KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: KTE

Evidence-Informed Research versus “Best” Evidence Research

evidence-75x75

The use of evidence in policy making is not simply uncovering the “best” evidence and presenting it to policymakers as part of the knowledge mobilization (KMb) process. “Best” evidence is a subjective term. Being evidence-informed provides a broader understanding of how the application of research evidence is context specific. “Best” in one case may not be “best” in another.

Evidence depends on the various methods in which research is developed in order to inform decisions that lead to policy in various contexts. KMb is making research useful to society. It may be useful in one context while not so useful in another – yet it is the process of KMb that helps us find this out in different contexts. Improving the quality of life through research processes means drawing on various fields through knowledge mobilization and evaluation, as well as having a thorough understanding of the context in which evidence is going to be applied.

KMb brings together people from community, academic/research institutions, business/industry and government decision-makers interested in aspects of evidence-informed research through knowledge brokering in order to share experiences, broaden networks and discuss issues of common interest to find solutions. One way of doing this is applying research (especially in the social sciences) for public benefit using KMb and social media.

Researchers who draw from the experience of implementing an evidence-informed approach in collaboration with wider stakeholders from community, industry and policymakers create effective lessons learned through KMb. The disciplinary research alignment matters less than the fact that these sectors are brought together by a shared interest in the interface between research, community needs and policy – through the workings of knowledge brokering. There is a great deal of cross-learning; networks are built and strengthened, experiences are shared, and various stakeholders are able to benefit from lessons learned from work in other sectors. Research becomes more evidence-informed through greater collaboration.

The goal of KMb-infused research then leads to more evidence-informed policymaking.

The goal of KMb-infused research is to learn from past experiences and create greater opportunities to implement a more evidence-informed approach to policymaking.

The goal of KMb-infused research is to find ways to improve the integration of evidence-informed approaches to policy that address the main concerns and priorities in different contexts.

Policy often deals with social issues that are complicated by several barriers in seeking often entangled and long-term issues. This is why there is a need to involve a wide range of players by establishing networks and partnerships as an important part of the process of policy development and application. Such barriers include a lack of understanding of the process of knowledge mobilization and often a lack of funding for KMb to improve evidence-informed policy. Because there is often also a lack of understanding among various stakeholders of what researchers are working on, the needs of researchers and who to approach – the use of knowledge brokers to make these connections can help make research more evidence-informed.

More evidence-informed research has greater impact by developing close and ongoing collaboration by mixing researchers with business/industry specialists, community partners and policy makers on the same committees, for example – who are prepared for a long-term commitment – as it often takes time to define research questions that will generate greater evidence-informed research leading to solutions of more effective policy development and change.

There is tremendous research potential and capacity when researchers are interested in collaboration with multi-sector partners. However, as mentioned, this sort of relationship-building requires time to develop communities of interest and trust among all sectors to maximize available expertise and ensure effective communication in the research process. This means finding and using knowledge brokers who understand different worlds and who are able to convene, translate and mediate as necessary.

Knowledge brokers work with a number of different people to allow them to discuss a number of issues in a structured way. Knowledge brokers help people in the research-to-policy-making process get to know each other, and are the glue over time that encourages various sectors to think broadly and interact with a variety of people on an ongoing basis in order to learn from others’ experience as part of the evidence-informed research process.

Dealing with a wide variety of stakeholders, knowledge brokers involve each sector meaningfully to effectively incorporate all viewpoints – that are sometimes less and sometimes more controversial, sometimes more open and sometimes less open. Knowledge brokers involve various stakeholders in the action of developing evidence-informed research – not just talk about it – by holding face-to-face multi-sector meetings that are important and useful to the evidence-informed research process. Knowledge brokers help various stakeholders think about top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side and cross-sector types of action by researchers, communities, regions and governments as co-creators of knowledge among stakeholders. It’s not just about transferring knowledge from one to the other but mobilizing knowledge as part of a broader evidence-informed research process.

Knowledge brokers help researchers know the questions being asked from many sides to understand where the knowledge gaps are. Knowledge brokers help break down the elitist and also insecure barriers that often divide academics, community, business/industry and government.

Knowledge brokers are contextidentifiers who are able to help build networks to stimulate knowledge flow that can lead to greater evidence-informed research and policy making.

