KMbeing

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

Category Archives: Community of Practice (CoP)

The Politics of Austerity, Research & Knowledge Mobilization

Austerity

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is slowly emerging as a process to connect academic research with evidence-based policy-making since the emergence of KMb over the past decade. KMb was cultivated in earlier forms of evidence-based practice, and recent initiatives across sectors of public administration indicate a move towards creating new policies based on research that produces social benefit as an impact. (For more in-depth reading on the historical development of KMb, I continue to recommend an excellent longitudinal analysis paper written by Carole Estabrooks and colleagues that traces the historical development of the knowledge exchange field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles).

The term knowledge mobilization (KMb) evolved following the publication of an evaluation report of the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2004. This led SSHRC to create a division of Knowledge Products and Mobilization to enhance and accelerate the movement of research findings into policy and program development.

However, the politics of austerity continues to affect the types of research deemed more beneficial than others. In terms of research, austerity describes government policies used to reduce research funding as part of maintaining government budgets. The effects of austerity measures on research by decreased funding is seen as direct attacks on public services, whose primary mission is to reduce social inequalities – which social science research, in particular, seeks to address and understand.

Is it because of this obvious link – and full-circle connection – between social science research and public services that politicians wish to ignore when they implement austerity measures that leads to a decrease in research funding?

Research funding and policy are politically guided and frequently challenged as a means to deliver public services due to a growing disconnect over the past decade between researchers and the Canadian government. The current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power in 2006 – two years after SSHRC’s CURA evaluation and KMb momentum began. Since then, many Canadian researchers and knowledge brokers have gained an international reputation for broadening the research path based on the development of KMb; however Canada’s government has also gained an international reputation for ignoring KMb recommendations and silencing scientific experts who seek to make their work public – causing a rift in the relationship between academia and government. (Further articles on Conservative government cuts to science research can be found here and here and here).

In an effort to reduce government spending, many researchers have been affected by a decrease in research funding. The ongoing transformation of the academic sector has been most apparent with the many challenges created by financial struggles with universities seeking evidence-based reform with initiatives such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK or a Program Prioritization Process (PPP) such as Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR) in Canada. There has been increased pressure on universities for financial income and resources along with increased pressure from government granting agencies that expect a valuable public and/or private return of investment for providing research funding.

Considering the continuing decrease in research funding, should researchers (particularly social science researchers) wish to maintain a prominent role in the pursuit of research for social benefit they need to develop broader partnerships – with the use of knowledge brokers – to not only advance wider knowledge networks and broader connections for research, but also establish collective lobbying voices for government policy change.

But first, researchers must understand that integrating KMb strategies into their own research plays a crucial role in creating these connections of influence.  KMb must start as an institutional capacity that involves public, private and community sector partners. Then, by incorporating a social media element, the connections, conversations and collaboration aspects of social media work together to help establish Communities of Practice online and can support the social and influential nature of KMb on public policy. These vital links of KMb are illustrated in Applying Social Sciences Research for Public Benefit Using Knowledge Mobilization and Social Media. Governmental, corporate, academic and community partners need to intersect and work together to help research organizations and society reorient themselves.

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Researchers alone are incapable of influencing political strategies that continue to decrease funding. This requires a movement through broader partnerships that can serve as a collective point of community engagement and pressure politicians to increase research funding and lead to policy change.

The Conservative government’s political agenda in Canada remains largely unabated as policy makers decide which resources Canadian researchers (and society) “needs” to be allocated for the next big political game.  Changing this will require a cooperative movement that transcends individual academic, corporate and community sectors to make political demands and build the social-benefit capacity of research that has been historically entrenched in university/institutions which requires further continuing expansion to society beyond. Without a strong KMb strategy, deeply rooted in community-engagement and forging new partnerships to lobby government for increasing funding, it would appear that the under-funding of research from government sources will continue.

Canadian researchers (particularly social science researchers) face an historic opportunity with an upcoming Federal election on October 19th, 2015 which may well change the Conservative precedent of decreasing Federal research funding in Canada. Future research depends on the extent of decreasing the financial pressures that continue to be based on the politics of austerity that overlook the social benefits of research.

 

 

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.

