD is to continue to develop a Regional system of supports for social enterprise that creates investment ready ventures that will create jobs, develop novel approaches to food security and youth employment in York Region and brand York Region and Ontario as leaders in social innovation.”

The development of such a collaborative knowledge mobilization/social innovation program is an example of creating social benefit that includes all sectors of society.  The Community BUILD program is knowledge mobilization leading to social innovation through action that includes entrepreneurial and government knowledge and investment.  Although MEDTE has provided government backing for the Community BUILD pilot project, there is a continued call to action for government policy makers to sustain such an important program.

Without the inclusion and support of government/policymakers in such programs that can create social and economic benefit knowledge remains limited – like those that consider teaching science as knowledge mobilization.

Trying to get students “interested” in developing knowledge in science, technology, engineering and/or math may be public engagement but it’s not knowledge mobilization without student action. Similarly, trying to get government/policy makers “interested” in sustaining programs like Community BUILD may be government engagement but it’s not knowledge mobilization without policy maker action.

Creating sustainable action beyond mere student interest requires long-term engagement and knowledge exchange.

Creating sustainable action beyond mere initial government funding requires long-term engagement and policy-maker involvement.

The Community BUILD program is an example of effective KMb for social benefit that includes all sectors. Let’s hope government continues to be part of this innovative solution as an included leader in social innovation and a continued part of the KMb model.

 

Knowledge Brokers As Translators & Diplomats

translate

How do you get people who speak different languages to understand one another? If you’ve ever travelled to other countries or been in a group of people who speak different languages where you’ve tried to make yourself understood you’ve probably used a series of gestures, facial expressions, body language or object-pointing to help with the various translations.

Researchers and policy makers are like these people who speak different languages from different countries.

Now what if you take this language and cultural barrier example one step further and find that not only are you not able to communicate with these other people – you’re also being ignored in your attempts to be understood. Researchers are often like the people trying to be understood in attempts to get their research implemented – while policy makers can be the ones doing the ignoring.

Researchers and policy makers are two highly specialized groups. Both have different goals, attitudes towards what is considered “evidence” based and how to “best” use it, perceptions of time-frames, and different demands and accountabilities on their work. Just like people of different languages and cultures, there are also issues of trust and respect that can come into play when some borders won’t even allow some people to cross into the country, as policy makers are skeptical about the usefulness of research – or worse – don’t even see a link between research and decision making.

 

How do we get them to understand each other? 

The most effective way is getting a translator.  

 

How do we get them to open up borders for less restricted access?

The most effective way is getting a diplomat.

 

That translator and diplomat for researchers and policy makers is a knowledge broker.

 

What if I want to get to certain places and across borders without a map, a directional, translational or transportation device to do so? Would simply wishing this to happen without the appropriate tools or resources make it happen? What about those obstacles that I might encounter along the way that might require new ways, inputs and possible detours to eventually get to my destination or be understood?

That’s where knowledge brokers come into the research process to close the loop (or untangle the spool of thread) in the knowledge mobilization process between research and policy making. Knowledge brokers bring in a knowledge of networks. They bring in connections. They bring in understanding of new technologies for knowledge translation and exchange. They make sure that research ideas can be widely disseminated, evidence-informed from a variety of stakeholders (a variety of “languages” and “cultures”) – not just from researcher or policy maker perspectives alone. Knowledge brokering works across sectors to ensure that research is made openly available and understood to society in the most effective manner in ways that bring wider benefit.

Within the science to policy stage, knowledge brokers offer professional, intermediary support as “translators” and “diplomats” to help guide researchers and policy makers in understanding each other. Knowledge brokers help traverse the structural issues around professional “language” and “cultural” boundaries established by the organizational norms and environments of researchers and policy makers – as well as many other stakeholders.

Knowledge brokers also help manage the barriers of institutional change and development while also understanding the context-specific elements of knowledge mobilization. As knowledge mobilization advisers, the roles and skills of knowledge brokers need to be clearly understood. David Phipps and Sarah Morton have written an excellent (and whimsical) practice-based article on the qualities required for successful knowledge brokers, which also includes valuable recommendations on recruiting and training knowledge brokers. The article may take a more light-hearted approach to the “idealised knowledge broker” but the importance of having knowledge brokers within universities, research institutions and other organizations with the appropriate skills is imperative for successful implementation of research to policy making.

Knowledge brokers also simplify the information between researchers and policy makers: Good examples are the Health Evidence Network (set up by the World Health Organization) which provides one page policy briefs in response to questions posed by policy makers; and the Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada within the government of Canada to connect research and policy makers in transforming research “into products, services and processes that improve the lives of Canadians.”

Knowledge brokers can provide policy makers – who are already inundated with information – a brief synopsis of research such as those produced by ResearchImpact knowledge brokers as clear language research summaries. Such clear language research summaries are an effective and valuable way of briefing policy makers in a concise and understandable manner to integrate and synthesize scientific information into knowledge. Knowledge brokers who are supporting access to research and engaging with researchers, community organizations, practitioners, and policy makers can use clear language summaries as part of an institutional strategy for knowledge mobilization.

Knowledge mobilization helps support research collaborations and co-production of knowledge where researchers and policy makers partner to understand and produce knowledge that is relevant to academia as well as to real world problems. Knowledge brokers as “translators” and “diplomats” are also highly skilled professionals who help researchers and policy makers understand each other by developing knowledge mobilization strategies where different languages are spoken.

If you had language and cultural barriers, wouldn’t you want a translator or diplomat to help create understanding?