KMbeing

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

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The Legacy Of Our Knowledge Society

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Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is making research useful to society. As such KMb is a process that enables social innovation. Social innovation stems from KMb initiatives between community and academia that is moving beyond community engagement to partnerships that lead to more far-reaching ideas and strategies.

 “A Social Innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.”

Stanford University Centre for Social Innovation

A social innovation addresses the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental impacts. All of humanity is affected by economic, social and environmental impacts – not just a few people in a few different countries in this world.  Organizations like Social Innovation Generation (SIG: McConnell Family FoundationMaRS Discovery DistrictThe Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience and SIG@PLAN Institute) are working together to provide learning resources about creating conditions for social innovation.

Social innovation takes a systems approach to address social needs in an altruistic, collaborative and inclusive manner. Collaboration must occur among all sectors of society in order to create a fundamental shift in the development of social programs to cross the borders of societal gaps, create effective change and come closer to overcoming wicked problems. Sadly, the ongoing global struggle for human rights continues with each generation of our humanity and in each generation we perhaps come a few steps closer – and yet take so many unfortunate steps backwards – to become a better society and a better humanity.

In 1969 ARPANET (a military backed project within universities and the precursor to the Internet) established a link between the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Stanford Research Institute. In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, an independent contractor at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) proposed a large hypertext database with typed links to overcome the problems of information and data sharing over the Internet by physicists from around the world (leading to the creation of the world-wide-web). Stemming from a government funded military project within academia the Internet has now emerged as a knowledge mobilization platform for all of society to participate in sharing knowledge and making research useful to society.

The emergence of our knowledge society will be our era’s legacy as it transforms how government policy changes to address social needs and starts giving voice to all sectors of society to develop solutions within and by society – not just for society.  Social innovation can lead to policy change that is more collaborative with all sectors of society at the systems level, and Canada’s toughest challenge facing systems issues are our health system; our food supply; the future of learning and work; and the future of government structures.

Today knowledge mobilization provides opportunities for social innovation to emerge and address such systems level challenges. This important connection must be properly understood for social innovation to be implemented and for research to have any lasting impact.

As our younger generation begins the journey of their future – now perhaps as graduate students seeking through their own research to make a difference in our world and add to our knowledge society – what legacy do you expect to build and give to the next generation after the legacy of our knowledge society emerges into the legacy beyond?

Passion About Research By Knowledge Mobilization

KMbeing

research

This is a follow up to my earlier blog post about why should researchers blog & tweet. I could continue listing the usual “tips and reasons” to set researchers on their way. However, I want to follow up to my previous blog with something essential that I forgot to mention – the most important tip and underlying reason that sets the tone for blogging and using twitter over anything else:

If you’re not interested in your own research and how it can benefit others you will never be interested in blogging or tweeting about it!

Researchers become interested in a particular field of study for a reason.  Research is about presenting data that initially stems from some personal curiosity or experience.  Academic writing stems from wanting to find out more, understand more and educate others about a particular phenomenon that stimulates this initial curiosity or explains personal experiences – and…

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Generations, Perspective, Choice & Knowledge Mobilization

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There’s a 1988 song by the band Mike and The Mechanics called In The Living Years that begins with “Every generation blames the one before, and all of their frustrations come beating on your door…we all talk a different language talking in defense.” Although this song addresses a son’s regret about not expressing to his father the things he wishes he would have said when his father was still alive, the opening lines reflect an inter-generational view that holds meaning for many.

I write this blog post from a more personal than usual perspective – a mid-life perspective that some may relate to and others not so much, depending upon which generation of “X” “Y” “Z” or “millennial” group you are lumped into. Regardless of when you were born I hope you will consider these words as a message reaching out to all generations.  I am considered a tail-end “baby-boomer”. Born in 1964, I may now be called a “zoomer” or aging “boomer” who still has zing. Inter-generational tension seems to exist regardless of which part of the past two centuries you were born. History reflects a momentum of building upon (or criticizing) the generation that was born before – or after – you were born.

As I grow older – closer to retirement than to the idealism of my twenties – I realize that perspective is everything! But it’s not just about my own “older” perspective, it’s also about being open to the perspective of any generation. And being open means not talking in defense. Our perspective is our own reality.

Each week I write about knowledge mobilization. I firmly believe that by exchanging our knowledge across the boundaries of age, gender, ability, race, culture, nationality, religion or sexual orientation we can come closer to understanding each other and learn from each other to make the world a better place. Problems occur when we dig our heals in and refuse to be open because of ideology, faith, extremism, or a sense of entitlement or lack of fairness (As a friend of mine likes to say, “life isn’t fair so build a bridge and get over it!”). All of these are dichotomies that have and still polarize us in our world today – that do not focus on the underlying understanding of our common humanity. One need only look at current news in the media to see the continuing presence of such dichotomies.

