KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: context

The Importance of Context In Knowledge Exchange

study group
When I was in university I was in one of my psychology classes one day and took a seat at a desk beside a woman who was an international student from Jamaica. We only knew each other as classmates. She was a likeable woman and we chatted regularly before and after class.

Psychology is a field with many schools of thought, theories and approaches to behaviour. Because there is also a great amount to learn, many psychology students formed study groups to share notes and insights. She and I decided to form one of these groups. I was always so impressed at how well organized she was at following and distilling lectures – but also how she was able to articulate to our group her understanding of what our psychology professor was wanting to convey in class.

I remember one day we were discussing the work of Havelock Ellis, a psychologist who dedicated his life to the study of human sexuality. Ellis was co-author of the first English medical textbook on homosexuality written in 1897 titled Sexual Inversion. As an openly gay man, I was astonished at Havelock’s use of the term “sexual invert” to describe my “condition” – even though Ellis was attempting to bring some acceptance and understanding of being gay to the Victorian era where homosexuality was considered an illness to be cured. Sexual Inversion was one of the first scientific books to present homosexuality as an innate disposition similar to heterosexuality and not as a pathological condition.

During this particular study session my Jamaican classmate hesitated and I could see she was reluctant to share her thoughts on this psychology topic. Sensing something was wrong I asked her if everything was alright. She informed the group that from her cultural perspective she still considered being gay as something that needed to be cured. I was shocked and immediately responded with “are you kidding?” This view seemed absolutely ridiculous to me, yet I realized her view was culturally-shaped by her context growing up in Jamaica – a country where it’s still illegal to be gay.

Seeing this as an opportunity to share my own experience and knowledge I suggested we explore our perspectives more deeply, especially in the context of psychology. What made this even more upsetting to me was that I mistakenly believed others in our study group were supportive of gay rights and equality. I was wrong. Two others also believed therapy could be used for people wanting to be “cured” of being gay.

During the next class our Professor decided to cover Sigmund Freud’s theory of human sexuality and how it differed from that of Ellis. Freud believed all human beings were innately bisexual and that they become homosexual or heterosexual as a result of parental/environmental experiences. When I decided to comment on how both theories from Freud and Ellis were developed and shaped within the context of their Victorian timeframe as attempts to influence a deeper understanding of sexuality and behaviour not necessarily requiring a “cure” a thought-provoking session of opinions occurred. Our class was abuzz with comments and questions around context and how even so-called conversion or reparative therapy was still taking place today to “cure” gay sexual orientation.

The idea of hiding sexuality is something that starts very early for many of us who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. I am reminded of my time in elementary school when other students would tease and bully me with “Gary the fairy.” This idea of hiding sexuality is something that stays with many of us throughout our entire lives – unless we “come out of the closet” – and even then it ends up having a major influence on our entire lives.

It is the same within our careers. Many people are very secretive about their personal lives. They often don’t want others to know too much. When we hoard knowledge we are always afraid that our knowledge is going to be judged. People who constantly hoard knowledge do not contribute to sharing knowledge to make the world a better place. Yet we must also keep in mind that knowledge is context-specific.

One of the biggest beliefs about knowledge mobilization is that if we are continually sharing knowledge – particularly research knowledge to make it useful to society – we are making the world a better place. When we engage in knowledge exchange with others in different contexts and come up with new knowledge we develop a view where we are always looking to share what you know with people instead of looking to hoard what you know. When we exchange knowledge with others it gives us access to more knowledge. The knowledge we share with others from our own contexts ends up creating opportunities to shape, possibly change and create new knowledge based on our openness to the knowledge of others from different contexts.

There are real benefits to sharing our knowledge. By exploring knowledge from different contexts we can make change for the better. Context is important in knowledge mobilization. Along with evidence and facilitation, context is one of three pillars of the PARIHS (Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Sciences) Framework (https://researchimpact.othree.ca/forums/journalclub/the-parihs-framework-promoting-action-on-research-).

My fellow study group students shared openly their views about the idea of “curing” gays and lesbians from their own contexts and I shared my experiences about being openly gay from my context. I’m happy to say that we came to a deeper understanding of each other’s positions within the context of our psychology class – and they began to change their minds about attempts to “cure” gays and lesbians based on sharing our knowledge and experiences.

Sharing knowledge brings people together and allows people to see different contexts. Effective knowledge mobilization occurs when we want people to know what we know and we are not afraid to tell them from our own contexts.