Researchers need to move beyond seeking “best” evidence and start thinking more about evidence-informed research that includes the use of knowledge brokers to broaden the research base with a variety of stakeholders. Thinking about being evidence-informed at the beginning of the research process that is context-specific develops research that, paradoxically, can have greater impact. By including knowledge brokers to broaden the research base with multi-sector partners creates a type of ripple-effect that broadens research knowledge beyond any one context as multi-sector partners begin to share their knowledge more widely across other sectors – almost as a type of cross-pollination of knowledge. This is when research has greater impact and becomes more widely useful to society. Various methods in which research is developed in order to inform decisions leads to policy in various contexts. In turn, policy that is evidence-informed can then affect further policy on a wider-scale – though originally context-specific – to perhaps create a broader, worldwide change.

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.

 

 

Brokering The Role Of The Knowledge Broker

closing the loop

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about why it’s still a problem for knowledge brokers to be seen as credible to some senior scientists in many research/knowledge institutions, and how to overcome this barrier. My colleague mentioned that some senior scientists think the value of their research can stand on its own without any help from knowledge brokers, and often criticize the value of knowledge broker positions in the organization in the first place.

Knowledge Mobilization is about putting knowledge into active service for social benefit – and knowledge brokers have an important role in connecting various knowledge stakeholders together from multi-directional influences of producer-push (researcher), user-pull (research-user), knowledge exchange (anyone), and the co-production of knowledge (anyone). The bottom line is that it’s always about people sharing knowledge to make the world a better place.

My colleague mentioned that knowledge brokers were not being taken seriously by some researchers because of a feeling of a lack of credibility. There are certain researchers who somehow feel that the importance of their research cannot be fully “trusted” in the supposed “inexperienced” hands of “unskilled” knowledge brokers. As such, these misguided researchers would rather go it alone and not make use of intermediaries to disseminate or further enhance their knowledge.

My colleague and I discussed that in such cases there is a need for other credible scientists or stakeholders to champion the cause of these knowledge brokers.  Such champions can assist in bringing recognition to the valuable role of the knowledge broker, and ignite a passion for knowledge mobilization/knowledge exchange. In such cases the very role of the knowledge broker comes into play by connecting with these champions and acting upon these connections by engaging the champions in discussion about the organization’s current knowledge exchange challenges. This means constructing arguments for the champions to convince the skeptical researchers of the value of knowledge brokers.

If the skeptical researchers still see no value – and wish to go it alone – then the knowledge brokers need to be prepared to recognize such limitations and cut their losses while continuing to ignite awareness with other key decision-makers within the organization. Perhaps in this more indirect manner, skeptical researchers may eventually come around to recognizing the value of knowledge brokers for the institution – but never hold your breath.

barriers

The knowledge broker role itself is about finding ways to champion the current knowledge of the organization, continuing to inform institutional knowledge, and broker internal and external knowledge value among stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Knowledge brokers need to recognize that there may be barriers inherent in the organization that cannot be directly dealt with. Dealing with such barriers indirectly may mean ignoring them temporarily (or completely) while attempting to find other researchers or sources for knowledge exchange.

If knowledge brokers are not prepared to do this then you are not prepared to remain relevant to the organization. Knowledge brokering will continue to be a function that is misunderstood, and not seen as credible.

Quite frankly, it comes down to how you broker being a knowledge broker – whether you’re talking about organizational need, the benefits to the individuals who engage with the knowledge systems you create or the connections you’re developing for knowledge exchange. It comes down to how you ‘sell’ the role of the knowledge broker, your contribution and added value to the organization – as well as the people who fall within its influence.

David Phipps

As David Phipps points out, and we include in our co-authored field note, the role of the knowledge broker and knowledge mobilization is not new. Phipps references both Aristotle and the PARiHS framework  to summarize three key concepts for a knowledge broker to think about when developing their role in any institution. (I have added my own thoughts in brackets to further expand the concepts).

evidence = logos (providing the logic or evidence)

facilitation = ethos (establishing credibility for facilitation)

context = pathos (connecting to the stakeholder’s emotional or value context)

These key concepts can be used as a framework to develop greater understanding to broker a knowledge broker role within the organization by providing the logic behind having knowledge brokers.

Evidence: Do you have evidence to substantiate the role of knowledge brokers within your organization? What is the logic of having knowledge brokers within your organization?

