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

Tag Archives: community engagement

Increasing The Academic & Innovation Grade

Innovation 1

What is innovation? Is it simply coming up with a new idea; is it creating a new design or product; is it developing a new process?

In research terms, innovation is essentially linked to improvements in the application of knowledge towards advancements in science and technology. Knowledge mobilization is making research useful to society. As such, knowledge mobilization is a process that enables innovation that stems from research initiatives between community and academia that is moving beyond community engagement to partnerships that lead to more far-reaching ideas and strategies.

According to Stanford University Centre for Social Innovation:

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

The Conference Board of Canada defines innovation as:

“A process through which economic or social value is extracted from knowledge—through the creating, diffusing, and transforming of ideas—to produce new or improved products, services, processes, strategies, or capabilities.”

Despite the emerging influence of Canada in the knowledge mobilization field over the past decade, and the impact that university research has had by becoming more accessible and receptive to community partners – recent statistics still show that Canada remains near the bottom of countries with the highest development of successful innovation strategies.

While examples of Canada’s success in the knowledge mobilization field can be seen through the great collaborative work of a pan-university network such as ResearchImpact, why is there still a disconnect with greater successful innovation despite historic investments in Canadian research and development through knowledge mobilization?

Perhaps the answer is in the lack of initiative of the private-sector in working more closely with the public-sector as evidenced by the disappointing grades given to Business Enterprise R&D spending (“D”) compared to Public R&D spending (“B”).

Another key message put forth by the Conference Board of Canada is that Canada must perform at the cutting edge and attract the brightest students to careers in science and engineering or it will continue to fall behind our peers on this indicator.

In these particular areas, York University – part of the ResearchImpact network – continues to lead the way through its knowledge mobilization initiatives creating greater innovation by offering opportunities for graduate students to work more closely with business through research-funders like Mitacs, York’s entrepreneurship program Launch YU, and business mentoring with ventureLAB.

York University has also recently opened the Lassonde School of Engineering which was established, in the words of its Dean, Janusz Kozinsi, “to educate (a) new type of engineer — someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, a social conscience and a sense of global citizenship who is a highly-trained professional in their field and across many disciplines.”

Today, knowledge mobilization provides opportunities for innovation to continue to emerge and address the challenge of improving Canada’s performance on the innovation stage. We may still have a way to go on an international level to compete against other countries for more successful innovation; yet on a Canadian level York University is a clear example of taking the right steps to providing opportunities for future innovators such as graduate students – an example worth following to not only increase the academic grade but also the innovation grade.





The Important Role Of The Knowledge Broker


Knowledge mobilization (KMb) strategies that have been implemented into universities, research institutions and other organizations are context specific and are subject to frequent changes. This may cause faculty and/or staff working within these places to perceive particular barriers for community engagement and hinder internal motivation for successful application of KMb strategies. Even worse there can also be a pervasive institutional misunderstanding of what KMb actually is.

Overall institutional perceptions and governing support can affect faculty and/or staff perceptions which create barriers to knowledge mobilization (KMb) strategies. Such perceptions influence successful implementation of institutional KMb approaches and the policies that result from ineffective KMb plans. This is why there is tremendous value in establishing an actual knowledge mobilization unit within the university and/or institutional structure with trained knowledge brokers who act not only as official contact points for engagement with community but also as internal liaison offices to educate and inform staff and/or faculty – and most importantly institutional policy makers.

Knowledge brokers help manage the barriers of institutional change and development while also addressing the context specific elements of KMb. As the designated institutional KMb advisors within designated KMb units the roles and skills of knowledge brokers need to be clearly understood. David Phipps and Sarah Morton have written an excellent (and whimsical) practiced-based article on the qualities required for successful knowledge brokers, which also includes valuable recommendations on recruiting and training knowledge brokers. The article may take a more light-hearted approach to the “idealised knowledge broker” but the importance of having knowledge brokers within universities, research institutions and other organizations with the right skills is imperative for successful knowledge mobilization if the institution wants to maximize community engagement and the impact of research on public policy and professional practice.

If designated knowledge brokers are not employed specifically for this particular role with specific skills there will be role ambiguity and role conflict which was addressed in a special issue of Evidence & Policy. For those who are regular readers of my blog you know how much I have long been an advocate for open access to journals online as a public good. Regrettably, Evidence & Policy still limits itself to the old-style of peer-review publications. However, a journal club entry is freely available and does address one of the articles specifically about role ambiguity and role conflict.

The role of the knowledge broker – and hiring the right people with the right skills – must be considered one of the most important roles within the research/community engagement enterprise of an institution if the challenges of differing contexts and frequent changes are to be transitioned smoothly. The important role and skills of institutional knowledge brokers can also address the perceived barriers by faculty and/or staff working within these places by raising internal motivation for successful application of KMb strategies. And most importantly eliminate any pervasive institutional misunderstanding of what KMb actually is.