KMbeing

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

Category Archives: social media

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.

kmb-model-final1.png

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.

 

 

Knowledge Mobilization Post With The Most 2014

RePlay pic

It’s amazing to think that I will now be officially a staff member at the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) at York University!  After months of doing contract work this past year – starting out the year preparing for and supporting the 2014 Knowledge Mobilization Forum, doing temp work collecting and entering initial data for York’s Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR), and doing contract work for FGS – 2014 was a year of making great strides in a career path I’ve long been working towards. Time has gone by so fast and yet I await, with great expectation, continuing to contribute to the important FGS work supporting our graduate students at York.

But first, as I do every year on my KMbeing knowledge mobilization blog, I want to reflect back on the 2014 “post with the most” – as I’ve done with year-end blog posts for several years in a row.

One might think that after writing this blog for almost 5 years – exploring and sharing my thoughts on, and participation in the world of knowledge mobilization – with a more permanent career path, it might be time to focus my energies elsewhere. Not so!

This past year working at FGS, I’ve been focusing some of my recent KMb blog writing on how graduate students can adopt knowledge mobilization strategies into their research. I’ll continue to do so. I’ve also been working to incorporate KMb thinking into FGS programming by setting up meetings with FGS staff and York knowledge brokers to explore more collaboration between FGS and York’s KMb Unit.

Every year I gain more life experience and more knowledge – and firmly believe in the importance of exchanging our knowledge to make the world a better place. But what has also been accumulating up to this point since I started working on campus is insight into the aspirations of our grad students and the importance of instilling in them how we can exchange our knowledge to make the world a better place now and in the future.

While thinking about the New Year ahead and the new career path I’m focused on, I want to review this past year (as many of us do) to reflect on all the incredible new colleagues and contributions I’ve made throughout 2014.

I finally feel like the career path I’ve been working on for the past decade (with a few starts and stops along the way) is starting to feel like I’m home. I feel like I have such a great fit at FGS with the people and the academic environment for the first time in such a long time.  FGS feels like home – and although I’m sure some of my co-workers who’ve been around York for several years will be tempted to say “wait until the honeymoon period is over” – I’ve already “cut my teeth” on the fast-pace and high-pressure environment that assists our grad students to achieve great success.

I’m looking forward to continuing my FGS work in 2015 being a full-time member of the FGS team – and I’ll still be putting my knowledge mobilization experience to good use to continue writing my blog – perhaps with a little more focus on motivating grad students to think about and adopt knowledge mobilization initiatives into their research.

But now a look back at the post with the most for 2014 – and expectations of a phenomenal year 2015 will be!

The most popular 2014 KMbeing blog post is A New University Paradigm in which I challenge universities to rethink how research is being done by establishing knowledge mobilization units within universities and combine them with research services and industry liaison offices to engage with both community partnerships and business innovation opportunities. There were almost 18-thousand views from 151 countries.

Again, I applaud all who made the wider dissemination of this blog possible using Twitter while recognizing the importance of getting researchers to use social media and knowledge mobilization as part of the research process.

 Thanks again to all my followers who have made this year and the KMbeing blog so successful – and thanks to new followers! I look forward to continuing to mobilize knowledge with you all in 2015!

 

 

Rethinking The “Old-School” Graduate Degree

grad picquestion mark

Universities have become more challenged in their approach to the expectations and greater competition in their own institutions and with other universities. The many challenges within the past few decades have created financial struggles for universities requiring evidence-based reform 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. How this plays out in relation to graduate degree programs means that some universities are now examining a substantial decrease in graduate student enrolment.

Rethinking the value of traditional graduate degrees and the types of research being done cannot be ignored in this development as there is a continuing gap between “old-school” research paradigms and an emerging paradigm-shift in the demand for quality research that also provides social benefit.

Universities see themselves to be in a risky situation as a result of economic pressures combined with this increasing demand for community-engaged scholarship to provide social benefit. In a climate of uncertain funding and a greater demand for valuable research, understanding how knowledge mobilization (KMb) can bring opportunities to improve research, create social and economic innovation and affect government policy needs to be considered.

While graduate programs that struggle to attract students might have been retained in the past, there is increasing evidence that this is no longer the case within some universities. Graduate student numbers drop as universities seek to compete with one another for different revenue streams.

Does this mean that we have to simply drop these graduate programs or can we infuse a new sense of value into them by rethinking how the research within these programs is being done?

