KMbeing

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

Monthly Archives: October 2014

Knowledge Mobilization With Brains & Heart & Thinking & Action

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Over the past decade I have attended several events that helped promote knowledge mobilization (KMb), the role of knowledge brokers, social innovation and the use of social media for KMb. I have joined my husband the Executive Director, Research and Innovation Services at York University, Dr. David Phipps at most of these events – David is my life partner and KMb partner. David and I, along with Krista Jensen, York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Officer collaborated and co-authored a book chapter “Applying Social Sciences Research for Public Benefit Using Knowledge Mobilization and Social Media“.

We have also co-authored A Field Note Describing the Development and Dissemination of Clear Language Research Summaries for University-Based Knowledge Mobilization with Krista and Michael Johnny, Manager, Knowledge Mobilization at York University. It’s always a great honour to work with David, Krista and Michael.

David has also written several other collaborative works, including with some of knowledge mobilization’s foremost experts in research utilization, Sarah Morton and Sandra Nutley. Nutley is also co-author of Using Evidence: How research can inform public services – considered a must-read for any knowledge broker.

David and I have often been referred to as a KMb “power-couple” – combining more of the practical application of KMb (David) with the theoretical of KMb (me). David is the more specific action “do-er” of knowledge brokering – while my approach is the more theoretical “think-er” – in our attempts to create social benefit through KMb to make the world a better place. Our at-home KMb conversations can sometimes be intense and intellectual and are probably rather different from the usual topics of most couples! Although I do not specifically have a paying career as a researcher or knowledge broker, I do work in an academic/research environment at the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University and do my part in promoting the KMb community through contract work and this KMbeing blog.

As many of my dedicated KMbeing blog followers know, my approach to knowledge mobilization is stressing the importance of including communityindividual voices. We all have individual knowledge to share to make the world a better place regardless of credentialism or social status, and you don’t have to attend such professional events or publish papers to do your part in creating social benefit.

This is done by the promotion of worldwide knowledge sharing by embracing social media tools – such as Twitter – for social collaboration and innovation. It’s specifically the type of social media tool like Twitter that enables knowledge sharing to happen at the speed of a Tweet.

My hope and intention is to continue to change the culture of knowledge mobilization to become much more strongly motivated to include all of the different voices of individual knowledge with the use of social media. Through the use of tools – such as Twitter and blogging (including my own KMbeing blog) – there is the possibility of changing values for all individuals worldwide to create a more harmonious world. When we start to see sharing our own individual knowledge with various countries, cultures and diverse individuals through social media as an opportunity for social benefit we can begin to break down the barriers that stop new knowledge for social benefit from occurring. When we begin to share individual knowledge and ideas with other countries and cultures to overcome worldwide social problems through the use of social media tools we do begin to make the world a better place for everyone.

We have seen the effects of a social media revolution that is – in my belief – a sign of what we can achieve by sharing our knowledge for worldwide social benefit through social media. I’m not a paid scientist or knowledge broker but I am interested in getting people all over the world involved in sharing individual knowledge to make the world a better place. We now live in a world where one can find online forums and other social media tools where we can share our individual knowledge in new ways that allow people to build a global village of social innovation and Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) for social benefit. We can also help a new generation of graduate student researchers to think about incorporating KMb strategies into their research and use social media for knowledge exchange.

The worldwide culture of knowledge can be changed – even if you’re not a scientist or researcher – by being open to individual knowledge sharing through social media for worldwide social benefit. It’s my belief that the single most important thing we can do in knowledge sharing is continue to create general awareness among world populations by using social media tools for Knowledge Mobilization to create worldwide social benefit. It’s through that general awareness in our own individual knowledge communities that can inevitably lead all countries and cultures in the right direction – and it begins by simply talking to your friends and acquaintances in sharing your own knowledge and being open to the knowledge of others.