Although I choose not to speak publically as an employee about the York University and University of Toronto labour disruptions (as a former colleague who worked with me at York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies has done in a recent blog post) events such as these are clear examples of when people take a dichotomous “us” and “them” mentality. Pointing fingers and saying “they can” or “they should” don’t help such situations – it only inflames them further.

I grew up in a low-income family and never had the opportunity to finish an undergraduate degree until I was in my forties – after much hard work, jobs with minimum wages, no health or insurance benefits, attending classes while working full time – with years of sacrifice. It wasn’t due to a lack of intelligence, but to various circumstances in my life. So I know something about precarity. I worked many years in the hospitality industry, made a choice to change careers to work in the academic world, and continued to work hard to finally make that change a current reality. It seems far too many people today expect immediate gratification and seek possessions, technologies, money, careers, benefits, and higher education as some automatic entitlement or right.

Each one of us lives our lives, experiences challenges (some more difficult than others) and we either learn to pull through or we don’t. Along the way there are those kind human beings who try to lend a hand for those more in need – and there are also those more selfish human beings who really don’t care. This is the ultimate and only dichotomy that counts. (It’s also why I consider knowledge mobilization important to overcome hatred in our world). Ask any person from any generation if they know someone from their own generation with either a kind approach or a hateful approach to our fellow human beings and you will certainly find the answer is yes in any generation. Then ask yourself, which side do you fall on?

From a broader human perspective – our main goal should be to increase every person’s well-being and quality of life, but sadly, we don’t. Because we still point our fingers and say “they can” or “they should”.

But is it our right to expect such kindness from other human beings. No.

This is also the challenge of our living together on this planet.

Do I expect people to be kind? Hopefully – but never certainly. This happens regardless of generation.

After basic needs are covered, everybody has the right to pursue other goals in life: happiness, wealth, careers, and knowledge – including higher education, but they must all be understood from an individual’s subjective perspective.

Many societies attempt to increase the well-being and quality of life of their citizens to create greater inclusion and harmony of living. My interest in knowledge mobilization is based upon this very ability to bring together policy-makers, practitioners and researchers from public, private and non-profit organizations – in a civilized, inclusive, and non-accusatory manner – to create sustainable solutions to challenges such as poverty, social exclusion, discrimination and other problems that create suffering and disparity within society

While basic education is necessary and a human right for children to learn and develop social skills; and secondary school education is required to focus on developing professional skills; higher education is an opportunity, a privilege and a choice which aims at providing specific knowledge for advancement in various fields. Higher education is not a human right – it is a purely personal choice.

Problems occur when one conflates the choice of pursuing higher education with the opportunity to be paid for work while doing so. The reality is that there is a choice between pursuing a higher education and working in a job to make a living wage. Not recognizing this reality is abdicating one’s own power to enact personal change through personal choice – and with choice comes responsibility.

Most importantly, remember – tomorrow is promised to no one.

Active Listening As A Knowledge Mobilization Skill

Active Listening

In our office at the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University listening is one of the most important skills we can have to fully understand the concerns of our graduate students, staff and faculty, while properly supporting them in an academic/research environment. It seems that all of us can become so focused on our work that we can sometimes switch our hearing on and off. It can sometimes be frustrating the number of times some of us interrupt a person speaking before we can actually fully acknowledge what’s being said.

The unfortunate thing is that although we think we may be listening to what’s actually being said, sometimes it’s not always the case.

Several years ago I left a career in the airline industry as a flight attendant to embark on a career in university administration. As an In-Charge Flight Attendant one of the first things I was taught was to listen very carefully. Particularly in the event of any emergency situation, listening skills are crucial for dealing with any safety and security issues to effectively communicate important information to passengers and crew. As my grandmother used to say to me, “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order”. Although I learned to use my listening and communication skills daily, in reality – I admit – I sometimes fail to hear everything said to me. We don’t take in completely everything that is being said to us – and this is rather concerning.

Listening continues to be a major part of my day as I now work in a university setting – and rightly should be for anyone in any setting. We use listening to gain understanding, to exchange knowledge, and learn. If the important parts of understanding what is being said to us aren’t understood then it’s a problem. And if we don’t really listen to understand we’re missing out on important and often missed details.

Being an active listener – especially in the field of knowledge mobilization – will do a number of helpful things for you. It will improve the efficiency of your understanding, the clarity of your speaking and knowledge translation, as well as increase the cooperation of people involved in the conversation. You will avoid more misunderstanding, and improve rapport with a number of key players in your knowledge mobilization network – researchers, intermediaries and research users such as policy makers – and of course it will help improve your overall ability to effectively communicate.