Do struggling graduate programs need to reduce entry standards to attract more students or is there another way to attract top quality students by articulating the value of receiving a graduate degree while also creating benefit to society?

The role of incorporating knowledge mobilization strategies into the types of graduate research cannot be ignored. Not doing so continues to have serious implications for universities. York University is an example of how incorporating knowledge mobilization strategies into faculty research contributes to an increase in receiving large-scale funding to do more research. By integrating a knowledge mobilization unit within the university structure and specifically creating a senior research officer position to support large-scale grant applications initially increased large-scale funding by 300% per year – and over 8 years (from 2006-2014) has supported successful community-engaged scholarship grant applications that has secured over $43-million dollars. Since this funding is engaged with community it therefore is intended to create social benefit. Since a large portion of these grant budgets are for graduate students they also get to participate in this engaged scholarship.

KMb grant support

As a further example, York University holds 62.5% more SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) grant awards that contain a knowledge mobilization component than other major Canadian universities.

KMb grant support 2

So why not extend knowledge mobilization strategies beyond just faculty research to include graduate student research?

Having a strong enrolment base may be good for graduate programs – having a strong research base with a knowledge mobilization strategy is good for increasing funding – including funding for graduate programs. In turn, increased funding for graduate programs can contribute to increased graduate student enrolment.

Universities that incorporate knowledge mobilization strategies into faculty research to create social benefit are becoming very different from other universities who still place emphasis on research for research sake only. The old paradigm of doing research for research sake only, going through the grant application process for funding, having it peer-reviewed only to have the research sit on a shelf with no practical application is changing.

A helpful and colorful example of this comes from the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health who not only have developed a very useful knowledge mobilization toolkit that any researcher can use (including university faculty and graduate student researchers) – but also a humorous animated video demonstrating “old-school” thinking versus emerging thinking in the demand for action from research. It’s about “what you do with what you’ve learned” thanks to the Knowledge Ninja.

Universities that incorporate knowledge mobilization strategies into graduate student research – not just faculty research – to create social benefit become very different from other universities who still place emphasis on vocation, training and education only as a means to just simply getting a graduate degree. Perhaps it’s also a way for universities to become more attractive to prospective graduate students who want to study at universities who can create community engagement opportunities through their research – and ultimately social benefit while getting their graduate degree.

York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit is collaborating with the Faculty of Graduate Studies to explore specialized training and support services for graduate students. This includes training in clear language writing and social media and serving as brokers of research collaborations for graduate students.

The combination of market forces and government policies has put higher education on a more competitive path that reduces opportunities for graduate students. Those universities who ignore community-engagement as part of reform strategies as part of a new university paradigm will be those still struggling to achieve reforms and fulfill public accountability and support over the next decade.

Some of the best training and preparation we can offer graduate student researchers is to make their research useful to society. It’s time the graduate student path includes a knowledge mobilization strategy in the pursuit of a graduate degree to rethink the value of traditional graduate degrees and the types of research being done.

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.

The Knowledge Exchange Cycle

Communication

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) can be challenging. Constant meetings, conferences, workshops, articles, blogs, emails, text messages, questions, problem solving, stakeholder involvement – or lack thereof – and the ongoing cycle of sifting through information and data/information noise to gain knowledge can begin to feel like you are sinking in an infinitely vast ocean of opinions, beliefs, ideas and ideals, statistics, and research “evidence”. Once you gain knowledge of something and exchange further knowledge with others, new knowledge seems to appear to refute previous knowledge. One moment a research study suggests certain findings. The next, a new study seems to contradict those findings, requiring you to constantly re-examine your knowledge and the knowledge of others. A brief definition of knowledge mobilization is making knowledge (particularly research knowledge) useful to society. Let’s face it – sometimes it seems such never-ending knowledge contradictions are preventing us from making any knowledge useful to society.

Yet I’m optimistic! One of the most powerful and enduring lessons I have learned in my almost decade of promoting and supporting knowledge mobilization efforts is that the multitude of contexts, sources, findings and views aren’t necessarily keeping us from knowledge – this is knowledge: fluid knowledge. I’ve talked and written about this at length in person and in previous KMbeing blog posts, as well as in the papers and book chapter I co-authored.