Just begin by asking them what knowledge they have to make the world a better place. Begin by raising awareness of the value of individual knowledge mobilization to create change for social benefit beyond the more formal world of granting agencies, funders, universities or government policy-makers. This can be done by learning to use social media tools such as Twitter for knowledge mobilization.

Not all of us have an opportunity or need to participate in more formal or professional KMb events.  You can influence social benefit with your own individual knowledge by addressing some of the fundamental questions that can make the world a better place by sharing your individual knowledge with others and being open to the knowledge of others. We all have knowledge voices to share to make the world a better place. We all can begin to embrace the kinds of knowledge sharing which leads to new methods of addressing social problems (often referred to as wicked problems) and accelerate the process of social benefit worldwide by individual knowledge mobilization.

My hope is that we will embrace such individual knowledge mobilization for social benefit – with both brains and heart, with both thinking and action – and really see this as an opportunity to reinvent our ideas of knowledge to ultimately make the world a better place for everyone.

Getting Closer To Understanding The Value Of Knowledge Mobilization In Research

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One of the more interesting developments within research over the past decade has been the growing interest of incorporating knowledge mobilization strategies into the research process. Historically, when researchers have embarked on their research journeys they’ve typically asked questions with the intention of finding answers mostly focused on expanding our knowledge base – with little consideration for the practical applications of that knowledge and the potential impacts leading to social innovation for the broader community.

Why the growing interest in knowledge mobilization? Because it makes research useful to society – something everyone can relate to in our everyday life experiences. All of us can recall situations when we’ve had a problem with something and have not been able to find a solution through the usual methods of problem solving. We might seek out “expert” knowledge through “expert” research; however, even if we are fortunate enough to find answers, the knowledge may not be applicable to our own situations in a way that addresses our own needs and includes our own knowledge contributions and experiences.

Sometimes questions are not easily resolved without providing content related to our own contexts. Often what people are asking for when they pose questions are conversations with others to “make sense” out of issues by sharing their own knowledge (or lack thereof) and their own contexts. Connecting individuals through knowledge mobilization enables people to share their knowledge, collaborate on problems, and create new knowledge from various perspectives. Beyond simply answering a research question, this type of knowledge exchange allows us to contribute personal experiences and share valuable insights that are often not formally recognized or captured through the historical research process.

Exchanging knowledge in context around a particular research question can be a powerful means of transforming the research process for social benefit. The knowledge collectively gained and inclusively exchanged between community and academia (as one example) can be more valuable to society than simply having a researcher complete a random-sample survey on the general public for the purpose of simply writing a peer-reviewed research paper that remains limited in public access and perhaps only cited as a reference for future papers.

As more universities and research institutions invest in social collaboration and community knowledge exchange many of them have incorporated (or soon will include) actual knowledge mobilization units – with designated knowledge brokers – within the structure of the institution. Research methods that incorporate knowledge mobilization and community-university engagement develop better and more practical knowledge in the long run.

While it seems straightforward that broader knowledge exchange creates greater opportunities for the practical application of research findings, the community-university networking dynamics are also context-specific. Such differences can be better understood if universities/research institutions implement knowledge brokers as part of the research process. Knowledge brokers work with a number of different people: researchers (both community-based and university-based), community organizers, business leaders and entrepreneurs, funders (both private and public) along with institutional and government policy makers. Knowledge brokers facilitate the multi-directional flows of communication in a structured way. However, there are some who still question the need for knowledge brokers.

A comment on one of my recent KMbeing blog posts by Senior Researcher Sharon Mickan from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford states:

“I would also see knowledge brokering as a process that can be done by researchers or clinicians who work across both (my emphasis) environments; the key is a detailed understanding of the context in which the research will be used and a recognition that change can only be led by someone respected and informed within the organisation.”