Knowledge mobilization is about creating benefit from interaction with others in different contexts. We must share our knowledge openly and freely and never hide knowledge. When we exchange our knowledge from different contexts we create opportunities to open doors to deeper understanding. Exchanging knowledge gives you access to more knowledge. People who hoard knowledge within their own contexts tend to have isolated knowledge because they only share or seek change when relevant – meaning their own knowledge becomes stagnant.

 

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.

 

 

A Thought Piece On Knowledge Transfer & Exchange/Knowledge Mobilization

knowledge to action

What could be wrong with transferring research knowledge from those who have it to those who don’t?

What could be wrong with transferring community-based knowledge from those who have it to researchers who don’t?

What could be wrong with transferring knowledge from those who have it to policymakers who don’t?

What could be wrong with transferring any knowledge in general?

The answers to these questions rely on the fact that not all knowledge provides benefit for every purpose. Could there perhaps be some situations where knowledge transfer is actually counterproductive? Are there cases where not knowing is better than knowing?

A further question arises when asking how much knowledge is sufficient knowledge and how much is too much? We now live in a world of information overload – something I like to refer to as data noise – and there is a difference between information and knowledge. People cannot be attentive to everything, yet must sift through the data noise to distinguish between information and knowledge – which is not always easy.  More importantly, the relevance of knowledge is always context-specific – only applicable based on circumstances of time and place with different needs of knowledge in different circumstances. This creates the subjective value of knowledge which may be different from one person to the next.

Knowledge transfer and exchange or knowledge mobilization (KMb) – whatever you wish to call it – is viewed today as having an unlimited and broad application across multiple sectors and disciplines. When knowledge is transferred and exchanged/mobilized across a wide-range of sectors and disciplines it can help reveal conflicts instead of covering them up or being unaware of them.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where valuable knowledge that can provide greater social benefit beyond one sector, discipline or community is transferred and exchanged yet there are still those who refuse to use it and don’t see the benefit of certain knowledge that can create broader social benefit. There are circumstances where knowledge has no impact – creating discouragement among those attempting to create social benefit on a wider scale.

So why is this the case?

Because as human beings we disagree with each other about what defines value. Knowledge can have different meanings.  Also as human beings, sometimes even something that is thought to have social benefit can have little or no impact.

There is no knowledge that can have impact until it is received openly, digested and understood – and this can often take time.  Annete Boaz says co-production of knowledge can produce an impact on research collaborators even before research is finished.  However, knowledge impact is often a process of gradual enlightenment that can take months or years to change a person’s frame of reference – and sadly, sometimes not at all. It’s not until this knowledge is applied into action to create change that knowledge will have any lasting impact or benefit.

Ensuring that knowledge to action occurs is complex and challenging because it is context-specific. In order to overcome such complexity and challenges, human relationships must be cultivated to create a common understanding that facilitates the implementation of evidence in different contexts and is sustained and added to over an extended period of time. This is why creating opportunities where people can come together to share their knowledge across sectors and disciplines in one place at a series of events or forums creates value on a broader scale and can lead to social impact and social benefit within and beyond each of the context-specific places – if there is also a desire to keep the ball rolling and not drop it.  This is where the act of knowledge mobilization always has value in and of itself.

The Important Role Of The Knowledge Broker

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.

 

May The Knowledge Force Be With You

force

You have a strength, a knowledge force, a knowledge energy that can be shared with others; and because there is only one of you in all of time, your knowledge is unique. You bring to the world knowledge that is special and distinctive.  You are the only one of you that has ever existed, and the knowledge you share, the perspective you have to give is unlike any other person who has ever shared knowledge. Do you give yourself credit for this?

Do you spend any of your time trying to develop your knowledge? Do you try to learn new ways to share your knowledge force and continue to increase this knowledge energy that will help other people develop their own knowledge force and mobilize their knowledge energy to live their lives better, create social benefit and ultimately make the world a better place? This is what individual knowledge mobilization is all about.

It’s very important that we recognize and share our unique knowledge if we’re going to contribute to the world based on the knowledge we have developed in our own lives – no matter how little or how vast.  Each person’s knowledge contributes. It’s how we share this knowledge that makes the difference. Knowledge can be shared for good or harm.

We are all on knowledge-development journeys. Many people spend their lives trying to share their knowledge in exactly the same ways that they see others sharing knowledge, and they’re confused, discouraged or embarrassed when others don’t understand the uniqueness of each person’s knowledge force. Others may not understand this uniqueness but we must all remember that we each need to recognize that each of us has our own ways of contributing knowledge, ways that are exclusive to us and our life experiences.

Your knowledge force flows through you every day. How do you direct it? How do you translate this knowledge energy? What is the end-purpose of sharing your knowledge? How we share our knowledge is one of the most important aspects of who we are and who we become, and it’s completely up to us in how we share our knowledge and are open to the knowledge forces of others.