The notion of looking at these “contradictions” of knowledge in a valuable way is one I feel bound to reiterate. Why? Because by adopting this approach to the fluidity of knowledge we can dramatically increase our opportunities for influencing policy-makers, clarify positions for various stakeholders, develop understanding and build trust within different environments, and forge meaningful relationships in various contexts of knowledge transfer and exchange as our knowledge continues to evolve.

In short, we can recognize that knowledge is never stagnant – or we can be stuck in knowledge silos. All we have to do is remember that each interaction – each knowledge exchange – is filled with unlimited and profound possibilities for impact. But remember, impact is also never stagnant. Impact occurs and is also transformed by new knowledge – the fluidity of knowledge.

Knowledge Exchange Cycle

So, how do we make each knowledge exchange count and not become inundated by the infinitely and often overwhelming bombardment of varying knowledge? By approaching each knowledge exchange practically and purposefully.

There are three components to each effective knowledge exchange. Combined, they form what I call a Knowledge Exchange Cycle. When you consider all three elements with one another, they can produce a powerfully productive approach to developing our own knowledge and advancing our collective knowledge. Simply remember these three elements in each interaction:

Speak & Listen Carefully

Put Knowledge in Context

and Transform Knowledge Collaboratively.

This funny video clip shows the importance of speaking and listening carefully, being open and paying attention to context.

 

 

Speak & Listen Carefully:  Speaking and listening carefully is the key to effective communication. But few people get it right. That’s because it takes meaningful practice and focus to connect with others, detect different meanings, recognize multiple perspectives, and determine what kind of knowledge is being exchanged. When you master being truly present in your communication, you can become an amazing speaker and – more importantly – an amazing listener. This means that when you’re not speaking you’re fully engaged, mindful of the moment and paying attention to the other people sharing their knowledge with determined focus. Remember, to give other people the space to be heard. Don’t become a constant speaker without also being a compassionate listener! The give and take of speaking and listening carefully also means asking for the knowledge “evidence” of others, and taking the time to understand the general benefit of the knowledge being exchanged. When you feel confident that you understand someone else’s knowledge, take a moment to briefly summarize to ensure you and others understand the knowledge being exchanged.

Put Knowledge In Context: Once you understand the essence of the knowledge being exchanged, you’re ready to put that knowledge in context to better understand how this knowledge is being used and understood in a particular (and often different) context. When you put knowledge in context people will be able to place the knowledge in circumstances that may not always fit within our own frameworks or social benefit. This requires some diplomacy. You need to be both responsive and adaptable. Determine the context by adjusting your approach and understanding of your own knowledge accordingly. The key is to be open to knowledge that may be different from your own to wholly grasp the applicability to your own context. It’s important to connect to their purpose and passion for the knowledge they exchange from the context in which they are situated to also connect it to the knowledge you provide. You may also need to show them how their knowledge is uniquely situated within their own environment in whatever drives them for benefit within their own society – while also anchoring their knowledge in an understanding of whatever drives you in your own knowledge that may be different. Whatever the situation, frame the knowledge exchange openly and speak from your heart. Let people know why their knowledge matters in connecting to your own knowledge to transform it by the next step.

Transform Knowledge Collaboratively: In this part of the knowledge exchange cycle you must show a desire to turn your knowledge (and sometimes differing knowledge) into action collaboratively. Knowledge exchange should ultimately be about making a difference in the world. Transform exchanged knowledge collaboratively! You spoke and listened carefully. You put knowledge in context. You need to continue to speak and listen carefully. Now you need to transform the knowledge exchanged collaboratively. And you need to continue to speak and listen carefully. Maybe you need to help them make a decision. Maybe you need to shift your thinking and look at your own knowledge differently. This is your chance to think about how you can advance knowledge – yours and others – into something useful – beyond individual contexts – yet also considering how to be adaptive within individual contexts.

As you engage in the Knowledge Exchange Cycle remind yourself of the risk in not speaking and listening carefully, not thinking about context, and not acting collaboratively. In order to not feel like you’re drowning in the vast ocean of knowledge exchange, all any of us can do is mindfully consider the knowledge shared by and with us in the moment. This Knowledge Exchange Cycle provides a framework for you to build knowledge relationships carefully, be open to and understand different contexts, and make and support ways to transform knowledge collaboratively – in every moment of knowledge exchange. In this sense, knowledge mobilization can be challenging. As someone who has used mindfulness meditation in my daily life for over 25 years, mindfulness is not always easy. And just like mindfulness meditation, with mindful knowledge exchange, the more you do it, the better and more efficient you will become.  I encourage you to keep the Knowledge Exchange Cycle in mind in your next knowledge encounter – you may find you are one step closer to transforming knowledge to make the world a better place.