Credibility: How credible are the knowledge brokers in your organization? Can your knowledge brokers speak the ‘language’ of the organization? Do the knowledge brokers in your organization have champions to assist them with their roles and help them establish credibility? Do the knowledge brokers understand the individuals within the organization and recognize those that may be barriers or facilitators?

Context: Can the knowledge brokers connect to the various emotional contexts within the organizational system to identify barriers (and possibly risks to the organization)? Can the knowledge brokers speak to the values of the individuals within the organization as well as to the greater values of the organization as a whole? Does the knowledge broker have the ability to know how to work around barriers while continuing to align with the knowledge objectives of the organization?

KTECop

The Knowledge Translation & Exchange Community of Practice (KTECop) often refers to the role of the knowledge broker as “closing the loop” as an apt description. If knowledge brokers are going to continue to deal with problems of credibility and criticism of their value, they must start with a framework that provides greater understanding to broker the role of the knowledge broker. If not, knowledge brokers must be prepared to deal with people who still don’t understand their role, what they can do, and the value they can bring – never being able to close the loop or overcome the barriers they face.

Knowledge From All Walks Of Life

all walks of life

In order to create social benefit, that can lead to influencing government policymakers, knowledge exchange through knowledge mobilization develops relationships among a variety of individuals – from all walks of life – to encourage involvement in new ways of combining our diversity of knowledge to make the world a better place.

A Knowledge New Year

face to face

As we begin the New Year 2013, we continue to share knowledge through knowledge mobilization by embracing new social networks like Pinterest – while keeping up with the fast pace of others like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  Sharing and mobilizing knowledge on such platforms makes our local to global communication and collaboration easier and more effective – and has delivered some very tangible national & international knowledge-networking results.

When it comes to today’s fast-paced world of knowledge sharing, there’s no better place for social collaboration than online. These social networks may have made it easier to expand our knowledge networks, but our society has changed from being a more personal, face-to-face world of localized collaborative knowledge sharing activity to a more impersonal and isolated world confined by our digital domains. We went from verbally discussing and sharing knowledge in our in-person environments, around the water-cooler, in meetings, retreats or at conferences to sharing knowledge in a much wider but secluded, online manner of pic-pins, tweets and blogs –away from the very people who we use to bounce ideas off of and exchange knowledge with face-to-face.

When social media advanced to make it possible and easier to automate and broaden our knowledge sharing, it provided valuable knowledge sharing tools – but there is a risk of returning back to the very reasons why online knowledge mobilization/transfer & exchange activities became important in the first place.  In the past, we were often locked in the knowledge-silos of our professional disciplines and institutions where face-to-face knowledge sharing was more closed. There is now a risk that we can become locked behind digital knowledge-silos without face-to-face meetings – even though our knowledge sharing has become more multi-directional and networked.  

Thankfully, in the past few years, in-person and online “networks connected to other networks” – such as EENet – and Communities of Practice (CoPs) connected with other CoPs – such as The Canadian Knowledge Transfer & Exchange CoP (formerly the Ontario Knowledge Transfer & Exchange CoP) have been created to broaden knowledge sharing and engagement. Such knowledge sharing organizations still keep alive – even expanding -opportunities for face-to-face knowledge interactions and collaboration with a variety of stakeholders – while also making use of the value of connecting knowledge online through social media. 

Sadly, in the early race to create an online presence of knowledge links in the digital world, many organizations, institutions and individuals forgot about the value of face-to-face social interactions over social media interactions. The old discipline/institutional knowledge silos were soon replaced with new digital knowledge network silos.

Fortunately, the pendulum has swung back (although some individuals and agencies have yet to even begin to get on the social media page!), and more people recognize the value of both connecting by social media combined with connecting face-to-face to create even broader in-person and inclusive opportunities of knowledge sharing for multiple stakeholders .

In 2012, “social” media was all about collaboration and mobility of knowledge sharing.  Now, by creating both physical and virtual knowledge sharing networks like EENet and communities like The Canadian KTE Cop in-house and remote knowledge sharing have been brought together.

