KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: discrimination

Generations, Perspective, Choice & Knowledge Mobilization

blame

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.

The Importance Of Graduate Students As Boundary Spanners

FGS  (Photo by Shawn Chong)

Knowledge mobilization is about critically examining, extending and exchanging knowledge and values within our world. Together each of us has a role to play in furthering our collective human understanding.

Within human understanding there is a constant and dynamic element of knowledge exchange – which is learning, teaching and research. Learning, teaching and research within our global knowledge society requires inspiration and resourcefulness while seeking to improve communication and co-operation across all disciplines and borders that define us. Furthering our collective human understanding requires us to open up relationships that develop harmony in an interconnected world within our communities – and particularly starting within academic communities where formal learning, teaching and research take place.

Many of our greatest human challenges occur because of our differences within often narrowly focused disciplines and boundaries, while many of our greatest developments occur at the intersections of knowledge uptake (learning),  knowledge transfer (teaching) and knowledge exchange (research) which often is first formally learned within the world of academia. This is why teaching students – particularly graduate students – about this type of broader learning to include knowledge mobilization within our global knowledge society has never been more important than now for the future.

Effective knowledge mobilization requires that graduate students be free within their respective disciplines to learn, teach and research by also developing scholarly inquiry that is interdisciplinary. Effective knowledge mobilization rests on their unique cross-boundary role as learners, teachers and researchers across disciplines and subjects.

Graduate students play an integral part in the ability of universities to provide a broader quality of educational experience by reminding students about the importance of acknowledging our human commonality within our diversity which is often reflected in universities that have very diverse student populations and a full-range of academic subjects and research interests.

Graduate students supplement and complement the teaching and research activities of faculty, while providing the institution with an opportunity to recognize the integral and multiple roles that graduate students play as learners, teachers and researchers in contributing to the university – and more importantly to our global knowledge society.

Universities have the responsibility of providing graduate students with an excellent education and the best possible preparation for their future careers since graduate students can play a crucial link as institutional boundary-spanners (as Angie Hart refers to from the work of Etienne Wenger) not only within the university but also within a new paradigm of community/university engagement. University Faculties and departments should offer suitable training for both academic and non-academic careers that recognize a community/university connection in learning, teaching and research that extends beyond the realm of academia.

Communication between graduate students, faculty and advisors can create opportunities for community contact, collaboration and community-building through student internships which are essential in developing the important learning, teaching and research links between community and university to promote knowledge beyond the university.

For effective knowledge mobilization every human being must understand the universal declaration of human rights to be free from discrimination based on race, colour, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age and ability, as well as socio-economic or family status. Like every human being, students have the right to an educational experience that is also free from such discrimination. This fundamental human value is the most important knowledge that the university can teach students – particularly grad students as boundary-spanners – so that students may learn how to improve communication and co-operation across all disciplines and borders for better knowledge mobilization in doing research to make the world a better place for everyone. It is in this way that the university is a microcosm of the world and graduate students have an opportunity to become boundary spanners within the university and beyond by engaging with community.

York University is an outstanding example of a campus that has a very diverse ethnic and cultural student population reflecting more than most universities the progressive and multicultural inclusiveness of Canada. York promotes and protects human rights and values with a strong commitment to social justice, while offering a full-range of academic subjects and research units in developing scholarly inquiry that is interdisciplinary and inclusive. York University is the third largest university in Canada with a student population of over 55-thousand from a wide-range of backgrounds and belief systems.

Celebrating 50 years of the importance of graduate students, York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) promotes graduate student learning, teaching and research within an interdisciplinary university that extends across traditional academic and community boundaries as graduate students pursue professional training for academic and non-academic careers. Examples like FGS at York University help graduate students recognize their potential for knowledge mobilization as learners, teachers and researchers to move beyond fragmented research knowledge and include community in their work.

Assisting universities and graduate students is Mitacs – a Canadian not-for-profit organization that offers funding for internships and fellowships at Canadian universities for graduate students.

“Through unique research and training programs, Mitacs is developing the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills. In partnership with companies, government and academia, Mitacs is supporting a new economy using Canada’s most valuable resource – its people”…including graduate students.

It’s time all universities and graduate students recognize the importance of being learners, teachers and researchers knowing they are valued and being supported at institutions such as York University and Mitacs. Graduate students need also to go beyond an understanding of a specific discipline and see themselves as boundary-spanners – within the institution and society – by examining, extending and exchanging knowledge and values within our world through knowledge mobilization.