 

 

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

Collective Impact Of Research Over Isolated Impact Of Research

Pepsi Coke Hatred

We live in a knowledge society with the technology to exchange our knowledge faster with greater numbers of people around the world than ever in our history.

So….

Why can’t we develop skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness that still exist?

Why isn’t healthcare a universal human right?

Why is climate change still a problem?

Why can’t we provide students with all the support and services they need to stay in school and graduate?

Why can’t we avoid prejudice, bigotry, bullying and hatred that leads to war?

These persistent global harms are what social scientists refer to as wicked problems. Many academic researchers, community workers and social innovators have spent countless hours and years studying why wicked problems still plague humanity. An abundance of words have been written in an abundance of scholarly journals about an abundance of studies, and there are many community-based examples of localized success stories – yet wicked problems still exist worldwide.

Just when you think we might learn from past generations in history and begin to overcome wicked problems it begins to look like history repeats itself in our own generation. History may not repeat itself but rather rhyme as Mark Twain observed.  Repeating or rhyming – will we ever be able to eliminate these wicked problems? What needs to be done? When it comes to prejudice, bigotry, bullying and hatred – sadly, these are easily learned in childhood as adults pass on their views to children. Thankfully, such views can change and are not always maintained into adulthood. There are many reasons why prejudice continues to be a ubiquitous social phenomenon, and some international researchers even think hatred should be treated as a disease – approaching the problem from a healthcare perspective. Yet wicked problems are also interconnected to the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness which stems from economic competition and greed that can then cycle back into prejudice, bigotry, bullying hatred and war.

It would appear that within wicked problems there are two major underlying and interconnected reasons:

1)      Teaching our children to hate and “pass on the disease” by not thinking more broadly beyond exaggerated group categorizations or stereotypes and

2)      Economic conditions that lead to financial disparity and greed.

When we create mental categories and social barriers by grouping into similarities or stereotypes without being open to and understanding our differences, ridiculing or exploiting characteristics of others and exaggerating differences among us – we contribute to wicked problems.

When we maintain economic conditions that only help specific populations without regard for broader solutions that do not lead to lasting benefits for everyone- we contribute to wicked problems.

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is about breaking down barriers – social and economic. It’s not just about sharing diverse knowledge in our knowledge society – it’s also about moving knowledge into action for broader benefit in society. Without turning knowledge into action knowledge is useless. We can begin to conquer the enormous social and economic challenges that create wicked problems when we begin to implement knowledge mobilization strategies to maximize the impact of research in order to change policies and systems within our world for lasting benefit.

It’s not just about doing research on the problems – it’s about taking that research and turning it into action by creating community/university collaboration, transferring and exchanging knowledge skills and experience to develop ethical business and technology partnerships, and advocating for policy change within government. It’s about connecting and collaborating across sectors to create social benefit that also leads to economic benefit. Knowledge mobilization when linked to social and economic innovation can create far-reaching and lasting change to overcome wicked problems on a broader scale.

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(Link here for more information about this knowledge mobilization model)

Overcoming wicked problems is not just for one sector of our world, one community, one country, one nationality. To overcome wicked problems we need to break down barriers and push beyond our individuality, discipline or region to focus on the larger scale of our commonality as human beings. We need to set our sights on collaborative action for ultimate collective benefit as a primary means to overcome wicked problems – which begins with knowledge mobilization. This includes innovation to make change – both social and economic innovation – which also begins with knowledge mobilization.

I currently work in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University and see so many graduate students interested in creating and contributing to our knowledge. I see great aspirations for the future as Masters and PhD students want to have an impact on our collective knowledge – while also wanting to create social and financial value from their research. If we are going to succeed in creating impact we must also start to encourage our students to be visionary in their approaches to knowledge mobilization and community-engagement by thinking about ways of turning their knowledge into action.