To enhance your knowledge mobilization skills, you need to practice active listening. Active listening is making a conscious effort to listen carefully to not only the words being said but the meaning behind what’s being communicated as well. It’s not as easy as it sounds and requires continual practice.

Active listening as a general skill for any person – and as a knowledge mobilization skill for researchers, knowledge brokers, community partners and policy-makers requires all to remain very focused on what is being said by anyone in the research process. We need to pay attention to the stereotypes of power and politics, the marginalization of the often un-listened-to voices, and ideas of elitist knowledge sources – while also being able to form counter-arguments that can lead to the development of new knowledge. The moment we stop concentrating fully on every partner in the knowledge mobilization partnership we’ re no longer actively listening.

Knowledge mobilization is about communicating knowledge (particularly research knowledge) through listening and dialogue – and turning knowledge into action. Part of that action is paying complete attention to all research partners. We need to give each partner within the research process our undivided attention – and continue to acknowledge what is being said to continuously transform our knowledge within society. This also includes looking for all non-verbal communication as well as the words being said. Throughout the research process, the community-engagement process, the knowledge translation and exchange process, and the policy-making process all partners need to continue to show that they are listening – not just passively listening – actively listening. This is very powerful in continuing to develop and convey knowledge.

The other side of listening for better knowledge development is to give feedback. Our job as listeners is to clearly understand what is being said. Our job as knowledge mobilizers is to also check for understanding. We do this by asking questions and reflecting back what we think is being said. We need to ask questions. Researchers are usually very good at this; community-partners are sometimes hesitant to do so due to those ideas of elitist knowledge sources; and policy-makers sometimes forget to ask further questions. One of the easiest ways of asking questions and reflecting back to any speaker is to simply ask “what do you mean when you say…?” or  “ it sounds like what you’re saying is…” Summarize the knowledge you think is being conveyed and get them to correct your understanding if necessary.

Most importantly – don’t interrupt until an exchanged thought is complete. Don’t say things like, “no, no, no, no…” with hand gestures or body-language that summarily dismisses what another person is attempting to communicate. Interrupting is not only rude – it also wastes time and risks frustrating the individuals speaking to you. Such rude interruptions limit the conversation – and hence limit the potential for effective knowledge mobilization.

Included in giving feedback and not interrupting is the ability to make only appropriate responses. Active listening as a knowledge mobilization skill requires respect and accurate understanding. For more on listening and knowledge brokers please see Phipps & Morton (2013). We add nothing to the conversation by arguing inappropriately or attacking a point of view. Taking the time to not interrupt also provides an opportunity to critically think about what’s being said and how best to respond without a knee-jerk reaction.

This doesn’t mean we have to sugar-coat everything thing we say in response. It simply means being open and honest in our responses – while also being respectful in our opinions. We can convey what we mean and exchange our knowledge in a manner that is tactful and diplomatic – not by demeaning or talking-down to someone.

Active listening in everyday life and as a knowledge mobilization skill takes much practice, concentration and determination – but is worth the effort to turn knowledge exchange into an action for greater social benefit.

As a researcher, research partner or policy-maker, if you practice active listening as a knowledge mobilization skill and continue to remind yourself to include this in all of your communication with others, not only will your understanding of others improve – you’ll also be amazed at how much more you actually increase your knowledge to make the world a better place, and isn’t that the point?

Getting Graduate Students To Think About Knowledge Mobilization As Part Of Their Research

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For almost a year now I have been working at the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University and have come in contact with many Masters and PhD students, some of their supervisors, faculty members, Grad Program Directors and Assistants, and others who help our grad students with the process of their research. Apart from my own personal research experience working in a Health Psychology Lab – garnering a deeper understanding of the research process from literature review, to grant applications to peer-review publications, as well as working in York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, I see eager grad students still working toward an end point and counting the days to the home stretch of simply doing research as a means of degree completion rather than somehow making their research useful beyond the degree process.

The final thesis or dissertation defence is the culmination of years of labour but hopefully not simply the end of putting all of that research to good use.

It may seem obvious, most academic pursuits towards a graduate degree are not simply to achieve the degree itself but towards greater accomplishment. On the surface, some students realize the research they do will have some value beyond their own individual academic interests. Yet, in my own experience (particularly in the field of knowledge mobilization), today’s research pursuits – including those of graduate students – need to be carefully thought out to include how such research may have practical applications and are useful beyond the academy to society in general.

As I wrote about in an earlier blog, graduate students must now see themselves as boundary spanners undertaking research that has the potential to cross over several disciplines. On the one hand, it may simply be traditional academic research in the pursuit of a graduate degree. On the other, it may create engagement with community stakeholders, business entrepreneurs, and policy makers.