Sharing The Knowledge Of Other Countries

countries

Your knowledge is to convey your own life experiences instead of judging others. Your knowledge is to improve yourself instead of criticizing others. Today, there are hundreds of different countries around the world. Among them there are developed countries, some are developing countries and some are undeveloped countries. Contexts are different and knowledge is different. Living circumstances, culture, material wealth and economies are different. Considering any other country to be lacking knowledge is foolish. All developed countries progressed through developing and sharing knowledge from earlier, more primitive stages. Criticizing other countries as lacking knowledge misses out on the knowledge they can share and the knowledge that can be shared with them to make all countries in this world better places to live in.

Storytelling, Social Media, Equity, Knowledge Mobilization & Donuts!

storytelling

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 as the reason why I was hit by a car.

I crossed the busy street because it was the grand opening of a donuts shop – 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 at a three-day Knowledge Exchange (KE) Training event this past week attended by Regional KE leaders and team members from across the province of Ontario. Day one of the KE training focused on marginalized populations and how to engage with these various groups, such as 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. A session focusing on the use of the Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool (HEIA) presented how this tool can be used to identify and address potential unintended health impacts (positive or negative) when developing a policy, program or initiative with specific population groups.

I can certainly see the potential of incorporating HEIA into a knowledge mobilization (KMb) strategy as it helps us better understand context and equity. Yet, a broader and still underused knowledge mobilization tool to include the knowledge of marginalized populations is social media.

At the KE Training Event, I spoke with several knowledge brokers about how I use social media – particularly Twitter – as an effective knowledge mobilization tool. I was surprised to hear that many knowledge exchange leaders at the event are still not using social media as part of their own knowledge exchange work. Certainly, EENet, the Evidence Exchange Network is one step forward in using social media as a knowledge exchange tool. Yet, as I wrote in an earlier blog, the greater potential of using Twitter as a knowledge mobilization tool is still not clearly understood.

One of the more enjoyable presentations of the KE Training event was from closing keynote speaker David Phipps – a person who knows how to tell a great story to share 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 presentation, he illustrated how understanding context is essential for effective knowledge mobilization.

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 – how well are you incorporating this equity tool into your knowledge mobilization strategy?

Now, for some reason…I feel like having a donut!

No Knowledge Being Shared By Two People Are The Same

snowflakes

No two people are the same and no knowledge being shared by two people are the same. It’s impossible to say that all knowledge can ever be the same. Individual experiences and contexts create different knowledge.  Each person has different realities and perceptions. It may be possible to draw general similarities in knowledge and it’s always much easier to find differences in knowledge; but how an individual chooses to share their knowledge to find common ground for social benefit is what makes a difference. Learning to co-create new knowledge from diverse knowledge sources for everyone’s benefit is what makes the world a better place.

Knowledge Is Not Solid

flow

Knowledge is not solid. When exposed to the knowledge of other people, knowledge morphs – by the very act of sharing knowledge – into an ongoing, flowing and ever-changing form.

Your Unique Knowledge Fingerprint

Finger print tree

A person’s knowledge may be called ignorant, useless, mocked and devalued, but our knowledge – stemming from all of our personal life experiences – is always knowledge, and is always our own knowledge.

Others can say all the negative things they want about you and your knowledge, but the only way that it will affect you is if you allow their words to affect you.  Again, your knowledge is your own knowledge, all the good, bad and ugly of the experiences that make up all of your knowledge in your lifetime. Just as your fingerprint is unique to you – so too is your knowledge to share with others.

Your knowledge – any of it at anytime in your life experience – can always teach others something, whether you think it’s “limited” or not.  

But knowledge on its own, without turning it into action is limited. It’s like having hands and fingers (and fingerprints) without ever using them.

It’s how we share our knowledge; combine our knowledge to make the world a better place that creates the most value.

Some people are so insecure that they try to hurt others by knocking even the slightest amount of knowledge that a person may have, to take away their dignity or self-esteem.  But if we believe a cruel, insecure person’s view that our knowledge is useless, if we let them take away our dignity, what does that say about how we see our own knowledge, about how we see ourselves?

People have acquired knowledge in war, in prison, in concentration camps, in abuse, in difficult social situations, in loss, in love, in friendship, in ignorance, in education, in failure and in success – why shouldn’t we value any of the knowledge we have where we are, right here and right now? 

But again, knowledge on its own, without turning it into action is limited.

A person’s knowledge always has some value. Sharing our knowledge for social benefit creates greater value, and is always worth it. When we share our knowledge with this understanding and intention – we can use our own knowledge to make the world a better place.