I appreciate Sharon’s comment; however, it is precisely this persistent dichotomous view of working across both environments that misses the point of the value and complexity of knowledge brokering. We have long ago abandoned the “two communities” theory to research use and have embraced co-production as the most robust form of knowledge mobilization. Bridging implies we maintain the silos of research and practice/policy. Knowledge brokers help to break down the silos and create shared spaces of collaboration. It’s not simply about being able to “bridge” one side of university to the other side with community. The value of utilizing knowledge brokers as opposed to researchers or clinicians simply engaging community themselves is that community can also include a variety of stakeholders already mentioned – such as business leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and funding agencies along with institutional and government policy makers.

Don’t get me wrong. If you have researchers or clinicians with the skills of trained knowledge brokers who can work as intermediaries with a variety of people to help them get to know each other and encourage various sectors to think broadly and interact on an ongoing basis in order to learn from others’ experiences as part of the evidence-informed research process – go for it. Yet, I think it detracts from the already focused-work required by researchers and clinicians to do their own work effectively. Knowledge brokers act as a type of conduit for knowledge exchange offered by the various stakeholders from sometimes a broad range of sectors. Typically a knowledge broker offers added value to the research process by an increasingly professionalized skill-set not commonly found among researchers and clinicians themselves.

I also agree with Sharon that change can only be led by someone respected and informed. Evidence has clearly shown that respected leadership is among the determinants of successful research utilization. However, researchers and clinicians who still think that only researchers and clinicians can be respected and informed in the research process are elitist at worse and uniformed at best.

Knowledge exchange is a powerful form of social collaboration – predicated upon broader community participation. Knowledge exchange in the research process creates an invitation for community partners to actively participate in the research process with the help of knowledge brokers who can mediate the different contexts. Such community-university interaction provides the opportunity to reinforce identities as context-specific experts while expanding a mutual identity as collaborators in the research process.

Since knowledge exchange is an ongoing social process, collaborative multi-disciplinary and multi-sector contributions over time weave together a network of people connected by common research interests even though they might have differing backgrounds and views. These types of knowledge networks create value in their own right. With community-university engagement there is greater influence together on issues that affect the broader community and can encourage policy makers to implement change. From a systems perspective, the research process acts as a social process that can mobilize networks, enable social roles to emerge, and allow for creation of social capital.

However, establishing a research process that facilitates knowledge mobilization should not be positioned as some type of panacea. There’s no assurance that community partners or researchers will share what they know, or that the results of research will always be perfect. There’s also no assurance that policy makers or practitioners will listen, or that policy and/or practice changes will happen quickly. It does not guarantee broader effects that lead to better levels of community-university engagement elsewhere. Alone, it’s unlikely to transform some researchers who have a more historic view of the research process or cause dramatic cultural change. Knowledge mobilization is just one way of how social collaboration platforms can mediate within the research process. There are also a host of academic, organizational, leadership, communication, and governance changes and related practices that need to be designed and championed effectively to influence researcher participation to deliver more practical and effective outcomes and impacts of research.

We’re not quite there yet, but the past decade of knowledge mobilization development has shown we’re getting closer.

 

Evidence-Informed Research versus “Best” Evidence Research

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The use of evidence in policy making is not simply uncovering the “best” evidence and presenting it to policymakers as part of the knowledge mobilization (KMb) process. “Best” evidence is a subjective term. Being evidence-informed provides a broader understanding of how the application of research evidence is context specific. “Best” in one case may not be “best” in another.

Evidence depends on the various methods in which research is developed in order to inform decisions that lead to policy in various contexts. KMb is making research useful to society. It may be useful in one context while not so useful in another – yet it is the process of KMb that helps us find this out in different contexts. Improving the quality of life through research processes means drawing on various fields through knowledge mobilization and evaluation, as well as having a thorough understanding of the context in which evidence is going to be applied.

KMb brings together people from community, academic/research institutions, business/industry and government decision-makers interested in aspects of evidence-informed research through knowledge brokering in order to share experiences, broaden networks and discuss issues of common interest to find solutions. One way of doing this is applying research (especially in the social sciences) for public benefit using KMb and social media.