Thanks for Putting Research to Work at The 2014 Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum

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Another successful Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum took place on June 9th and 10th in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The theme of the 2014 Forum was Putting Research to Work: Social & Economic Innovations – and lived up to its name as an effective gathering of knowledge workers and learners who exchanged valuable ideas and visions of ways to put our knowledge into practice for social & economic benefit.

I was busy creating a draft of the final report – you can link to it here. (I also drafted last yea’rs report and you can view the 2013 report here).

Tremendous thanks again goes to Peter Levesque, CEO of Knowledge Mobilization Works and President of the non-profit Institute for Knowledge Mobilization – which is now the host organization and organizer of the Forum. Each year Peter’s drive and energy to bring together a wide-range of attendees from across Canada and around the world pays off. Thanks also to David Phipps, Executive Director of Research and Innovation Services at York University who worked with Peter to enlist the support of an extensive group of sponsors without whose generous support the forum could not take place.

David Phipps along with Amanda Clarke, Cathy Howe, Fleur McQueen Smith, Christine Provvidenza, Ashley Townley, Rick Riopelle and Bonnie Zink also deserve recognition for being on the planning committee to shape and guide the event.

A very special thanks goes to Colleen Christensen, Industrial Technology Advisor from the National Research Council who stepped up to the challenge of being this year’s Forum Chair. Colleen’s experience as a knowledge broker embedded in the practice of technology and innovation was an ideal person for this position. Colleen’s insight, comments and direction throughout the event helped keep the Forum running smoothly.

Many thanks to our Inspirational Speaker, Donald Nicholls, Director of the Department of Justice and Correctional Services with the Cree Regional Authority who spoke about using Knowledge to Create a Better Future for Cree Youth; our Experiential Speaker, Shauna Kingsnorth, Evidence to Care Lead & Clinical Study Investigator at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital who shared the success of the Evidence to Care program developed to mobilize childhood disability research into practice; our Leadership Speaker, Robert Haché, Vice-President of Research & Innovation at York University who presented a great example of building a culture of knowledge mobilization; and our Action Speaker, Michelle Gagnon, Vice-President of Norlien Foundation and Senior Program Manager of Alberta Family Wellness Initiative who shared a valuable example of how their innovation has helped build the foundation for healthier children, families and communities.

Special thanks also to Cathy Howe who travelled from London, U.K., and was this year’s Chair of the first UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum (helping the Canadian Forum branch out and build a growing international KMb community). Thanks to Cathy and the generous efforts of Sue Cragg who both helped facilitate and create genuine connections at our KMb Innovation and Value Creation World Cafés. (A complete bio of our speakers and facilitators can be found by following this link).

Most importantly, a huge thanks to all of the people who attended this year’s event. Each year the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum builds on the momentum of previous years and we look forward to seeing you at next year’s Forum in Montreal!

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

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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!

Knowledge Brokers – A Solution For Social Benefit

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Thankfully, there are many Social Science and Humanities researchers today who imagine new possibilities to understand and improve social issues – ultimately it’s hoped to overcome some of the world’s wicked problems.

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences states the world needs “agile and well-rounded thinkers who can assess and adapt to change, analyze trends, communicate effectively, and consider the past to better prepare for the future.” These are people who think about social issues and benefits that go far beyond currently available resources, approaches and sectors.  Such researchers imagine new methods through knowledge mobilization (KMb) that produce evidence-informed results to create social benefit and change more holistically – even beyond the original research itself.

Sadly there are other researchers still stuck in the past using the same archaic research techniques that have worked for them for decades without any use or regard for knowledge mobilization (KMb). These “comfortable” researchers simply churn out results with the same limiting research methodologies – paper after paper, conference after conference. Similarly there are research institutions which churn out unengaged policy after unengaged policy.  Both institutions and researchers within them think this is sufficient enough for “social benefit and change” in today’s research world without any regard for the broader benefit to the world at large beyond their own limiting research circles.

For researchers adopting KMb approaches their research is informed by a wider range of multi-directional knowledge exchange. These KMb Social Science and Humanities researchers scale and scope knowledge as broadly and efficiently as one possibly can to include others in their research methods and knowledge translation – not just “professionals or colleagues”.