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.

It may seem a daunting challenge to think about and involve a broader field of stakeholders in the grad research process, especially trying to reconcile how to bring together sectors who speak different languages and may use the research in different contexts. Couple that with the necessity of explaining to these various stakeholders composed of community, business and government organizations or agencies why this research makes sense, what it’s saying, and how this research is useful to society.

This is where knowledge mobilization and institutional knowledge brokers come in.

Planning your graduate research is already a daunting task.

Graduate students need to starting thinking about pursuing research interests that may also overlap with something not necessarily “in your field” that may have both an academic and applied purpose. Yet I would argue most graduate students have never even heard of a knowledge broker and what they do for making community/university connections.

Knowledge brokers can distill multiple sources from multiple areas into compelling and clear reasons for making graduate research useful to society. Knowledge brokers can build a case quickly and persuasively and learn to incorporate interdisciplinary and multi-sector voices into a coherent conversation about creating value in the research process – not just about the value in receiving the degree itself. Knowledge brokers can help community stakeholders learn to get the gist of the research quickly and be able to distill the applications in a way that will be understandable even to someone who is totally unfamiliar with a research topic.

Most importantly, knowledge brokers help to create a quality product working as a liaison between researcher and community interests: making research useful to society. In an age of an academic research paradigm shift, graduate students must now learn to think about community engagement over and over again, week after week from research to research.

Not only are current graduate student researchers expected to hone their ability to think, research, analyze, and write – core skills that have always been required to complete a thesis or dissertation – graduate research students can now be expected to start thinking about knowledge mobilization to make their research useful beyond the academy. And with the use of knowledge brokers, I would argue, in a far more effective manner than they would ever be able to do were they to keep to a more traditional academia-only research path.

If graduate student researchers stay in a traditionally-defined academic mode, research will be confined to papers for grant applications and scholarly publications with little more than the personal value – (dare I say) even more selfish value of a degree only for the sake of getting a degree. While the university creates space and rightly celebrates traditional scholarship, those grad students who take time, particularly those in the social sciences can create broader application value of their research results. Working with other researchers and community members to work out new ideas and think about interesting questions that may not be directly related to your field of research, taking the time to wonder about other areas beyond the university, and having the flexibility to work with other stakeholders to pursue broader research application can have extremely rewarding results as well as that of the goal of receiving your degree.

Not only will this broader type of thinking and research enhance your ability to complete your thesis or dissertation in a timely and comprehensive fashion, it will allow you to connect your research beyond the academy by linking to and enabling social benefit.

Knowledge mobilization teaches researchers to research broadly, looking at seemingly unrelated areas.
I doubt that former York University graduate student Tanya Gulliver initially thought that her research about heat and vulnerable citizens would lead to Toronto adopting Canada’s first heat registry without the use of York University’s knowledge brokers and Knowledge Mobilization Unit. It was because Tanya broadened her graduate research as part of a community-university research project with Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre using knowledge mobilization methods. The impact of this collaborative, graduate student research was covered by The Toronto Star. More often than not, academic disciplines do not talk to one another from the research silos that continue to exist. As a result, researchers miss important and potentially relevant opportunities for collaboration and research impact beyond the university.

To me, as a participant in the graduate student life-cycle and as a knowledge mobilization blogger, this is standard practice in wanting to push researchers – now particularly graduate students – to think about their research in broader terms. Whenever I write a new blog post I look for ways to include anything that may potentially be helpful to graduate students and help facilitate dialogue in areas that most graduate students wouldn’t normally cross into – such as community/university engagement. I don’t feel compelled to tell grad students to stay within traditional academic boundaries and want graduate students to see the potential they have to be boundary spanners. I want to help graduate students (and other researchers) to make their research useful to society through knowledge mobilization.

Academia as a whole is starting to embrace knowledge mobilization and knowledge brokers more into the research process. Particularly in Canada, these include developing institutional knowledge mobilization capacity with designated knowledge brokers with great success.

It’s a shame it’s taking a bit longer elsewhere – and it’s counterproductive in creating broader value and social benefit. Instead of merely acknowledging the benefits of greater community-university engagement, particularly for graduate students, wouldn’t it make sense for academia to embrace it further – and embrace it more enthusiastically as adding greater value to the graduate student experience? Like York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies did with the Graduate Professional Skills Launch that included a knowledge mobilization workshop.

I would argue that the best thing academia can do for its graduate students is to encourage such pursuits to the greatest extent possible. In fact, I’d go a step further – provide students with opportunities to connect with knowledge brokers and community stakeholders, as York University and other members of the ResearchImpact network have done. It gets graduate student thinking and engaging beyond their own traditional research process.

