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

Tag Archives: information

The Knowledge Exchange Cycle


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.



Whose Knowledge Is It Anyway?

I was recently at a Knowledge Transfer & Exchange Community of Practice (KTE CoP) seminar in Toronto where a University of Sheffield scholar, Kate Pahl (above photo) was presenting a research project about a wide-range of meanings that a community park space in the U.K. has for different people in the park.  Pahl was co-investigator on a project called SPARKS: Urban green-space as a focus for connecting communities and research funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Connected Communities programme which brought together anthropology, geography, linguistics, contemporary science and environment science to look at the role of public parks in language development.

Pahl’s KTE CoP seminar presentation showcased this university-community research collaboration project with an interview-style video (the video can be viewed here: showing the usage and values that such a park space have, and the language used to describe the park by both academics and community participants.  (Pahl has also been a guest blogger writing about the value of stories and storytelling as spaces of unknowing and as works of art). The title of the KTE CoP presentation was “whose research is it anyway?” – illustrating the importance of understanding and valuing research (and knowledge) from within both the university and community sectors.

Interestingly, Pahl apologized several times to the mostly health-sciences audience for her somewhat “artsy” ethnographic research project after being questioned by several KTE CoP academics attempting to understand the significance, direction, scientific methodology and impact of the research project. Instead of recognizing the broader value and application of the project for community research participation and knowledge sharing – along with such diverse areas of academic research, including Urban Studies, Water Management, Social Work, Sociology, Linguistics, History, Recreation, Arts & Entertainment, to name a few- the seemingly narrowly-focused health-sciences group failed to look beyond their academic research silos to appreciate the broader fields of study and the more important university-community collaboration possibilities of knowledge transfer and exchange.

This event got me thinking about the idea of “evidence-based” thinking and ideas of “truth” in this world. There are many different people on this planet who think they have “the truth” or ultimate knowledge of life. Because they think that their knowledge is “the true” knowledge they’re always telling others what’s “right” and “wrong” – never being open to the knowledge of others, or learning how to share knowledge to create new knowledge for social benefit and ultimately make the world a better place. Alas, this seems to be the case even among academics purporting to be part of a community of practice open to knowledge transfer & exchange.

No one knows everything – there are many truths and many diverse paths in this life. Some of us do know more information than others, and some of us recognize the importance of evidence-based thinking. But information is not knowledge, and evidence-based thinking depends on circumstances and preferences that still remain subject to input from personal, political, philosophical, ethical, economic, and esthetic values“Best” evidence thinking is now starting to shift into “best” practice thinking as we recognize that “evidence” that may work in one setting may not necessarily work in another.

“Truth” and Knowledge are two concepts that have less to do with information and “best” “evidence”, and much more to do with openness to other human beings, awareness of the diversity of life and circumstances on this planet, and compassion and empathy for others to make this earth better for everyone.


Sandra Nutley and colleagues, in their book Using Evidence, point out the diversity of research approaches and uses stating that “research use enhancement strategies that encourage a greater variety of voices in opportunities for dialoge have the potential to give research a substantial, sustained, and sometimes critical, role in debates about public services” and that “research goes much broader than the preoccupation with the ‘what works?’ type of instrumental knowledge central to the ‘evidence-based everything’ agenda.” (Click here for more on the difference between instrumental knowledge and conceptual knowledge).

In my experience, I’ve learned that all people have knowledge to share, and the idea of “truth” is realizing we can never know any sort of absolute “truth” because knowledge is something that is always changing and always evolving as we combine our knowledge with others throughout our human history and create new knowledge each day with each person in our lives – and throughout this planet.

The greatest knowledge we can reach is that of knowing and understanding we all have knowledge to share – whether we’re academics or everyday people in community. It’s how we find a common ground to share and collaborate with this knowledge that is important.

Knowledge is not about judging other people based on our own knowledge of life and living – or judging other people based on their knowledge of life and living.  Knowledge is about being open to each others knowledge (no matter how limited or extensive) to combine our knowledge – not for ridicule or harm – but for social benefit. This is how we can make a difference on this planet. This is what Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is all about.