That’s where knowledge brokers come into the research process.  They bring in 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, and then made openly available to society in the most effective manner in ways that bring wider benefit not just in the researcher’s realm but across sectors. Social Science and Humanities research is inherently broad in its social and human elements, stemming from many different contexts to help us understand our common social context of humanity.

Isn’t that the point of Social Science and Humanities research in the first place? To help us understand social issues in our own context and in other contexts, comparing and contrasting to somehow find solutions that can create the greatest research impact locally and ultimately globally?

There are some who still think it “idealistic” for researchers to make use of knowledge brokers as recently pointed out in a compelling blog. The blog suggests the possibility of cutting out knowledge brokers as a “cumbersome link to the chain of knowledge translation” by asking: “What if several researchers and decision makers met regularly to monitor and discuss ways of managing access to knowledge, to solve practical problems?”

What if I want to get from point A to point B without a map, a directional or transportation device or other resources to do so? Would simply wishing this to happen without the appropriate tools or resources make it happen? What about some of the obstacles that I might encounter along the way from point A to point B that might require new ways, inputs and detours to eventually get me to my destination?

Knowledge translation isn’t just linear A to B (researcher to decision maker).  This appears even more idealistic.  Knowledge brokerage is professional, intermediary support to guide as a map, tool or resource required to help traverse the structural issues around professional boundaries and organizational norms and environments of researchers, policy-makers and many other stakeholders. Cutting the knowledge broker link in the chain only destroys the strength of the chain and leaves incomplete loops in the intersecting circles.

One of the better definitions of a knowledge broker is from The in-between world of knowledge brokering by John Lomas that I mentioned in an earlier blog about the history of KMb. Knowledge brokers “link decision makers with researchers, facilitating their interaction so that they are able to better understand each other’s goals and professional cultures, influence each other’s work, forge new partnerships, and promote the use of research-based evidence in decision-making.” The irony of this often-quoted and important definition from Lomas is that this article – and many of the articles that continue to quote this definition – are still behind pay-walls and accessible only to “professionals” instead of being open-access. The 2007 article was forward thinking for researchers then and now about knowledge brokerage and KMb – yet it’s still stuck in the past using an old form of knowledge “translation” behind a research repository.

Together researchers and knowledge brokers create knowledge for social benefit with a variety of partners and stakeholders and create change that didn’t exist before. Together researchers and knowledge brokers broaden the research process that differs from research being done in the past.

However, as with all things, there are times when great research remains locked away on the shelf as policy makers decide which resources society “needs” to be allocated for the next big political game.  As illustrated in the model above, this is when governmental, corporate, academic and community leaders need to intersect and work together to help research organizations and society reorient themselves to recognize that what had been great research methodologies and translation/dissemination techniques for the last 20 or 30 years are no longer as effective for social benefit as they used to be.  Knowledge brokers are an important part of the solution for social benefit if researchers – especially Social Science and Humanities researchers – sincerely want to make the world a better place.

Renewable, Transformable & Transformative Knowledge For A Better World

For a better world

Your knowledge is valuable when shared for social benefit – and always will be. Sharing your knowledge to make the world a better place allows you to look to the future with hope, allows you to see the possibilities and potential of this beautiful world we live in, rather than the limitations and impossibilities.

Knowledge is renewable, transformable and transformative if we nurture it. We must respect each other’s’ knowledge and allow each other space and respect to grow our knowledge together if it’s going to be of any benefit to anyone. When we share our knowledge and open ourselves up to the knowledge of others to try to live together on this planet we can lead this world into new beneficial knowledge and new situations that can open up new pages in this planet’s book of diversity that can be of benefit to us today and to future generations.

We’ll never know our true potential if we don’t allow ourselves to share our knowledge and travel further along together than we currently travel. We’ll never witness the richness of knowledge collaboration that may come into our lives if we never permit our shared knowledge to be a guiding force for our mental and physical and emotional efforts.

You have your knowledge. Value it and allow it to grow when shared with others, and do what you can to make knowledge a force of social benefit. Our knowledge is given to us for a reason, and that reason is not to keep us frustrated about our lack of fulfillment on this planet due to misunderstanding and hatred. Our knowledge is given to use for a reason, and that reason is to improve the lives of everyone on this planet with possibilities and potential. What are you doing to value your knowledge and share it for social benefit?