In following this strategy, we can teach our graduate students skills that will make the process of thesis or dissertation research more fulfilling knowing there is also an aspect of value for improving society and not just for getting a degree in higher education.

Researchers who cross disciplines and involve community in the research process through institutional knowledge brokers are still rare – particularly in graduate studies. But don’t we need this type of valuable broader research to keep graduate studies thriving? Some of the greatest and brightest graduate students have been those who bring fresh thinking and perspectives from a variety of disciplines and from other sectors. Such graduate students (and grad supervisors) are less likely to be narrowly-focused and constrained by lines of thinking that are discipline-specific, and more likely to be open to connections with the use of knowledge brokers that are not always obvious to many academics.

The single best training and preparation we can offer graduate student researchers is make their research useful to society. Perhaps in the future, the graduate student path will include knowledge mobilization strategies as the rule rather than the exception in the pursuit of a graduate degree.

Scaling Up Knowledge Mobilization Globally

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For the past decade I have been involved with people developing and working in the field of knowledge mobilization (KMb). I started this blog to provide greater understanding of why KMb is important in connecting diverse knowledge from a variety of disciplines, social sectors – both community and university – and even from various countries to make the world a better place. I intend to continue doing this. But I’ve been having concerns this past week – given the recent so-called terrorist attacks in Quebec and Ottawa. Homegrown terrorism and self-radicalization are now words more Canadians are becoming familiar with.

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, terrorism is defined as a violent act committed “in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of “intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.”

In this I see the “dark side” of knowledge exchange for terrorism that is not connected with the reasons for knowledge exchange as I understand it. There is an important difference between knowledge exchange for radicalization and knowledge exchange for mobilization.

Radicalization has to do with knowledge exchange that brings about insecurity and danger – with knowledge that people acquire to intimidate, create fear and do terrorist acts. It results from social and political structures that do not guarantee human rights.

Knowledge mobilization has to do with knowledge exchange for goodwill or social benefit. It results from worthy attempts to create more useful and constructive knowledge in trying to overcome wicked problems and make the world a better place. It begins within our own communities and hopefully finds ways to scale up the benefits and impacts of knowledge exchange to effect positive change for greater worldwide benefit.

Can knowledge mobilization make a difference in the realization of human rights?

This is a question about our own personal commitments to human rights. Throughout my years in contributing to knowledge mobilization I have yearned for it to make the world a better place. I have hoped that my contributions might bring attention to how we can exchange knowledge to address the plight of the poor or the homeless, to the voices and knowledge of everyday people and so contribute to justice – not just in my own community but beyond.

In the world of research, knowledge mobilization is about making research useful to society. What about making research useful to all of our humanity?

Does knowledge mobilization actually offer something useful to poor or homeless people? Does knowledge mobilization actually help them? From a local perspective, I like to think so when I see the valuable efforts of organizations like The Homeless Hub or the United Way York Region that incorporate knowledge mobilization strategies into the work they do.

Many years ago I spent time working in a soup kitchen helping the poor, the homeless and the hungry. Yet over twenty-five years later there are still poor, homeless and hungry people. It makes me think of the biblical passage “there will never cease to be poor people.” While I don’t claim to be a religious person (I consider myself a humanist), I believe in justice for the poor and homeless by challenging the structures of our society that continue to deprive them of that justice and ignore human rights. I do believe that knowledge mobilization can make a difference, but in fact I also understand that knowledge mobilization can only offer a means of bringing extremes of ideologies, objectives or causes and knowledge closer together in attempts to work more cooperatively together.

My deeper concern is that current knowledge mobilization efforts only serve to relieve the more immediate and local socio-economic pressures rather than bring about more fundamental global changes. As a Canadian, in light of the closer-to-home radicalization that is occurring among our youth, it makes me realize that creating knowledge exchange more broadly worldwide can also influence some to adopt more radical belief systems instead of the type of knowledge exchange that brings more cooperative humanitarian efforts and approaches worldwide.

Are knowledge mobilization efforts making research useful and visible to society only in our local environments by creating the illusion of effective knowledge to action with strictly local impact? Have we created a culture of knowledge exchange only in social circles that bring change and benefit locally yet have normalized for us the destitution in developing and war-torn countries?

I was reminded of this with the recent Canadian media frenzy around homegrown terrorism and self- radicalization. Is the reason why some of our radicalized youth are willing to leave the safety and security of a country like Canada to fight in radicalized wars because we’re not doing enough to mobilize knowledge worldwide? What can bring us closer together in understanding and addressing the fundamental issues that affect all of us on this planet as collective human beings if not knowledge exchange?

