KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: researchers

What Is Research “Success”?

Research Success

Every day when we read or listen to the news on the radio, television or on our digital devices there are reports of poverty, homelessness, hatred, crime, violence, or wars. Many in this world are not safe, secure or educated – and despite advances in modern technologies that create broader knowledge exchange (more people are much more aware of what’s happening around the world than any other generation before us) we are still faced with wicked problems that continue to plague us.

Although knowledge mobilization has contributed to making research useful to society, we are still faced with the challenges of healing our social problems to bring about broader peace and happiness worldwide. As someone who has written about the value and benefits of incorporating knowledge mobilization strategies by researchers – particularly social science researchers – to contribute to improving our human experience, I recognize that basic human problems like fear, suffering, ignorance, prejudice, bigotry and discrimination still exist.

I know many people who share my concern about the many difficult social conditions that we still face on this planet and those who also share in my hopes that knowledge exchange has greater value when applied on a worldwide scale. As a humanist, I strongly feel that global knowledge mobilization is necessary to overcome wicked problems – but as I’ve stated in previous blogs, knowledge mobilization without compassion, without being motivated by kindness, without seeking benefit beyond our own communities is extremely limited.

Each person, whether researcher, practitioner, community member or policymaker has a responsibility to exchange our knowledge to benefit all human beings – by thinking about ways to scale up the research benefits gained at our local levels.

When individuals choose to hate and fight each other or discriminate based on opposing ideologies, selfish gains or ignorance, there is a common human imperative that calls us to change such limiting knowledge. Our common humanity implores us to find solutions through cooperative knowledge exchange as a fundamental objective.

Researchers have a particular responsibility inherent as scientists to influence change for global benefit by working with community members to inform policy. If we understand the causes of problems that continue to hold us back globally without gaining cooperation through knowledge exchange – research remains limited and – on a broader-scale – practically useless.

Whether we think so or not – human suffering inflicted not by physical illness but by other humans is the worst human illness that continues to affect all of us. We spend billions of research dollars to rightly find cures for physical illness – but let’s not forget to also focus research resources on curing our more general human illness of wicked problems.

Every researcher hopes to achieve “success” from their research. But what is research “success”?

  • Is “success” limited to finishing a graduate degree as a Masters or PhD student?
  • Is “success” limited to publishing peer-reviewed papers in academic journals?
  • Is “success” limited to inspiring other future researchers to carry on finding a cure?

What if researchers thought beyond limited “success” to the ultimate success in research? In the quest for “success” in research, researchers have used different methods – sometimes even unbecoming in their status as scientists – for their own self-centred gains. Ultimately, when research becomes short-sighted without a broader perspective of benefit beyond the academy – global problems will continue to exist.

Over the past decade, the development of knowledge mobilization has helped bring researchers, practitioners, community members and policymakers closer together – not just locally, but internationally. Broader community engagement results in greater research impact by creating more global knowledge exchange for social benefit. Many researchers are no longer as siloed in their disciplines and research interests as they once were. Old-school research was very much dependent upon the research being done by researchers in one particular field of study. New-paradigm research is now more interdisciplinary and community-engaged. Today, research – through knowledge mobilization – has made academia more closely interconnected with and inclusive of community.

Without a sense of scaling-up this new-paradigm of research we cannot expect to overcome our global problems. Too much depends upon continuing to shift our research perspectives to pursue only one’s own research interests without considering how to also apply this research on a broader-scale. If researchers continue to approach problems considering only temporary gains, research may continue to perpetuate itself – but will always remain limited.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it again, researchers who connect the intellect of their minds with the development of a kind heart make the best knowledge mobilizers. When we embrace knowledge mobilization for social benefit with both brains and heart, with both thinking and action there is an opportunity to reinvent our ideas of knowledge to ultimately make the world a better place for everyone.

World conflicts and wicked problems that persist globally continue due to a failure to remember our common humanity. An answer to address these concerns is doing research with both intelligence and compassion. It’s time for researchers to transcend our usual research methods and regard research as a responsibility to benefit individuals, communities, nations and the world together.

To improve research globally in the world, I continue to encourage researchers to adopt knowledge mobilization strategies that can make considerable contributions to social benefit internationally – and focus research on addressing the wicked problems that still continue to plague us. The ultimate research “success” is about doing research that gives global humanity precedence – and knowledge mobilization has a large role to play in this process. In order to solve our human problems globally we must challenge current researchers and develop future researchers to combine their interests with those of our common humanity.

