KMbeing

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

The Importance of Context In Knowledge Exchange

study group
When I was in university I was in one of my psychology classes one day and took a seat at a desk beside a woman who was an international student from Jamaica. We only knew each other as classmates. She was a likeable woman and we chatted regularly before and after class.

Psychology is a field with many schools of thought, theories and approaches to behaviour. Because there is also a great amount to learn, many psychology students formed study groups to share notes and insights. She and I decided to form one of these groups. I was always so impressed at how well organized she was at following and distilling lectures – but also how she was able to articulate to our group her understanding of what our psychology professor was wanting to convey in class.

I remember one day we were discussing the work of Havelock Ellis, a psychologist who dedicated his life to the study of human sexuality. Ellis was co-author of the first English medical textbook on homosexuality written in 1897 titled Sexual Inversion. As an openly gay man, I was astonished at Havelock’s use of the term “sexual invert” to describe my “condition” – even though Ellis was attempting to bring some acceptance and understanding of being gay to the Victorian era where homosexuality was considered an illness to be cured. Sexual Inversion was one of the first scientific books to present homosexuality as an innate disposition similar to heterosexuality and not as a pathological condition.

During this particular study session my Jamaican classmate hesitated and I could see she was reluctant to share her thoughts on this psychology topic. Sensing something was wrong I asked her if everything was alright. She informed the group that from her cultural perspective she still considered being gay as something that needed to be cured. I was shocked and immediately responded with “are you kidding?” This view seemed absolutely ridiculous to me, yet I realized her view was culturally-shaped by her context growing up in Jamaica – a country where it’s still illegal to be gay.

Seeing this as an opportunity to share my own experience and knowledge I suggested we explore our perspectives more deeply, especially in the context of psychology. What made this even more upsetting to me was that I mistakenly believed others in our study group were supportive of gay rights and equality. I was wrong. Two others also believed therapy could be used for people wanting to be “cured” of being gay.

During the next class our Professor decided to cover Sigmund Freud’s theory of human sexuality and how it differed from that of Ellis. Freud believed all human beings were innately bisexual and that they become homosexual or heterosexual as a result of parental/environmental experiences. When I decided to comment on how both theories from Freud and Ellis were developed and shaped within the context of their Victorian timeframe as attempts to influence a deeper understanding of sexuality and behaviour not necessarily requiring a “cure” a thought-provoking session of opinions occurred. Our class was abuzz with comments and questions around context and how even so-called conversion or reparative therapy was still taking place today to “cure” gay sexual orientation.

The idea of hiding sexuality is something that starts very early for many of us who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. I am reminded of my time in elementary school when other students would tease and bully me with “Gary the fairy.” This idea of hiding sexuality is something that stays with many of us throughout our entire lives – unless we “come out of the closet” – and even then it ends up having a major influence on our entire lives.

It is the same within our careers. Many people are very secretive about their personal lives. They often don’t want others to know too much. When we hoard knowledge we are always afraid that our knowledge is going to be judged. People who constantly hoard knowledge do not contribute to sharing knowledge to make the world a better place. Yet we must also keep in mind that knowledge is context-specific.

One of the biggest beliefs about knowledge mobilization is that if we are continually sharing knowledge – particularly research knowledge to make it useful to society – we are making the world a better place. When we engage in knowledge exchange with others in different contexts and come up with new knowledge we develop a view where we are always looking to share what you know with people instead of looking to hoard what you know. When we exchange knowledge with others it gives us access to more knowledge. The knowledge we share with others from our own contexts ends up creating opportunities to shape, possibly change and create new knowledge based on our openness to the knowledge of others from different contexts.

There are real benefits to sharing our knowledge. By exploring knowledge from different contexts we can make change for the better. Context is important in knowledge mobilization. Along with evidence and facilitation, context is one of three pillars of the PARIHS (Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Sciences) Framework (https://researchimpact.othree.ca/forums/journalclub/the-parihs-framework-promoting-action-on-research-).

My fellow study group students shared openly their views about the idea of “curing” gays and lesbians from their own contexts and I shared my experiences about being openly gay from my context. I’m happy to say that we came to a deeper understanding of each other’s positions within the context of our psychology class – and they began to change their minds about attempts to “cure” gays and lesbians based on sharing our knowledge and experiences.

Sharing knowledge brings people together and allows people to see different contexts. Effective knowledge mobilization occurs when we want people to know what we know and we are not afraid to tell them from our own contexts.

Knowledge mobilization is about creating benefit from interaction with others in different contexts. We must share our knowledge openly and freely and never hide knowledge. When we exchange our knowledge from different contexts we create opportunities to open doors to deeper understanding. Exchanging knowledge gives you access to more knowledge. People who hoard knowledge within their own contexts tend to have isolated knowledge because they only share or seek change when relevant – meaning their own knowledge becomes stagnant.

 

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