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

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask, “Why?”


Increasing our knowledge requires us to ask questions. Most of the time, we ask the basic questions “what” and “how” to increase our knowledge – but the question at the heart of all knowledge is “why”.

The following is a deceptively simple story that speaks to how we acquire knowledge by requiring us to continue asking the question “why?” If you’ve ever heard a small child keep asking the question…”but why? over and over, after every answer you give…you know the importance of this question for gaining further knowledge.

This story is taken from Toward a Healthy Future: Second Report on the Health of Canadians

Why is Jason in the hospital? Because he has a bad infection in his leg.

But why does he have an infection? Because he has a cut on his leg and it got infected.

But why does he have a cut on his leg? Because he was playing in the junkyard next to his apartment building and there was some sharp, jagged steel there that he fell on.

But why was he playing in a junkyard? Because his neighborhood is kind of run down. A lot of kids play there and there is no one to supervise them.

But why does he live in that neighborhood? Because his parents can’t afford a nicer place to live.

But why can’t his parents afford a nicer place to live? Because his dad is unemployed and his mom is sick.

But why is his dad unemployed? Because he doesn’t have much education and he can’t find a job . But why . . .?”

In order for us to gain and increase our knowledge we must always be willing to ask why. This has an ongoing element. One answer will not always be enough. We must be continually searching for knowledge – even when we think we have all the answers. Most researchers know this as part of the replication of findings in the research process.

On the other hand, if all you do is ask questions you’re not advancing anyone’s knowledge. Knowledge is also about answers – but answers require focus. Which is why even focused answers require re-evaluation to include factors such as context, evolving circumstances, perspectives and new knowledge.

A locked-in view of knowledge that is never changing will remain limited knowledge. This is especially important for policy-makers in considering how to best serve society. Asking why? as part of effective knowledge mobilization also requires an openness to different perspectives, opinions and contexts – another important lesson for policy-makers.  When a child asks why, they ask to continue to learn and grow. When policy-makers ask why, they should be asking for the same reasons – as it should be for all of us.

When we limit our knowledge as something that cannot change, we limit ourselves. So, keep asking why with openness and you will continue to learn something new.

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