 

Social Determinants of Health Explained

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the influences of health systems. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.

Social determinants of health can be divided into 12 categories that contribute to how healthy a person may or may not be.

1) Income and Social Status:

world money

  • Generally, people are healthier when they are wealthier. Individuals with lower socio-economic status experience worse health outcomes than individuals with higher socio-economic status.
  • Income shapes living conditions, such as adequate housing and ability to buy sufficient quality food. When people have little control over their lives and few options, their bodies are more vulnerable to disease. Income also influences psychological functioning and health-related behaviours.

2) Education and literacy:

education

  • Education is closely tied to income and socio-economic status. People with higher levels of education tend to use preventative medical services more frequently, be more physically active, and generally have better health.
  • Low literacy has a negative effect on all aspects of health, including overall levels of life expectancy, accidents and chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Low literacy also has a negative impact on mental health and on the ability to prevent illness.

3) Employment/Working conditions:

jobs

  • Employment allows people to afford basic necessities such as appropriate housing, food, and clothing—all of which are essential for good health. Employment also provides a sense of identity and purpose, social contacts and an opportunity for personal growth.
  • Conditions at work can have a significant effect on people’s health and emotional well-being.

4) Social environments:

social

  • Social environments include immediate physical surroundings, social relationships and cultural environments within which groups of people function and interact.
  • Negative social environments and experiences of discrimination and homophobia is associated with high rates of suicide attempts by lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.
  • Positive social environments include elements such as safety and social stability, recognition of diversity, good working relationships and cohesive communities, and help reduce or avoid many potential risks to good health.

5) Physical Environments:

poor housing

  • Exposure to contaminants in our air, water, food and soil can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including cancer, birth defects, respiratory illness and gastrointestinal ailments.
  • Factors related to housing, indoor air quality and the design of communities and transportation systems can also significantly influence people’s physical and psychological well-being.

6) Personal health practices and coping skills:

smoking

  • Personal health practices and coping skills refer to actions that individuals can take to prevent diseases and promote self-care, cope with challenges, develop self-reliance, solve problems, and make choices that enhance personal health.
  • Making personal health choices about such things as smoking, alcohol consumption, high fat diets, and regular dental health care all influence personal health.

7) Healthy child development:

child development

  • The effects of early childhood experiences have strong immediate and longer-lasting biological, psychological and social effects upon health.
  • The quality of early childhood development is largely influenced by the economic and social resources available to parents.
  • Children living under conditions of material and social deprivation are at higher risk of health problems.

8) Biology and genetic endowment:

genes

  • In some circumstances, genetic and biological factors appears to predispose certain individuals to particular diseases or health problems.
  • Examples of biological and genetic determinants of health include:
  • age—older adults are more likely to be in poorer health than adolescents due to the effects of aging
  • sex—women are at risk of pregnancy and birth-related health problems
  • inherited conditions—examples of inherited disease include sickle-cell anemia, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis
  • abnormal genes—carrying certain genes increases a person’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer

9) Health services:

health services

  • One of the most crucial determinants of health is access to high-quality health services.
  • Men and women from higher income households who are more likely to have insurance are much more likely to self-report that they have visited a dentist within the past year than people with lower incomes.
  • Populations who are underserved by health services include Aboriginal People, members of the LGBTTIQcommunity, refugees and other immigrants, ethnically or racially diverse populations, people with disabilities, the homeless, sex trade workers and people with low incomes.

10) Gender:

gender

  • Gender-based differences—in access to or control over resources, in power or decision making, and in roles and responsibilities—have implications for a person’s health status.
  • Research shows that women live longer than men, on average. Women have higher death rates, but men are more prone to accidents and also more likely to be perpetrators and victims of assault, reducing their overall life expectancy.

11) Culture:

culture

  • Some individuals or groups may face additional health risks as a result of a socio-economic environment that is largely determined by dominant cultural values. These dominant values can contribute to conditions such as marginalization, stigmatization, the loss or devaluation of language and culture, and a lack of culturally appropriate health care and services.
  • Members of racialized groups, recent immigrants and Aboriginal People are often among the most marginalized groups in society.

12) Social support networks:

  • Evidence shows that support from families, friends and communities is a big contributor to better health.
  • The caring and respect that occurs in social relationships, and the resulting sense of satisfaction and well-being, seem to act as a buffer against health problems.
  • Racism is a prominent form of social exclusion. The experience of racial discrimination puts racialized groups at higher risk for physical and mental health concerns.