At a more formal or institutional level, KMb is a collaborative process of exchanging knowledge among academics and non-academics to inform decisions about public policy and professional practice.  At this level, KMb can enhance social innovation and develop long-term solutions to social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges – including many of the so-called wicked problems that continue to hold back our humanity.

At a more informal or personal level, KMb is also a collaborative process of exchanging knowledge – with every person we meet – to inform our personal decisions about “right” and “wrong” with the many truths that exist on this planet. At this level, KMb can enhance our social interactions and develop long-term solutions to the problems that stop us from connecting and finding common ground as human beings.

There’s a great difference between accepting others for who they are and judging them based on our own limited ideas of “right” and “wrong” and “evidence” – there’s a great difference between the many truths that exist on this planet and our own interpretation of “evidence” and “the truth”.

Individual Drops Of Knowledge

The tiny drops of individual experiences helps to create knowledge.

Are You Mobilizing Knowledge Or Data/Information Noise?

Remember that just because we can mobilize information on the Internet to someone halfway around the world doesn’t mean we are mobilizing knowledge or have wisdom.  Knowledge, information and wisdom are very different things.

Information is not always better.  Having information doesn’t make us better people.  Having a whole world of information at our fingertips on the Internet doesn’t make us any wiser – it just means that we have access to more information than people used to have in the past. The Internet has made mobilizing information faster, but that doesn’t mean we are mobilizing knowledge.

Many of us mistake this “data/information noise” as knowledge – or even wisdom.  To have knowledge, or to be wise, we have to have understanding and connect that individual understanding beyond ourselves to our humanity.  If we’re going to gain or give knowledge (and be wise) we can’t just simply share facts and figures–we have to share our deeper experiences and actions, and receive them from others as well.  We must reach a deeper understanding of things and actions, and then give and take that understanding for the purpose of improving – not only ourselves – but our humanity.

Knowledge isn’t about using big words – knowledge can be brilliant in its simplicity.  Knowledge  isn’t having the answer for everything – it’s about being open to others, to the differences of others, and allowing them to contribute their knowledge to solve our world’s problems.

These days many think they have knowledge because they have easy access to an abundance of  information, but quantity doesn’t mean quality – and information doesn’t mean knowledgeWhen we mobilize knowledge we can reach so much farther through the Internet and social media – but unless we connect our individual knowledge to our collective knowledge for progressive knowledge, we are only contributing to the “data/information noise”.

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) and Social Media: Making The World A Better Place

Whenever anyone uses social media to join, contribute or receive from the process of Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) as part of a social media network there is a step from initial exploratory thought to responsible social engagement. Without a social network element – whether it’s posting (retweeting), commenting or forwarding links on Twitter or Facebook, uploading presentations on Slideshare, using Skype for meetings and voice/text conversations, or connecting to a professional network on LinkedInKnowledge Mobilization does not reach its full potential unless the social-interactive-for-the-benefit-of-others element is also established.

Anyone can ask a (one-sided) question, or do a Google search for a (one-sided) answer (this is exploratory), but online answers without experiential knowledge, discussion and social benefit (this is engagement) remain lifeless answers. This is simply Information Exchange (For the difference between Information Exchange and Knowledge Mobilization click here).

But let’s face it, not everyone adopts new technologies or new ways of networking. There’s a lot of buzz around social media, yet many in the workplace or your friends and family may still not ‘get it’ until someone points out ‘the how’ and ‘the why’ of creating a social media network – or even making the one you already have even better.

How about using social media to make the world better?

Now, before you think this is some “pie-in-the-sky” ideal where everyone connects to sing Kumbaya and hopes for peace, this is what using social media for Knowledge Mobilization can do.

When the social-interactive element is added, knowledge comes to life. When the social-interactive element is added to make society better, knowledge mobilization comes to life. Knowledge is turned into action.

Knowledge Mobilization is putting available knowledge into active service to benefit society – and using social media is a great way of putting knowledge into active service.

In the KMb literature the word silo is often used to describe the ways that organizations (but also individuals) shelter themselves and their knowledge, skills and experience. KMb is about breaking out of the silos and ultimately applying knowledge for the long term benefits of society. Using social media to inform and be informed by ideas, experiences, stories and personal and professional knowledge to make our world better is KMb at its most basic level – which everyone can contribute to and gain from.