How many of us promoting knowledge mobilization efforts – researchers, practitioners, clinicians, community organizers, business leaders, policy makers – end up feeling that our participation fulfills our local responsibilities to the poor, homeless, and those with mental health issues? We do our work in knowledge mobilization for a while, we see local social changes and benefits and it makes us feel good and we gain a sense of satisfaction. But in the process we risk forgetting about the greater global needs that continue to contribute to these wicked problems – even now in our own backyard – in the first place. It’s easy to lose sight of the fundamental reason why we do knowledge mobilization. It’s not just about making research useful to our own society – how about making research useful to all of humanity? How about exchanging knowledge to eliminate radicalized thinking? Is this even possible? Sadly, it takes an openness to want to exchange knowledge for this to happen.

People who incorporate knowledge mobilization strategies into their work do so as a response to local problems to help ensure that people in our communities have a voice and can exchange knowledge to create social benefit and policy change in the here and now. Perhaps it’s time we consider these strategies as appropriate solutions to greater worldwide problems. We can tout the fact that community-university knowledge exchange has replaced an ivory-tower entitlement to knowledge that has slowly toppled many of our knowledge silos but it doesn’t camouflage our greater worldwide problems. We still require even broader thinking and knowledge mobilization approaches if we are to eliminate radicalized forms of knowledge and create more cooperative knowledge to action worldwide.

If we are only busy mobilizing knowledge in our local systems who is going to do the time-consuming work of knowledge mobilization for social benefit for our human system?

It’s working with a variety of global stakeholders through knowledge mobilization in conjunction with policy makers that will motivate governments to act together locally, nationally and internationally to guarantee rights, to create or oversee programs that assure everyone adequate access to what they need on a broader scale. Government leaders need to take a more open approach to work together – not a more divided and oppositional approach – only this will bring about a complete human system change – if it’s even possible.

And what of knowledge mobilizers who work diligently on creating greater knowledge exchange? Knowledge exchange is necessary to create greater understanding, but sometimes knowledge exchange may cause harm if not done with openness.

We hear much talk these days about knowledge mobilization as a tool for dealing with social ills – working with policy makers to provide services to the needy. But while local knowledge mobilization strategies may play a role locally they cannot be a substitute for greater worldwide knowledge mobilization strategies.

As for local organizations providing for all the needs of the poor, the chances are even more remote. The magnitude of the problem requires something beyond any local actions. However, a recent report on homelessness in Canada by researcher Stephen Gaetz suggests that $46 more per Canadian per year can vastly cut homelessness in this country. Could this type of thinking be scaled up worldwide to address homelessness or even other social issues?

Perhaps, but I suggest the fundamental problem for the poor in our country and in our world is not homelessness or other wicked problems themselves – rather the problem is injustice. In promoting knowledge mobilization as cooperative efforts of knowledge exchange in our institutions and communities to create local policy change we think that distributing enough food, creating enough shelters or producing enough homes in our communities – that is, if we just treat the symptoms in our own communities we will have solved “the problem.” The problem is we haven’t solved the problem worldwide.

Unfortunately, injustice is deep-rooted in every society. It is the inevitable result of the structures within our communities – social, economic, political and religious that reinforce inequality and lead to extremism and radicalization. These are the structures that keep wicked problems alive.

Local knowledge mobilization strategies do little to change the wider social and political systems that sustain injustice. Even if we perceive the need for systemic change worldwide, we can do little beyond a few cooperative borders.
Knowledge exchange for social benefit within our own communities offends almost no one. Seeking justice beyond our own borders offends many.

I’m not suggesting we abandon knowledge mobilization efforts. In addition to establishing justice within our communities, broader knowledge mobilization efforts are both necessary in our own communities and a requirement within the broader global community. We need to start thinking about ways for knowledge mobilization strategies within organizations to support those who work for justice worldwide.

We must continue to engage with policymakers to think beyond our own borders to create worldwide knowledge mobilization efforts.

Working for justice worldwide is not an easy task. There are no quick fixes and the most common reason for abandoning efforts is discouragement due to a lack of openness from others who are radicalized in their thinking. But we have little choice. Within an unjust world there are limitations to knowledge exchange. We need to continue in our attempts to join others in every part of this planet in the struggle for justice for everyone. It is a fundamental requirement of our humanity.

Knowledge Mobilization With Brains & Heart & Thinking & Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asking The Question Again: Where Do You Think The Knowledge Mobilization Field Will Be In 5 Years?

KMb Crystal Ball

In March this year, shortly after the inaugural UK KMb Forum held in London in February, I wrote a blog post Where Do You Think The Knowledge Mobilization Field Will Be In 5 Years? Taking its cue from this post and this question posed by David Phipps to attendees at the UK Forum, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph asked this same question at their KTT (knowledge translation & transfer) event on April 15th.
 