Global Knowledge Community

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Knowledge mobilization using social media connects people across the globe and helps create an online community where local becomes global and global becomes local.

 

 

Brokering The Role Of The Knowledge Broker

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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.

A Knowledge New Year

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As we begin the New Year 2013, we continue to share knowledge through knowledge mobilization by embracing new social networks like Pinterest – while keeping up with the fast pace of others like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  Sharing and mobilizing knowledge on such platforms makes our local to global communication and collaboration easier and more effective – and has delivered some very tangible national & international knowledge-networking results.

When it comes to today’s fast-paced world of knowledge sharing, there’s no better place for social collaboration than online. These social networks may have made it easier to expand our knowledge networks, but our society has changed from being a more personal, face-to-face world of localized collaborative knowledge sharing activity to a more impersonal and isolated world confined by our digital domains. We went from verbally discussing and sharing knowledge in our in-person environments, around the water-cooler, in meetings, retreats or at conferences to sharing knowledge in a much wider but secluded, online manner of pic-pins, tweets and blogs –away from the very people who we use to bounce ideas off of and exchange knowledge with face-to-face.

When social media advanced to make it possible and easier to automate and broaden our knowledge sharing, it provided valuable knowledge sharing tools – but there is a risk of returning back to the very reasons why online knowledge mobilization/transfer & exchange activities became important in the first place.  In the past, we were often locked in the knowledge-silos of our professional disciplines and institutions where face-to-face knowledge sharing was more closed. There is now a risk that we can become locked behind digital knowledge-silos without face-to-face meetings – even though our knowledge sharing has become more multi-directional and networked.  

Thankfully, in the past few years, in-person and online “networks connected to other networks” – such as EENet – and Communities of Practice (CoPs) connected with other CoPs – such as The Canadian Knowledge Transfer & Exchange CoP (formerly the Ontario Knowledge Transfer & Exchange CoP) have been created to broaden knowledge sharing and engagement. Such knowledge sharing organizations still keep alive – even expanding -opportunities for face-to-face knowledge interactions and collaboration with a variety of stakeholders – while also making use of the value of connecting knowledge online through social media. 

Sadly, in the early race to create an online presence of knowledge links in the digital world, many organizations, institutions and individuals forgot about the value of face-to-face social interactions over social media interactions. The old discipline/institutional knowledge silos were soon replaced with new digital knowledge network silos.

Fortunately, the pendulum has swung back (although some individuals and agencies have yet to even begin to get on the social media page!), and more people recognize the value of both connecting by social media combined with connecting face-to-face to create even broader in-person and inclusive opportunities of knowledge sharing for multiple stakeholders .

In 2012, “social” media was all about collaboration and mobility of knowledge sharing.  Now, by creating both physical and virtual knowledge sharing networks like EENet and communities like The Canadian KTE Cop in-house and remote knowledge sharing have been brought together.

Humans are social beings who enjoy sharing knowledge, and human behaviour will always trump any technology.  Regardless of how sophisticated or user-friendly the technology may be, humans will always need to connect with others in-person. But, we must continue to recognize that we live in a world of diversity and extremes. On any social media platform, there are extreme users, non-users and those that fall in-between – And, there will always be some who feel more comfortable sharing knowledge in-person while others feel more comfortable sharing knowledge online. It makes sense that overly-focusing on one over the other creates missed opportunities.  Combining and expanding both in-person and online connections will enhance the knowledge sharing experiences and increase engagement.

As we begin the New Year 2013, I’d like to wish all of my online and in-person knowledge connections a very happy, healthy and social year of online and in-person knowledge mobilization (KMb)!

Whose Knowledge Is It Anyway?

I was recently at a Knowledge Transfer & Exchange Community of Practice (KTE CoP) seminar in Toronto where a University of Sheffield scholar, Kate Pahl (above photo) was presenting a research project about a wide-range of meanings that a community park space in the U.K. has for different people in the park.  Pahl was co-investigator on a project called SPARKS: Urban green-space as a focus for connecting communities and research funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Connected Communities programme which brought together anthropology, geography, linguistics, contemporary science and environment science to look at the role of public parks in language development.