Knowledge Mobilization is the overall flow and on-going and constant input and development of knowledge. It is the open process of putting available knowledge into active service to benefit not just one particular organization or field, but for the greater benefit of all in society. One of the most basic ways of contributing to this flow is by using social media.

I have been actively using Twitter (@KMbeing) to tweet and retweet posts and links, and I post blogs that I think contribute to knowledge for the greater benefit of society. But I also comment on others’ tweets, connect with fellow tweeters with more in-depth conversations on and offline, pass information to my friends, family and other colleagues on Facebook, and make comments on other blogs and share things that have contributed to my own knowledge with others. As each person participates in social media the knowledge structure changes and improves.

I’ve participated in online conferences/workshops and formal Twitter hashtag chats – like ResearchImpact’s recent Tweet a Mobilizer where a number of questions, comments, links and resources informed and provided knowledge through social media.

As a Digital Researcher and Knowledge Mobilizer, I’m also looking forward to the upcoming Vitae Digital Researcher Conference on 14 February 2011 to help researchers make the most of new technologies in their research. This conference physically takes place in London, U.K. and – as I am unable to attend in person (living in Toronto) – the great thing is that I will be able to participate virtually by social media. I will be able to see some streaming content online and post comments and interact in real-time on Twitter using #dr11. We can connect, socialize and collaborate with the world from our own physical spaces.

And from our own physical spaces we can use social media for Knowledge Mobilization to help transform humanity. By taking what each person has learned through their own experiences and knowledge, and using social media to inform and be informed, each person can develop and implement their own personal knowledge on a greater social scale.

Do you use social media for Knowledge Mobilization or just Information Exchange?

Are you still in a silo or do you want to make the world a better place?

Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom And The Difference Between Information Exchange & Knowledge Mobilization

Information Exchange is a term that is mistakenly applied to Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) – particularly in social media. Unfortunately, despite the developing use of the term Knowledge Mobilization, the KMb concept is misunderstood and misapplied, as are the terms Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom.

A helpful web posting on the visualization-blog Information Is Beautiful presented a “think-piece” by David McCandless titled Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom? McCandless created an impressive visual pyramid to help distinguish each category as a Hierarchy Of Visual Understanding. Although McCandless points out it’s by no means original thought, his display provides a clear categorization of each concept.

On Twitter, I recently posted a link to this visual pyramid and a popular quote from American astronomer Cliff Stoll and author Gary Schubert. Both the link and quote have relevance to understanding the difference between Information Exchange and Knowledge Mobilization.

The quote from Cliff Stoll and Gary Schubert:

Data is not information,
Information is not knowledge,
Knowledge is not understanding,
Understanding is not wisdom.

In short – just because you have some “facts” and share them doesn’t mean you’re informed, or the “facts” are useful. Nevertheless, the concepts are connected, and one needs to “know” how.

Let’s take this very example to demonstrate: I spent upwards of almost 30 minutes searching the web (from Google to Wikipedia) to find out who Gary Schubert – and which Gary Schubert – is connected to Cliff Stoll in this quote. This quote is extremely popular (3620 results on a Google Search), but all of the many webpages I searched still couldn’t tell me who Gary Schubert is and why he is connected to Cliff Stoll and this particular quote. All of the many websites and blogs that used this quote only attributed it to these two individuals by name only, and no other information. At least Wikipedia listed Cliff Stoll and it was there that I found out who he is and why he is connected to the quote – but no mention of Gary Schubert. Apart from emailing Cliff Stoll directly to find out, Gary Schubert is still a mystery to me.

Now back to McCandless’ visual pyramid to further demonstrate.

Data: The discrete elements like names, words, and numbers that categorise, calculate or quantify – like Gary Schubert’s name and the words of the quote. I have the data but I still don’t have the information about who Gary Schubert is.

Information: The linked elements like concepts, ideas, and questions that contextualize, compare, connect, filter or frame – like connecting Gary Schubert’s name to the quote and asking the question “who is Gary Schubert?” and “which Gary Schubert?” (There are 19 profiles of Gary Schubert on LinkdIn). Simply linking names with a quote and not knowing who exactly these people are is not knowledge, it’s just information.