According to Elin Gwyn, Research Analyst of the Research & Innovation Branch of OMAFRA, “we thought it would be a fun way to connect/link it to the question that was asked at the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum”. OMAFRA has now written a blog post with their responses received.  The following is that blog post with many thanks to Elin Gwyn for providing it.

Where will KTT be in 5 years?

by Elin Gwyn and Sara Fisher, July2th, 2014

On April 15th, 2014 we held the fourth annual knowledge exchange (or KTT) day, this year called the “Knowledge Share Fair”. Taking cues and expanding upon a concept at the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum held in London, England in February this year (https://kmbeing.com/2014/03/08/where-do-you-think-the-knowledge-mobilisation-field-will-be-in-5-years/) we started and ended our day by asking the participants “where do you think knowledge translation and transfer (KTT), aka knowledge mobilization, will be in 5 years?”

We thought it would be a neat idea to see how the answers were similar and differ across the pond. And to see what people in the KTT arena in Ontario see knowledge mobilization heading. We were really impressed by the scope, volume and diversity of the responses we received. Below are categorized lists of the answers that we received throughout the day. We welcome our readers to add their thoughts to this list and any new ideas they may have. How neat will it be to go back to this “capsule” in 5 years and see how accurate (or inaccurate) we are.

Here’s to 5 wonderful years ahead!

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

Approaches/techniques:

  • There will be much more personalization of “knowledge” available. People will be able to more easily access the info/knowledge they need, due to technology advances (which will aid in creation of personalized info, too.)
  • More sharing of best practices and less nitpicking re: terminology
  • Student presentations and academic research projects on KTT process, methods, capacity development approaches
  • Standards/Best practices
  • Plain language requirements in grant proposals
  • Research pull
  • Knowledge mobilization will only to expand and become incorporated – especially within education. This will hopefully prepare future generations as it is an important and relevant contribution to every industry.
  • Working collaboratively across disciplines/multiple fields to share co-created knowledge through innovative means and formats
  • More pull – more demand – will drive new methods
  • Still struggling with measuring impact of KTT
  • Help researchers find industrial partners
  • Consistent evaluation of all projects with early engagement of stakeholders to assist in defining and restating research goals
  • Precision in identification of research priorities by stakeholders
  • More user-focused research
  • Evaluations of various KTT approaches across various contexts to inform effective practice
  • An integrated process in all organizations, no matter what the discipline
  • An integrated process in all organizations, no matter what the discipline
  • KMb as part of accountability requirements for programs/institutions
  • Extensive engagement of various sectors in KMb
  • Public awareness of KMb and participation in KMb
  • KMb/KTT will be part of research projects throughout the process
  • Crowd sourcing research (with sharing of results, especially with crowds of funders)
  • Apart from blogs, having magazines, news articles/newspapers
  • Info getting out globally
  • Help in finding industrial partners: Research + Industry → KTT
  • Undergraduate/graduate mandatory hands-on classes on KTT
  • Granting/funding agencies that will monitor the impact of KTT from the research teams they funded
  • Integration between disciplines
  • It will be more interactive

People:

  • More people working in KTT
  • KTT brings people together
  • Student involvement in real world examples
  • Interdisciplinary conferences
  • Globalized
  • Farmer – first approaches on KTT from a new generation of farmers
  • More integration with community professional recognition
  • Employment – new faculty positions to represent more departments on campus – teaching, research, use
  • Growth in number of positions/roles specifically dedicated to KMb and to building capacity in KMb
  • It will have new audiences – urban farmers; new entrants to agricultural production; immigrant agricultural producers
  • Interdisciplinary sector conferences
  • We will have more degrees/certificates in KTT/KMb
  • Events that connect the research/academia with end users
  • More conferences

Technology:

  • Real-time technology
  • Greater use of social media to share knowledge/information in a faster, more widespread way
  • Social medial directed
  • Small e-communities and networks that share data with each other as knowledge brokers – that are connected to each other – e-community user groups
  • Electronic interactions between researchers and users
  • With more data on websites
  • Blogs and magazine articles – tweeting
  • User friendly apps
  • It will have new hardware and new software apps to utilize
  • Classified professional knowledge sharing website
  • End-user questions and challenges submitting blogs
  • Interactive user communication and evaluation links (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, radios)
  • Social media will continue to revolutionise communications and have an impact on KMb
  • Big data opportunities – i.e., Boston app to track potholes – Google trends to ID flu outbreaks
  • More immediate knowledge between farmers and stakeholders through apps
  • More mobile apps, more social networking sites involvement, workshops

Data Management:

  • Data mapping “window of opportunity”
  • Integrated/connected data
  • Intellectual property right – redefinition
  • Data management plans within research proposals
  • A clear map of the risks vs gains of open (data/development/gov’t.) in contrast with privatized/copyrighted data /info – especially as it affects public interest in food and agriculture
  • We are evolving to an information-based and -driven society. Society will then expect to have access to all sorts of data. The role of the KTT contact will be to respond to the needs of the individual in a user-defined yet collective manner
  • Continuing to work on open data as an issue
  • Publication of research results and data, and afterward evaluation by the public
  • Data acquisition process involves the use of robotics to capture data.