In the new-paradigm of research perhaps global knowledge mobilization will help overcome the wicked problems that continue to exist and new researchers will take on the challenge of doing research for greater social benefit worldwide.

21st Century Research: Interdisciplinary Scholarship & The Third Sector

volunteer

Researchers in the 21st century must now think about and become interested in cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary connections. Cross-sector and interdisciplinary scholarship are exactly what knowledge mobilization (KMb) is about – researchers networking across borders as an essential element of the research process to provide greater outreach and input for social benefit to make research useful to society.  Although knowledge mobilization can be a part of any academic discipline – it’s particularly true for social science and humanities research.

Research is no longer valued if it’s locked up in disciplinary silos or peer-reviewed journals. Research must now involve open-access cross-pollination with other sectors in academia and community that informs and is informed by policy-makers – taking place across a variety of organizational, public, business and government spaces.

Community is not just community-based researchers or practitioners. Community is also about what is often called the third sector – the sphere of social activity undertaken by voluntary organizations and public citizens that are not-for-profit and non-governmental. By including the third sector in the interdisciplinary border crossings without boundaries is a more inclusive and extensive way of being a boundary-spanner.

Being a boundary-spanner begins right at the beginning of any research career as graduate students embark on a future in research – as I wrote about in an earlier blog post. Graduate students have an excellent opportunity to initiate such connections by considering how their own research can have impact within the third sector, or even how they can become involved in the volunteer-sector while doing their own research. And many are already volunteering with recent statistics about volunteering in Canada showing 15-24 year olds representing the highest percentage of volunteers at 58%, and 35-44 year olds at a close second at 54%.

The idea of being a boundary-spanner is also what lead me to develop the Myers Model of Knowledge Mobilization.

 kmb-model-final1.png

The greatest advances often occur not exclusively in academia, or private-sector practitioners or business leaders or because of government policies. The greatest advances and social benefit often occur at the intersections and collaborations between borders and boundaries – an important message for anyone in research or also beginning a career in research.

By promoting knowledge mobilization on a broader scale, ResearchImpact has been playing a leading role in cross-sector connections since 2006. ResearchImpact is a knowledge mobilization network of 11 Canadian universities involved in community-university engagement to inform public policy, involve non-profits in the research process and create valuable social change. ResearchImpact has crossed university borders into communities to include all sectors – public, private and non-profit, and has given graduate students opportunities to connect their own research with knowledge brokers and community stakeholders. It gets graduate students thinking and engaging beyond the “traditional” research process.

Such inclusiveness is moving beyond the borders of research disciplines, moving beyond the borders of academia to community, and also moving beyond national borders. How we do research has changed – and how we teach new researchers to do research has also changed.

Welcome to research in the 21st century!

Knowledge Mobilization & The Cure For Hatred

Hatred

Why is knowledge mobilization important to help overcome hatred in our world?

When I was a university student studying psychology the question of “why can’t we all just get along in this world?” frequently lingered under my attempts to understand our human condition through my studies. Although I did not pursue a career as a psychologist, my psychology degree continues to influence my knowledge mobilization work in helping make research useful to society. I still ask this question frequently whenever I see the daily news coverage of hatred and the world battlegrounds of war that continue to make headlines and wonder if what researchers call wicked problems of the world can ever be overcome.

It turns out that research is being done by a group of international researchers linking hatred to health by asking the research question:

Is there a cure for the disease of hatred?

In the trailer for the Captain America movie, senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) states “To build a better world sometimes means tearing the old one down…and that makes enemies.” The teaser ends with a question from Falcon (Anthony Mackie), the first African-American superhero who asks Captain America, “How do we know the good guys from the bad guys?” to which Captain America replies, “If they’re shooting at you then they’re bad” (at 2:15 on the timer).

The movie captures the essence and complication for researchers and ourselves in trying to understand the basic question of why people hate. (Spoiler Alert) Supposed “good guy” agent Alexander Pierce plays one of the “bad guys” who wants to build “a better world” by tearing it down without a broader regard for everyone in the world and the diversity of human contexts and conditions that can breed hatred. Hatred does not always come from the supposed and stereo-typed “other” who lives on the other side of the world. Sadly, hatred is universal and in our own backyards. Researchers seeking to find the cure for the disease of hatred now understand that hatred needs to be approached from a variety of disciplines working cooperatively across sectors and borders on the problem as a universal health issue that – like any disease – can affect anyone.