Knowledge: The organized information into chapters, conceptual frameworks or facts – like finding out who Cliff Stoll is on Wikipedia and knowing that he is an astronomer, author and public speaker who is rightly attributed to the quote. I have knowledge about Cliff Stoll and how to connect him to the quote, but still no knowledge of the particular Gary Schubert, his connection to Cliff Stoll or the quote.

Wisdom: Applying knowledge into books, systems, beliefs, traditions, philosophies, principles and truths – like my personal belief system to stop long searches for information (in this case on Gary Schubert) by applying the knowledge that when writing a blog and using a quote it’s really not that important to provide all of the details beyond a person’s name AND that there is a likely chance that someone reading my blog may provide me with the exact information about Gary Schubert anyway! I was just curious to find out more about who these guys are that are always being quoted by name only.

So, when I use my blog to put out the question “Who is Gary Schubert and why is he connected to Cliff Stoll and this quote?” and one of my blog readers or someone else comments on this blog post and provides me with the answer- that it is Information Exchange.

When I take the data I have (the name Gary Schubert) and connect it with the information I receive about who Gary Schubert is – it becomes knowledge. When I turn that knowledge into action by posting on Wikipedia, my blog (or some other form of social communication) to make it easier for someone else to have access or contribute to this knowledge – that’s Knowledge Mobilization at its most basic level.

When research and knowledge are used to inform policy makers to make things easier for society – that’s KMb at a more complex level.  KMb is turning knowledge into action for greater social benefit. KMb encompasses a variety of knowledge transfer and exchange methods including producer-push, user-pull, knowledge exchange and co-production.

Knowledge Mobilization (like everything) starts with data, includes information that creates knowledge and becomes wisdom when used effectively to benefit society.  Ultimately, wisdom is applying knowledge for the long term benefits of life.

The Knowledge Mobilization Paradigm Shift

Using social media for knowledge mobilization is the most important thing we can do as part of the newly-evolving paradigm shift from an information society to a knowledge society. We are seeing a transition from an economy based on material goods and information to one based on knowledge goods and mobilization using social media as an essential tool.

In order to understand this current paradigm shift, we must first recall previous societal revolutions from Agricultural to Industrial to Scientific – with the later leading to our more recent Information society and the subsequent greater manufacturing of material goods.

We must then understand the distinction of data, information, knowledge and knowledge mobilization. Of primary importance in the scientific revolution (and of course still today), data comes through research and collection. Information is how the data is organized. Knowledge is then built upon information, and Knowledge Mobilization is knowing what to do with that knowledge – how to synthesize the knowledge of both researchers and communities (academics and non-academics) in order to make it useful to society. Knowledge mobilization is the creation of multi-dimensional knowledge links or activities for the benefit of society.

At a recent business dinner I was asked by an executive member of an Ottawa based research organization how to best begin incorporating a knowledge mobilization strategy for what appears to be a research organization of  “old, white-collar dinosaurs” heading into irrelevance.

I suggested three key integrated steps to help them breath new life into their agency:

1) Face-To-Face Interaction: Getting their executive group to meet with other advisors from a variety of research, community and social media sectors – either in workshops, presentations or casual cocktail sessions – to generate conversation and ideas for funding and future projects.

2) Social Media Strategy: Developing a social media strategy that includes at least one designated social media staff member to help further promote the agencies work and firmly link and entrench the agency in the new paradigm shift by a successful use of social media tools like Twitter or Blogs.

3) Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Constantly promoting and presenting the agency’s own knowledge while being informed by Face-To-Face Interaction and a Social Media Strategy about how to synthesize external knowledge with their own – through Knowledge Mobilization – for better use to society, and not just within their own specialization.

Researchers, government and community agencies are developing deeper relationships than ever before through knowledge mobilization.  Social media tools for knowledge mobilization are helping these agencies achieve meaningful results beyond just good information sharing.

The knowledge society is a new phase of society using social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that make knowledge mobilization faster, efficient and more practical. But some researchers, scholarly associations, federations and government agencies are still not aware of the major importance and role that social media is playing in this emerging society today.

Those recognizing the major significance of using social media beyond casual conversations and family/friends contact (see previous blog) will help keep the older forms and structures of academic, government and community agencies from becoming irrelevant and dying out. Those who don’t…well?