General:

  • Still some growing pains in terms of terminology, organization of approaches, etc., but best practices starting to solidify by this time and gain wider acceptance
  • More people who self-identify as doing this work, more numbers of this community of practice, more research on best practices completed
  • More awareness of the concept of KTT/KM in relevant communities
  • Improve society by increasing learning
  • Everywhere!
  • Virtual
  • Content oriented
  • In future, knowledge created in research will be translated and transformed to the public and end users quite fast rather than staying in published literature. Also, the research evaluation will be more emphasized and find a good place when defining new projects. Or perhaps a project successful completion will be assessed based on project evaluation and impact on end user rather than just scientific evaluations.
  • Terminology will matter less
  • KM/KTT, in 5 years, will not be a “discipline”. It will be a normal part of any good research program. It could be a project of subset too,
  • Trust and relationship building between researchers and users will continue to be a need
  • More funding!
  • KTT = more work for researchers with limited tools and know-how
  • KTT must be a 2-way bridge between researchers and users

Knowledge Mobilization An Act Of Thinking With Love

heart and brain

Knowledge mobilization without a conscience creates worthless and ineffective knowledge.

Knowledge mobilization without a heart creates empty and useless knowledge.

The best efforts to combat social problems (some referred to as wicked problems) always include both thinking  and action in doing something good for others and creating social benefit. This is what knowledge mobilization (KMb) is about – both thinking and action.  Yet there is also an underlying aspect to both thinking and action that is required for effective knowledge mobilization – love.

I often reflect on the thinking of one of Canada’s leading knowledge mobilizers, Peter Levesque – founder and Director of Canada’s Institute for Knowledge Mobilization – who considers knowledge mobilization at its deepest level “an act of love.” This is far from being some impractical ideal. The most fundamental reason for sharing and being open to other knowledge and experience stems from an openness to love.  Otherwise, knowledge becomes fragmented.

A recent newspaper article states “Hatred reaches terrifying level” and I can’t help but feel discouraged about the world we live in. Will we ever be able to combat social problems? Do we just give up?

Fortunately, there are many in this world who rise above the hatred and respond from a place of human love.  Whenever I discuss knowledge mobilization I continue to keep this fundamental struggle in mind between love & hate and its connection to thinking and action, yet it’s something that many working in the field of KMb may not consciously consider when doing KMb activities.

KMb is a participatory and inclusive way of knowledge collaboration between researchers and research users. I sometimes make the limited assumption that KMb activities are automatically accessible and useful to everyone. They are not.

This past week I attended Imagining Canada’s Future sponsored by SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) in cities all across Canada.  At the event in Toronto, focusing on Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage several presentations reiterated the continuing difficulty of Canada’s northern indigenous populations to gain broader access to something many of us take for granted to mobilize knowledge – the Internet. Although great efforts are being made for greater access, challenges still exist. And one of the presentations pointed out it’s not just about the indigenous populations in Canada but also around the world.

Even more concerning in our new knowledge economy is the fact that there are plenty of people who are still in need of the basic economic necessities of shelter, food, or clean water. Knowledge mobilization would seem of little use to them. However it’s through knowledge mobilization efforts that we can effectively create social change for greater benefit to address these basic needs.

When researchers inform and are open to being informed by multi-directional communication and knowledge that include those living in poverty or isolation, community agencies supporting them, government agencies and policymakers assisting them, advocates lobbying for them, as well as other university or community-based researchers studying and collaborating with them, the channels of knowledge mobilization are effectively opened and can contribute to greater value for all in society.

Everyone should have a voice in knowledge mobilization. Only when each voice has an opportunity to be heard and contribute to the process of solving these social problems will such problems be eliminated. KMb is about creating value – not just for some, but for everyone in every context.

When knowledge mobilization has a conscience and a heart everyone benefits.

Only then will the terrifying levels of hatred decrease.

The most important reason for sharing and being open to other knowledge and experience stems from an openness to love – and fundamentally, knowledge mobilization should be an act of thinking with love.