The question “why can’t we all just get along in this world” isn’t new. Theologians, philosophers and social activists have been asking this question for centuries. It’s research looking at hatred and violence as a public health issue that has now taken on an interdisciplinary approach – which is at the heart of knowledge mobilization (KMb). KMb is about breaking down barriers to create deeper understanding in the varied contexts of our human condition by exchanging multi-directional knowledge across boundaries that define the diversity and commonality of our human condition.

The International Network for Hate Studies was founded in 2013 in Europe and hosted its first conference in 2014 in the UK.  The Canadian Knowledge Mobilisation Forum hosted its third conference in June 2014 in Saskatoon, and helped establish the first UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum in 2013. The value of incorporating a knowledge mobilization strategy into research (both community-based and academic) is now well-established for creating social improvement, implementation and innovation to make the world a better place.

Scientific discovery that includes knowledge mobilization can cause paradigm shifts in human thought, drive technological revolutions – and perhaps save humanity from the hatred that continues to paralyze all of us. In a previous KMbeing blog post I wrote that the best efforts to combat social problems always include both thinking and action in doing some good for others and creating social benefit…yet there is also an underlying aspect to both thinking and action that is required for effective knowledge mobilization – love.

Being able to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of research by linking hatred to health and knowledge mobilization which includes the diversity and commonality of our human experiences will ultimately lead to greater scientific literacy and the development of personal skills to conquer hatred and violence. It doesn’t mean tearing down the world to know the “good” guys from the “bad” – it just means tearing down the universal human barriers that lead to understanding and stopping the hatred that can exist in every one of us.  Just as most people try to avoid getting a disease – perhaps someday no one will want to get the disease of hatred.

Knowledge Brokers As Translators & Diplomats

translate

How do you get people who speak different languages to understand one another? If you’ve ever travelled to other countries or been in a group of people who speak different languages where you’ve tried to make yourself understood you’ve probably used a series of gestures, facial expressions, body language or object-pointing to help with the various translations.

Researchers and policy makers are like these people who speak different languages from different countries.

Now what if you take this language and cultural barrier example one step further and find that not only are you not able to communicate with these other people – you’re also being ignored in your attempts to be understood. Researchers are often like the people trying to be understood in attempts to get their research implemented – while policy makers can be the ones doing the ignoring.

Researchers and policy makers are two highly specialized groups. Both have different goals, attitudes towards what is considered “evidence” based and how to “best” use it, perceptions of time-frames, and different demands and accountabilities on their work. Just like people of different languages and cultures, there are also issues of trust and respect that can come into play when some borders won’t even allow some people to cross into the country, as policy makers are skeptical about the usefulness of research – or worse – don’t even see a link between research and decision making.

 

How do we get them to understand each other? 

The most effective way is getting a translator.  

 

How do we get them to open up borders for less restricted access?

The most effective way is getting a diplomat.

 

That translator and diplomat for researchers and policy makers is a knowledge broker.

 

What if I want to get to certain places and across borders without a map, a directional, translational or transportation device to do so? Would simply wishing this to happen without the appropriate tools or resources make it happen? What about those obstacles that I might encounter along the way that might require new ways, inputs and possible detours to eventually get to my destination or be understood?

That’s where knowledge brokers come into the research process to close the loop (or untangle the spool of thread) in the knowledge mobilization process between research and policy making. Knowledge brokers bring in a knowledge of networks. They bring in connections. They bring in understanding of new technologies for knowledge translation and exchange. They make sure that research ideas can be widely disseminated, evidence-informed from a variety of stakeholders (a variety of “languages” and “cultures”) – not just from researcher or policy maker perspectives alone. Knowledge brokering works across sectors to ensure that research is made openly available and understood to society in the most effective manner in ways that bring wider benefit.

Within the science to policy stage, knowledge brokers offer professional, intermediary support as “translators” and “diplomats” to help guide researchers and policy makers in understanding each other. Knowledge brokers help traverse the structural issues around professional “language” and “cultural” boundaries established by the organizational norms and environments of researchers and policy makers – as well as many other stakeholders.

Knowledge brokers also help manage the barriers of institutional change and development while also understanding the context-specific elements of knowledge mobilization. As knowledge mobilization advisers, the roles and skills of knowledge brokers need to be clearly understood. David Phipps and Sarah Morton have written an excellent (and whimsical) practice-based article on the qualities required for successful knowledge brokers, which also includes valuable recommendations on recruiting and training knowledge brokers. The article may take a more light-hearted approach to the “idealised knowledge broker” but the importance of having knowledge brokers within universities, research institutions and other organizations with the appropriate skills is imperative for successful implementation of research to policy making.