Humans are social beings who enjoy sharing knowledge, and human behaviour will always trump any technology.  Regardless of how sophisticated or user-friendly the technology may be, humans will always need to connect with others in-person. But, we must continue to recognize that we live in a world of diversity and extremes. On any social media platform, there are extreme users, non-users and those that fall in-between – And, there will always be some who feel more comfortable sharing knowledge in-person while others feel more comfortable sharing knowledge online. It makes sense that overly-focusing on one over the other creates missed opportunities.  Combining and expanding both in-person and online connections will enhance the knowledge sharing experiences and increase engagement.

As we begin the New Year 2013, I’d like to wish all of my online and in-person knowledge connections a very happy, healthy and social year of online and in-person knowledge mobilization (KMb)!

Knowledge Mobilization: Definition & Terminology


Whenever I mention the work I do in Knowledge Mobilization (KMb), inevitably someone asks me to explain what that means.  Unfortunately, there are a variety of similar terms being used to roughly define the same thing, which has a tendency to “muddy the waters” of explanation.  I engage with other professionals – especially through the Ontario Knowledge Transfer & Exchange Community of Practice (KTE Cop) – and I continue to push for agreement on the use of one, clear term (knowledge mobilization) to describe the work we do. But, it’s not that simple to find agreement as each term has its own history and sometimes very defensive, personal appeal. It mostly depends on the term adopted by who is funding the institution – as you will see below.

First, to define KMb:

Fellow knowledge mobilizer and Director of Knowledge Mobilization WorksPeter Levesque states that the term originates from the French term mobilisation – making ready for service or action.

KMb consists of a variety of methods in which research and knowledge is transferred, translated, exchanged and co-produced to enhance the practical application of knowledge between researchers and research-users (individuals and community organizations seeking to use research to inform decisions in public policy and professional practice).

Yet KMb is not limited to academic or more formal knowledge. It also includes informal knowledge such as narratives or even Internet blogging/microblogging/wikispaces if it informs and contributes to the greater benefit of society.

However, a multiplicity of terms and concepts are used to describe aspects of KMb including knowledge utilization, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, knowledge management, knowledge translation, diffusion of innovation, research impacts, and research utilization. Three of the most frequently used terms are knowledge transfer, knowledge utilization, and knowledge exchange.


I argue that all of these terms – including knowledge transfer and knowledge transfer & exchange – falls short in stating the multiple influences of the multi-production of knowledge. Exchange still suggests a sharing of knowledge within separate fields of application. KMb is a more recent term and is gaining greater use as it focuses more on the multiple contributions and multi-production of new knowledge.

Huw Davies from the Social Dimensions of Health Institute at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews, Fife in the UK argues that the KT terminology itself actually misrepresents the tasks that seeks to support and ultimately prevents social research from having wider impacts. Davies and his colleagues argue that both the terms “translation” and “transfer” invoke a metaphor of “convergent knowledge” which is parcelled to “grateful recipients” (Davies et al 2008: 189) and effectively veils the associated complexities, contradictions and unpredictability of the ways in which new knowledge is negotiated and accepted (or even refused).

Davies, H., Nutley, S., Walter, I., 2008. Why ‘knowledge transfer’ is misconceived for
applied social research. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy. 13, 188-190

KMb emphasizes the multi-directional links or activities among researchers and research-users with greater emphasis on the multiple contributions and co-operation for the creation of knowledge. KMb includes an array of interdisciplinary methodologies and techniques at many levels and directions to mobilize knowledge within a broader framework.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in conjunction with McMaster University’s Health Sciences Department and Health Information Unit (HiRU), along with the Canadian Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools has created a Wikispace intending to help define and compare terms and concepts across a variety of disciplines using KT. CIHR uses Knowledge Translation , while The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) prefers using Knowledge Mobilization as a more appropriate term.

With so many terms being used to describe the same thing, perhaps it’s time to agree on using only one term – a more inclusively descriptive term – Knowledge Mobilization.

A Little Knowledge Mobilization History Lesson

The belief that having and exchanging knowledge greatly contributes to the advancement of civilization is argued to go back as far as the Greeks (Rich, 1979. Science Communication, 1, 6-30). From the early twentieth-century, one of the great fore-thinkers and contributors to the idea of relational behaviour and knowledge exchange is the French sociologist and social psychologist Gabriel Tarde. Among his theories, Tarde proposed a different way of looking at the social world, not from the perspective of the individual or the group, but from how products, acts and ideas (including knowledge) can be used to classify individuals or groups.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend an Ontario KTE (Knowledge Transfer & Exchange) Community of Practice (CoP) event. I am a member of this KTE CoP and was excited to finally meet nursing scholar and knowledge utilization researcher, Carole Estabrooks at her presentation: Exploring the Applicability of Research to the Practice of Knowledge Translation. The decades of Estabrooks’ work and experience was evident as she shared her knowledge about the history, contexts and research being done in the practice of knowledge translation (knowledge mobilization) today (see blog about KMb definition & terminology).