York University grad student Bart Danko is a recent and outstanding example of a student presenting his research with broader social and economic impact. Bart has not only pursued his interests in the interdisciplinary subjects of Environmental Studies and Law through York’s unique MES/JD program (the only program of its kind in Canada), he has also harnessed the power of social media by creating a film and website about his research. Like Bart, current and future students need to become more collaborative and networked in the knowledge and innovation society in which we now live by presenting research in broader and technological ways. It’s what is referred to as doing research with collective impact over isolated impact.

As with teaching our children to think beyond limiting and stereotypical categorizations and become more inclusive, we need to teach our students to think beyond their disciplines and think about research that advances knowledge to create not just social change but also economic change on a wider scale – to create collective impact over isolated impact. We need to teach our students to think about becoming boundary spanners from academia to community to business to government when they do research.

We must sustain economic conditions that continue to make it possible for student research to be financially supported by granting agencies while also creating collaborative and funding opportunities with philanthropists, business and industry to deploy their research in providing data and analysis to make informed economic decisions that decrease financial disparity. Students need to think about the potential extra-academic impact of their research across disciplines, sectors – and even social media networks.

Living in a knowledge society with technology to exchange knowledge faster and broader does not necessarily mean breaking the cycle of wicked problems. Knowledge mobilization takes that knowledge sharing one step further to action and impact. Research without knowledge mobilization has isolated impact. Research with action, community-engagement and public-private partnerships has collective impact. Connecting research to knowledge mobilization and scaling it broader to innovation in business and industry leads to wide-ranging social and economic changes that will then begin to break the cycle of wicked problems. It takes a commitment to educate our children, our students and our communities to create knowledge that ensures the cycle of wicked problems will not continue in the future so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Fasten Your Seatbelts For Open-Access & Knowledge Mobilization

fasten seat belt

Maybe years from now academics will reflect on a time when the process of peer-review submissions for journal publication of research findings was like taking a several hours or days journey by horse and buggy that today might take us less than an hour to complete by car, train, bus or airplane. We can start to reflect on the changing view of academics to become more accepting of open access journals yet we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of peer-review itself to ensure quality control and verification.  Open-access allows for faster publication and faster access – yet that doesn’t mean speed doesn’t have its own dangers, or that we don’t take responsibility ourselves to not be fooled by everything we read as “accurate knowledge”.

Researchers know that the archaic and painstaking process of old-style peer-review submissions can often take upwards of a year to finally get published. Criticisms around the timeliness and relevance of making the data known creates barriers that can limit the effectiveness of presenting the research knowledge to other researchers and to the public.

Open-access journals for faster publication of research findings have now also finally started to gain respectability among scientists as a mode of broader knowledge dissemination to a public interested in being included in knowledge mobilization – not excluded – from the prior elitist realm of discipline-specific publications and “knowledge circles”.  (There are also now other timely means of sharing research knowledge such as #scholarsunday that takes place on Twitter in which both research scholars and the public can participate).

Yet trouble in the open-access waters hasn’t always made the process so smooth.

Let’s revisit journalist John Bohannon’s undercover investigative report from 2013 discussed further in Michael Eisen’s blog which caused quite a stir and opened the eyes of many open-access supporters. Bohannon, who has a PhD in biology, submitted a fraudulent cancer-research article and reported that 157 open-access journals had agreed to publish his fake findings.

The lesson to be learned from this is not that open access journals are not relevant modes for research publication. Rather the emphasis must continue to be on quality control by any professional publisher and any reader to automatically accept any research findings published. We must all approach knowledge exchanged with critical thinking – even after publication – open access or not.

When we fail to use our own critical thinking around research results and knowledge exchange we abdicate our own responsibility in accepting at face-value any research or “knowledge” that is received. The real problem is not necessarily the mode of transportation used –whether horse and buggy, car, train, bus or airplane. It’s how safely we secure ourselves on the ride that occurs – by using our own “scholarly assessment” of research findings.

If we are so-called research experts in a particular discipline we should already be taught to re-examine with scrutiny any published research findings anyway as part of the scientific method.

We now live in a time where the general public must also learn to approach any “evidence” with the same critical eye.

Yet there’s the underlying problem itself…learning to be critical thinkers ourselves. Peer-review publication is supposed to ensure quality control, yet even the peer-review process can’t keep the train on the track. Making an indictment of the open-access model is like saying we should go back to travelling by horse and buggy as a “safer” mode of transportation.

Don’t blame the mode of transportation if you haven’t secured your own self properly for the journey.