Knowledge brokers also simplify the information between researchers and policy makers: Good examples are the Health Evidence Network (set up by the World Health Organization) which provides one page policy briefs in response to questions posed by policy makers; and the Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada within the government of Canada to connect research and policy makers in transforming research “into products, services and processes that improve the lives of Canadians.”

Knowledge brokers can provide policy makers – who are already inundated with information – a brief synopsis of research such as those produced by ResearchImpact knowledge brokers as clear language research summaries. Such clear language research summaries are an effective and valuable way of briefing policy makers in a concise and understandable manner to integrate and synthesize scientific information into knowledge. Knowledge brokers who are supporting access to research and engaging with researchers, community organizations, practitioners, and policy makers can use clear language summaries as part of an institutional strategy for knowledge mobilization.

Knowledge mobilization helps support research collaborations and co-production of knowledge where researchers and policy makers partner to understand and produce knowledge that is relevant to academia as well as to real world problems. Knowledge brokers as “translators” and “diplomats” are also highly skilled professionals who help researchers and policy makers understand each other by developing knowledge mobilization strategies where different languages are spoken.

If you had language and cultural barriers, wouldn’t you want a translator or diplomat to help create understanding?

 

 

Collective Impact Of Research Over Isolated Impact Of Research

Pepsi Coke Hatred

We live in a knowledge society with the technology to exchange our knowledge faster with greater numbers of people around the world than ever in our history.

So….

Why can’t we develop skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness that still exist?

Why isn’t healthcare a universal human right?

Why is climate change still a problem?

Why can’t we provide students with all the support and services they need to stay in school and graduate?

Why can’t we avoid prejudice, bigotry, bullying and hatred that leads to war?

These persistent global harms are what social scientists refer to as wicked problems. Many academic researchers, community workers and social innovators have spent countless hours and years studying why wicked problems still plague humanity. An abundance of words have been written in an abundance of scholarly journals about an abundance of studies, and there are many community-based examples of localized success stories – yet wicked problems still exist worldwide.

Just when you think we might learn from past generations in history and begin to overcome wicked problems it begins to look like history repeats itself in our own generation. History may not repeat itself but rather rhyme as Mark Twain observed.  Repeating or rhyming – will we ever be able to eliminate these wicked problems? What needs to be done? When it comes to prejudice, bigotry, bullying and hatred – sadly, these are easily learned in childhood as adults pass on their views to children. Thankfully, such views can change and are not always maintained into adulthood. There are many reasons why prejudice continues to be a ubiquitous social phenomenon, and some international researchers even think hatred should be treated as a disease – approaching the problem from a healthcare perspective. Yet wicked problems are also interconnected to the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness which stems from economic competition and greed that can then cycle back into prejudice, bigotry, bullying hatred and war.

It would appear that within wicked problems there are two major underlying and interconnected reasons:

1)      Teaching our children to hate and “pass on the disease” by not thinking more broadly beyond exaggerated group categorizations or stereotypes and

2)      Economic conditions that lead to financial disparity and greed.

When we create mental categories and social barriers by grouping into similarities or stereotypes without being open to and understanding our differences, ridiculing or exploiting characteristics of others and exaggerating differences among us – we contribute to wicked problems.

When we maintain economic conditions that only help specific populations without regard for broader solutions that do not lead to lasting benefits for everyone- we contribute to wicked problems.

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is about breaking down barriers – social and economic. It’s not just about sharing diverse knowledge in our knowledge society – it’s also about moving knowledge into action for broader benefit in society. Without turning knowledge into action knowledge is useless. We can begin to conquer the enormous social and economic challenges that create wicked problems when we begin to implement knowledge mobilization strategies to maximize the impact of research in order to change policies and systems within our world for lasting benefit.

It’s not just about doing research on the problems – it’s about taking that research and turning it into action by creating community/university collaboration, transferring and exchanging knowledge skills and experience to develop ethical business and technology partnerships, and advocating for policy change within government. It’s about connecting and collaborating across sectors to create social benefit that also leads to economic benefit. Knowledge mobilization when linked to social and economic innovation can create far-reaching and lasting change to overcome wicked problems on a broader scale.

kmb-model-final1.png

(Link here for more information about this knowledge mobilization model)

Overcoming wicked problems is not just for one sector of our world, one community, one country, one nationality. To overcome wicked problems we need to break down barriers and push beyond our individuality, discipline or region to focus on the larger scale of our commonality as human beings. We need to set our sights on collaborative action for ultimate collective benefit as a primary means to overcome wicked problems – which begins with knowledge mobilization. This includes innovation to make change – both social and economic innovation – which also begins with knowledge mobilization.