In a longtitudinal analysis paper, Estabrooks  and colleagues have traced the historical development of the knowledge transfer field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles. Their research shows limited citation before the 1960s. It’s not until the mid-1960s that a flourishing of the literature on knowledge transfer and knowledge utilization began, with the largest increase from 1995 to 2004. One of the most cited authors and contributors to the field is considered to be Everett Rogers.

It was Rogers who furthered Tarde’s “laws of imitation” in the 1962 book Diffusion of innovations. Rogers also identifies nine major disciplines in which research diffusion is most prominent: anthropology, early sociology, rural sociology, education, public health/medical sociology, communication, marketing, geography, general sociology, and a miscellaneous “other”.  Certainly, many of the members of the KTE CoP are included in these and equally diverse backgrounds. Evolving from diffusion of innovation, Rogers worked with colleagues G.M. Beal and Ronald Havelock to develop the term knowledge generation, exchange, and utilization to provide a more interactive understanding of the process of knowledge use, with a view that knowledge should be useful to society.

Estabrooks explains that knowledge transfer and knowledge utilization emerged as two new domains from the parent domain diffusion of innovation between 1975 and 1984. It’s not until 1992 that a new domain of knowledge utilization appears with the emergence of evidence-based medicine. More recently, knowledge mobilization has emerged to fill the void of the limitation of evidence-based medicine’s exclusion of theoretical or creative forms of knowledge. Other forms of knowledge include indigenous knowledge (such as narrative traditions) or informal knowledge that may influence a greater exchange of ideas leading to government and community policy-making.

It’s the more inclusive and multiple-contribution elements of knowledge mobilization that create greater opportunities to inform and enhance how knowledge is exchanged and co-produced today – especially today via social media. Knowledge mobilization stems from a long history – as far back as the Greeks – and continues to echo the view that exchanging knowledge continues to greatly contribute to the advancement of society – whether from dialogue in the Greek Acropolis to blogging on the Internet.

Free Knowledge Mobilization with a Social Media Strategy

My grandmother always said, “give a little for free and you’ll get alot in return beyond yourself.”

I volunteered at a number of places throughout my life, thinking about “good karma” or giving  back to worthy causes. Yet, what started out as a volunteer position at York University’s  Knowledge Mobilization Unit is starting to turn into an aspiring career choice. In 2007 an offer to work (gratis) contributing to ResearchImpact created an opportunity to combine my interests in research, social media, human behaviour and the use of knowledge – in the multi-abbreviated world of KMb, KT, KE or KTE (your choice).

Coming from a fresh degree in Psychology, and work on a research project investigating the practical use of research findings within York’s Department of Psycholgy helped convince York’s Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, Michael Johnny,  to take me on. And (“bah-rump-bum-bum-bah” – sing the jingle if you want), I’m loving it. (I hope you got that free pop-culture reference, and  I won’t have to pay for infringing any copyright laws).

In a way (as Angie Hart would say about knowledge brokers who make connections), I am a “boundary-spanner” in my efforts to combine university research within the community of social media. I work (volunteer) for a university while also being immersed within community as an upaid Digital Researcher (I’m still waiting for any job offers!). My efforts present what is at the heart of knowledge mobilization – multidisciplinary collaboration between university and community-based research, and a contributional exchange of experience, skills and interests from both those inside and outside of academia.

Digital technology is ubiquitous. Researchers and brokers who are savy in recognizing the significance of using social media as part of a knowledge mobilization strategy are forging new paths of academic openness and community collaboration.  I feel privileged to be part of a KMb team using a digital strategy in ways such as thisthis, this and this. I’ve seen first hand how adopting readily available digital tools like Google Earth or Twitter are valuable.  They can be used for something as easy as visualizing patterns of brokering projects/KMb networks to informing and exchanging knowledge via microblogging.  Such social media research tools are changing the expediency and way we think about how research is pursued and collaborated. Research must be inclusive of the benefits and ever-present influence of digital media in our every-day lives to inform future research practices.