Researchers who draw from the experience of implementing an evidence-informed approach in collaboration with wider stakeholders from community, industry and policymakers create effective lessons learned through KMb. The disciplinary research alignment matters less than the fact that these sectors are brought together by a shared interest in the interface between research, community needs and policy – through the workings of knowledge brokering. There is a great deal of cross-learning; networks are built and strengthened, experiences are shared, and various stakeholders are able to benefit from lessons learned from work in other sectors. Research becomes more evidence-informed through greater collaboration.

The goal of KMb-infused research then leads to more evidence-informed policymaking.

The goal of KMb-infused research is to learn from past experiences and create greater opportunities to implement a more evidence-informed approach to policymaking.

The goal of KMb-infused research is to find ways to improve the integration of evidence-informed approaches to policy that address the main concerns and priorities in different contexts.

Policy often deals with social issues that are complicated by several barriers in seeking often entangled and long-term issues. This is why there is a need to involve a wide range of players by establishing networks and partnerships as an important part of the process of policy development and application. Such barriers include a lack of understanding of the process of knowledge mobilization and often a lack of funding for KMb to improve evidence-informed policy. Because there is often also a lack of understanding among various stakeholders of what researchers are working on, the needs of researchers and who to approach – the use of knowledge brokers to make these connections can help make research more evidence-informed.

More evidence-informed research has greater impact by developing close and ongoing collaboration by mixing researchers with business/industry specialists, community partners and policy makers on the same committees, for example – who are prepared for a long-term commitment – as it often takes time to define research questions that will generate greater evidence-informed research leading to solutions of more effective policy development and change.

There is tremendous research potential and capacity when researchers are interested in collaboration with multi-sector partners. However, as mentioned, this sort of relationship-building requires time to develop communities of interest and trust among all sectors to maximize available expertise and ensure effective communication in the research process. This means finding and using knowledge brokers who understand different worlds and who are able to convene, translate and mediate as necessary.

Knowledge brokers work with a number of different people to allow them to discuss a number of issues in a structured way. Knowledge brokers help people in the research-to-policy-making process get to know each other, and are the glue over time that encourages various sectors to think broadly and interact with a variety of people on an ongoing basis in order to learn from others’ experience as part of the evidence-informed research process.

Dealing with a wide variety of stakeholders, knowledge brokers involve each sector meaningfully to effectively incorporate all viewpoints – that are sometimes less and sometimes more controversial, sometimes more open and sometimes less open. Knowledge brokers involve various stakeholders in the action of developing evidence-informed research – not just talk about it – by holding face-to-face multi-sector meetings that are important and useful to the evidence-informed research process. Knowledge brokers help various stakeholders think about top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side and cross-sector types of action by researchers, communities, regions and governments as co-creators of knowledge among stakeholders. It’s not just about transferring knowledge from one to the other but mobilizing knowledge as part of a broader evidence-informed research process.

Knowledge brokers help researchers know the questions being asked from many sides to understand where the knowledge gaps are. Knowledge brokers help break down the elitist and also insecure barriers that often divide academics, community, business/industry and government.

Knowledge brokers are contextidentifiers who are able to help build networks to stimulate knowledge flow that can lead to greater evidence-informed research and policy making.

Researchers need to move beyond seeking “best” evidence and start thinking more about evidence-informed research that includes the use of knowledge brokers to broaden the research base with a variety of stakeholders. Thinking about being evidence-informed at the beginning of the research process that is context-specific develops research that, paradoxically, can have greater impact. By including knowledge brokers to broaden the research base with multi-sector partners creates a type of ripple-effect that broadens research knowledge beyond any one context as multi-sector partners begin to share their knowledge more widely across other sectors – almost as a type of cross-pollination of knowledge. This is when research has greater impact and becomes more widely useful to society. Various methods in which research is developed in order to inform decisions leads to policy in various contexts. In turn, policy that is evidence-informed can then affect further policy on a wider-scale – though originally context-specific – to perhaps create a broader, worldwide change.