Where do you think the knowledge mobilisation field will be in 5 years?

crystal-ballMaking Connections Matter UK

It’s been just over a month since the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum took place in London on Feb 3rd & 4th 2014 with great success! The theme of the event was Making Connections Matter – which certainly lived up to its name.  Again, tremendous thanks goes to Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) for hosting the event that brought together about 60 attendees from across the UK.

Thanks again also to Cathy Howe who was an incredible conference coordinator and forum lead who helped facilitate genuine connections across a variety of sectors in an environment of sharing experiences and challenges.

During an evening dinner at one of the more social parts of the Forum, David Phipps from ResearchImpact brought out an imaginative crystal ball and asked the group to reflect on their knowledge mobilisation practice and/or research with the question:

“Where do you think the knowledge mobilisation field will be in 5 years?”

The responses ranged from optimism about greater global knowledge sharing and cross-discipline understanding to a more pessimistic view about the social struggles that will continue to obstruct work in knowledge mobilisation (KMb). Some responses mentioned hoped-for advancements in technology to make global knowledge mobilisation easier; while others thought the practice of KMb will become more well-known and routine.  There were even a couple of political comments concerning the future of Scotland and civilization!

The following are the answers from UK KMb Forum 2014 to that question:

  • I truly hope for stronger literature bridging theory & practice on KMb for research – at least some inspirational example that improves research impact or development
  • More active availability of evidence-based improvement packages that front-line practitioners can easily pick-up
  • Less government intervention in the KMb process and more community lead
  • In 5 years other people will know what I’m talking about when I talk about KMb
  • Celebrating our successes in building a more well-informed, scientifically-literate society
  • Knowledge sharing is considered valuable and is the default
  • The term KMb has died out – because it’s part of normal practice to exchange & share knowledge routinely
  • There will be a greater abundance of cross-domain knowledge transfer as the norm as the idea of knowledge ‘partners’ will be no more
  • We will bring our KMb uses more easily to political representatives to talk about our professional ambitions & standards
  • Everyone will understand the basics (of KMb). We will need more knowledge translation but we won’t need a bridge between academics and practice
  • People will have time to mobilise knowledge across sectors during their day jobs
  • There will be massive international connectivity across disciplines because of the growth of international growth in the marketplaces…even in developing countries
  • We will be telling success stories of impact/learning from future UK Forum events – we will have 2 meetings in Scotland! – and the networks created from them; Knowledge Mobilisation will be well respected, less jargonistic, better understood by those who claim to be knowledge mobilisers and by our partners/stakeholders/end-users/beneficiaries
  • Practitioners will be skilled assessors of evidence and often contribute to/guide the evidence base – and the same goes for people we service
  • In 5 years’ time streaming video around the globe will reliably work for more than 10 minutes at a time for greater knowledge mobilisation
  • Social technologies are embedded (not “new”) but something new we have anticipated is surprising us – in “not being new” the risk and opportunity around global voices of participation is managed and institutionalised and de-radicalised in knowledge mobilisation
  • Increased accessibility to social media for excluded groups for greater knowledge mobilisation
  • There will continue to be a strong demand for evidence to inform policy and decision making. The drives will be the realization of the cost of failure! “What works” is a strong force but “works” is a co-produced idea with brand values that define desirable outcomes and “impact”; seeing complexity, ambiguity & uncertainty as positive forces for innovation with greater creativity & “wiggle-room” in policies & decision making through adaptive management of evidence-based experimentation
  • Spaces to meet and exchange across sectors and disciplines is a routine part of professional practice as teams of knowledge brokers help create solutions to large scale challenges
  • Knowledge mobilisation will not just be confined to Canada and the UK – it will be worldwide! We will all be old pals by then
  • There will be more people trying to do change
  • Probably nothing! We’ve all decided it would be good to talk! We will still be worried about equity and power sharing as we continue to think it still to be all quite complicated but we won’t mind being paid while continuing to think about it though!
  • Scotland will not be represented  in the same way – unless it happens in that country!
  • What? – Civilization ends…Why? – Michael Gove, PM.

Your Quiet Place To Appreciate Your Knowledge Contribution

city blur

Where is your quiet place where you can stop the world for a minute and appreciate your own place in it – appreciate your knowledge contribution to it? All knowledge shared for social benefit makes the world a better place. Sometimes we need to step back into a quiet place to see our own knowledge contributions to this noisy planet.