I enjoy the opportunities that come with engaging and working with other knowledge mobilizers across Canada and internationally – especialy by means of social media. Don’t get me wrong;  I like face-to-face communication and recognize its necessity, but I’m eager to spread the word about doing research using social media and including social media.

Yes, there are necessary costs to research; grant applications need to be done and not many researchers are willing put in volunteer time. But, it’s important to make use of the current “freebie” elements of digital technology as a vehicle for knowledge mobilization – at no cost. Incorporating a social media strategy in research projects enhances research. It provides a more expedient means of communicating findings over a wider audience – and in turn – is informed by the social media audience contributing to further research and connections.

Grandma isn’t around to know how far digital technology has evolved and shapes our lives today, but the message is still the same…give a little (knowledge mobilization) for free (using social media) and you’ll get alot in return beyond yourself.

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) "In for the long haul"

 

I just finished reading and tweeting about In for the Long Haul: Knowledge Translation Between Academic and Nonprofit Organizations. (I was only able to access the full document through York University’s journal licence).  Although the paper specifically focuses on researchers and non-profit organizations (NPOs), the authors rightly point out three essential factors that influence any effective knowledge mobilization: strong interorganizational partnerships, using skilled knowledge brokers (like those found at York University’s KMb Unit and ResearchImpact – Canada’s Knowledge Mobilization Network) and meaningful involvement of “front-line personnel” – those involved in direct contact between researchers and community organizations.

The paper uses KT (Knowledge Translation) to describe what is also known as KMb (Knowledge Mobilization), and states that KT is “a two-way process” by “equal and engaged partners”. This may be a simple way of describing the ideal reciprocal nature of knowledge exchange between what has been referred to as the two-communities view (social scientists and policy makers living in two different worlds), which – by extension – includes researchers in academia and community-based organizations.

I suggest that Knowledge Mobilization goes further to describe a more multi-directional aspect of knowledge utilization, transfer and exchange. Knowledge can be translated and/or exchanged in several multi-directional and engaging ways:

  • mobilized from researcher to researcher within the academy
  • mobilized from researcher to practitioner or vice versa
  • mobilized from one NPO working with another
  • mobilized from NPO(s) to practitioners to researchers
  • mobilized from NPO(s) to researchers
  • mobilized from researcher(s) to researcher(s) via a community-based tool such as blogging or Twitter
  • mobilized from a tweeter/blogger that informs the research in academia
  • mobilized from word-of-mouth story-telling to NOP(s) to researcher to researcher – as only a few examples.

All of these multi-directional modes of KMb inform and can also involve policy makers and knowledge brokers.

Knowledge Mobilization is a more precise and encompassing term that speaks to more current social relationships and tools used in a world of knowledge that continues to evolve with and from web 2.0 technology. Using social media tools to inform and enhance knowledge mobilizaiton helps create a channel of equal and engaged communication- not only in academia and the realm of policy makers, but also within the world of social media and networks – but only if it is accessible to all.

The paper states that it offers some KT lessons learned from close partnerships with vulnerable populations like sex-trade workers and street-youth. It should be noted that the dedicated work and time-consuming efforts of over a decade of research and community involvement are a testament to excellent KMb efforts by the authors and community contributors to the article.

Yet, there are three points I’d like to conclude with and leave you with for any comments:

1) Why are two papers I have linked to in this blog only accessible through academic channels and not at a community level? (Did you try the title link and the two-communities link above to get the articles?)

2) Why are we still using a variety of terms (Knowlege Transfer, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Transfer and Exchange, Knowledge Utilization, etc.) to describe all of what Knowledge Mobilization does?

3) Why did the authors of In for the Long Haul not make reference to the knowledge broker and KMb Unit at the University of Victoria as part of this paper? (Two of the authors are affiliated with UVic, and one was involved in early discussions about the start up of the KMb Unit at UVic. The UVic knowledge broker learned of the paper through Twitter).

The paper talks about the “Snail’s Pace of KT” and urges readers to “Pick up the KT pace”.  Perhaps it’s time they followed their own advice. Perhaps it’s time those researchers picked up the KMb pace.