I currently work in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University and see so many graduate students interested in creating and contributing to our knowledge. I see great aspirations for the future as Masters and PhD students want to have an impact on our collective knowledge – while also wanting to create social and financial value from their research. If we are going to succeed in creating impact we must also start to encourage our students to be visionary in their approaches to knowledge mobilization and community-engagement by thinking about ways of turning their knowledge into action.

York University grad student Bart Danko is a recent and outstanding example of a student presenting his research with broader social and economic impact. Bart has not only pursued his interests in the interdisciplinary subjects of Environmental Studies and Law through York’s unique MES/JD program (the only program of its kind in Canada), he has also harnessed the power of social media by creating a film and website about his research. Like Bart, current and future students need to become more collaborative and networked in the knowledge and innovation society in which we now live by presenting research in broader and technological ways. It’s what is referred to as doing research with collective impact over isolated impact.

As with teaching our children to think beyond limiting and stereotypical categorizations and become more inclusive, we need to teach our students to think beyond their disciplines and think about research that advances knowledge to create not just social change but also economic change on a wider scale – to create collective impact over isolated impact. We need to teach our students to think about becoming boundary spanners from academia to community to business to government when they do research.

We must sustain economic conditions that continue to make it possible for student research to be financially supported by granting agencies while also creating collaborative and funding opportunities with philanthropists, business and industry to deploy their research in providing data and analysis to make informed economic decisions that decrease financial disparity. Students need to think about the potential extra-academic impact of their research across disciplines, sectors – and even social media networks.

Living in a knowledge society with technology to exchange knowledge faster and broader does not necessarily mean breaking the cycle of wicked problems. Knowledge mobilization takes that knowledge sharing one step further to action and impact. Research without knowledge mobilization has isolated impact. Research with action, community-engagement and public-private partnerships has collective impact. Connecting research to knowledge mobilization and scaling it broader to innovation in business and industry leads to wide-ranging social and economic changes that will then begin to break the cycle of wicked problems. It takes a commitment to educate our children, our students and our communities to create knowledge that ensures the cycle of wicked problems will not continue in the future so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

A Thought Piece On Knowledge Transfer & Exchange/Knowledge Mobilization

knowledge to action

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

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

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

What could be wrong with transferring any knowledge in general?

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

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

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

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

So why is this the case?

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

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

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

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.

The Difference Between KM (Knowledge Management) & KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)

Anyone who carefully observes the continuing development of Knowledge Mobilization – particularly by means of social media – will recognize the difference between KM (Knowledge Management) and KMb (Knowledge Mobilization). Among knowledge mobilizers, knowledge brokers, researchers and researcher-users, the distinction is fairly clear; but for others the two terms continue to seem synonymous. They are not.

The field of Knowledge Management (KM) was established as a discipline in 1991. An important KM work addressing what was earlier referred to as organizational knowledge was written by Ikujiro Nonaka who made the early connection between tacit knowledge (experiential) and explicit knowledge (articulated, codified, and stored) with knowledge conversion – the interaction of these forms of knowledge – particularly to enhance an organisation’s efficiency, productivity and profitability. KM places a strong emphasis on corporate knowledge culture. Nonaka used the following model to demonstrate:

The field of knowledge Mobilization (KMb) continues to emerge, roughly established within the past decade. Early-on Knowledge Mobilization also adopted KM as an abbreviated identifier, but is now using KMb to make a clear distinction. Some of the early KMb literature refers to knowledge mobilization as KM, which also causes some unfortunate confusion. For a very brief KMb history lesson click here.

I recently tweeted about the distinction between KM and KMb after thinking about ways to make the difference more concise and better understood. My tweet:

Knowledge Management (KM) is the content; Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is the process.

Knowledge Management is about strategies and practices of organizing information to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge in a systematic manner within an organizational structure. It is the seemingly confined content of knowledge.

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 corporate or organizational structure, but for the greater benefit of all in society.

It is the more corporate and organizationally confining factor of KM that makes it different from the socially inclusive and contributory factor of KMb.

To provide an analogy: Knowledge Management is like a cup that contains and provides structure; Knowledge Mobilization is like the liquid that can fill the cup to overflowing – always open to the multidirectional flow and input of knowledge from many sources that contributes to the constant liquid being poured for and provided by everyone. Is knowledge ever a limited source?

Both KM and KMb are important for knowledge development. But the distinction must be made between the KM content and the KMb process; the KM organizational or corporate confinement of knowledge and the KMb social or community flow of knowledge.

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?