Pahl’s KTE CoP seminar presentation showcased this university-community research collaboration project with an interview-style video (the video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/7m27DmiBHFQ) showing the usage and values that such a park space have, and the language used to describe the park by both academics and community participants.  (Pahl has also been a guest blogger writing about the value of stories and storytelling as spaces of unknowing and as works of art). The title of the KTE CoP presentation was “whose research is it anyway?” – illustrating the importance of understanding and valuing research (and knowledge) from within both the university and community sectors.

Interestingly, Pahl apologized several times to the mostly health-sciences audience for her somewhat “artsy” ethnographic research project after being questioned by several KTE CoP academics attempting to understand the significance, direction, scientific methodology and impact of the research project. Instead of recognizing the broader value and application of the project for community research participation and knowledge sharing – along with such diverse areas of academic research, including Urban Studies, Water Management, Social Work, Sociology, Linguistics, History, Recreation, Arts & Entertainment, to name a few- the seemingly narrowly-focused health-sciences group failed to look beyond their academic research silos to appreciate the broader fields of study and the more important university-community collaboration possibilities of knowledge transfer and exchange.

This event got me thinking about the idea of “evidence-based” thinking and ideas of “truth” in this world. There are many different people on this planet who think they have “the truth” or ultimate knowledge of life. Because they think that their knowledge is “the true” knowledge they’re always telling others what’s “right” and “wrong” – never being open to the knowledge of others, or learning how to share knowledge to create new knowledge for social benefit and ultimately make the world a better place. Alas, this seems to be the case even among academics purporting to be part of a community of practice open to knowledge transfer & exchange.

No one knows everything – there are many truths and many diverse paths in this life. Some of us do know more information than others, and some of us recognize the importance of evidence-based thinking. But information is not knowledge, and evidence-based thinking depends on circumstances and preferences that still remain subject to input from personal, political, philosophical, ethical, economic, and esthetic values“Best” evidence thinking is now starting to shift into “best” practice thinking as we recognize that “evidence” that may work in one setting may not necessarily work in another.

“Truth” and Knowledge are two concepts that have less to do with information and “best” “evidence”, and much more to do with openness to other human beings, awareness of the diversity of life and circumstances on this planet, and compassion and empathy for others to make this earth better for everyone.

  

Sandra Nutley and colleagues, in their book Using Evidence, point out the diversity of research approaches and uses stating that “research use enhancement strategies that encourage a greater variety of voices in opportunities for dialoge have the potential to give research a substantial, sustained, and sometimes critical, role in debates about public services” and that “research goes much broader than the preoccupation with the ‘what works?’ type of instrumental knowledge central to the ‘evidence-based everything’ agenda.” (Click here for more on the difference between instrumental knowledge and conceptual knowledge).

In my experience, I’ve learned that all people have knowledge to share, and the idea of “truth” is realizing we can never know any sort of absolute “truth” because knowledge is something that is always changing and always evolving as we combine our knowledge with others throughout our human history and create new knowledge each day with each person in our lives – and throughout this planet.

The greatest knowledge we can reach is that of knowing and understanding we all have knowledge to share – whether we’re academics or everyday people in community. It’s how we find a common ground to share and collaborate with this knowledge that is important.

Knowledge is not about judging other people based on our own knowledge of life and living – or judging other people based on their knowledge of life and living.  Knowledge is about being open to each others knowledge (no matter how limited or extensive) to combine our knowledge – not for ridicule or harm – but for social benefit. This is how we can make a difference on this planet. This is what Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is all about.

At a more formal or institutional level, KMb is a collaborative process of exchanging knowledge among academics and non-academics to inform decisions about public policy and professional practice.  At this level, KMb can enhance social innovation and develop long-term solutions to social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges – including many of the so-called wicked problems that continue to hold back our humanity.

At a more informal or personal level, KMb is also a collaborative process of exchanging knowledge – with every person we meet – to inform our personal decisions about “right” and “wrong” with the many truths that exist on this planet. At this level, KMb can enhance our social interactions and develop long-term solutions to the problems that stop us from connecting and finding common ground as human beings.

There’s a great difference between accepting others for who they are and judging them based on our own limited ideas of “right” and “wrong” and “evidence” – there’s a great difference between the many truths that exist on this planet and our own interpretation of “evidence” and “the truth”.