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

Tag Archives: social innovation

Increasing The Academic & Innovation Grade

Innovation 1

What is innovation? Is it simply coming up with a new idea; is it creating a new design or product; is it developing a new process?

In research terms, innovation is essentially linked to improvements in the application of knowledge towards advancements in science and technology. Knowledge mobilization is making research useful to society. As such, knowledge mobilization is a process that enables innovation that stems from research initiatives between community and academia that is moving beyond community engagement to partnerships that lead to more far-reaching ideas and strategies.

According to Stanford University Centre for Social Innovation:

“A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.”

The Conference Board of Canada defines innovation as:

“A process through which economic or social value is extracted from knowledge—through the creating, diffusing, and transforming of ideas—to produce new or improved products, services, processes, strategies, or capabilities.”

Despite the emerging influence of Canada in the knowledge mobilization field over the past decade, and the impact that university research has had by becoming more accessible and receptive to community partners – recent statistics still show that Canada remains near the bottom of countries with the highest development of successful innovation strategies.

While examples of Canada’s success in the knowledge mobilization field can be seen through the great collaborative work of a pan-university network such as ResearchImpact, why is there still a disconnect with greater successful innovation despite historic investments in Canadian research and development through knowledge mobilization?

Perhaps the answer is in the lack of initiative of the private-sector in working more closely with the public-sector as evidenced by the disappointing grades given to Business Enterprise R&D spending (“D”) compared to Public R&D spending (“B”).

Another key message put forth by the Conference Board of Canada is that Canada must perform at the cutting edge and attract the brightest students to careers in science and engineering or it will continue to fall behind our peers on this indicator.

In these particular areas, York University – part of the ResearchImpact network – continues to lead the way through its knowledge mobilization initiatives creating greater innovation by offering opportunities for graduate students to work more closely with business through research-funders like Mitacs, York’s entrepreneurship program Launch YU, and business mentoring with ventureLAB.

York University has also recently opened the Lassonde School of Engineering which was established, in the words of its Dean, Janusz Kozinsi, “to educate (a) new type of engineer — someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, a social conscience and a sense of global citizenship who is a highly-trained professional in their field and across many disciplines.”

Today, knowledge mobilization provides opportunities for innovation to continue to emerge and address the challenge of improving Canada’s performance on the innovation stage. We may still have a way to go on an international level to compete against other countries for more successful innovation; yet on a Canadian level York University is a clear example of taking the right steps to providing opportunities for future innovators such as graduate students – an example worth following to not only increase the academic grade but also the innovation grade.





Why attend the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Forum 2014?

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Why attend the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Forum 2014?

It’s a genuinely important question to ask as there are so many other events or conferences that you may be considering attending this year.

The Canadian KMb Forum provides a variety of engaging relationships that developed and continue to develop out of the first Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum in 2012 in Ottawa. Last year’s KMb Forum in Toronto gathered attendees from 10 countries and lead to the successful inaugural “sister” event in the UK in London this past February 2014.

And for one of the most original and amusing report titles…

  • 2013 UK KMb Forum Report – A cat, an elf-lord and a spaceman walked into a room … the first
    UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum had begun (scroll to page 283)

Four themes were part of last year’s Canadian KMb Forum: Building on existing capacityand building new capacity; Learning from each other – Comparisons across sectors; The Next Generation —Students and Apprentices in knowledge mobilization; and Methods, Tools, and Theories – The Art and Craft of knowledge mobilization.

This year’s theme Putting Research to Work: Social & Economic Innovation continues to build on the conversations started since the inaugural event in 2012 and continues the history of co-construction of knowledge and shared understanding.

The event takes place June 9th and 10th in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As one of the organizers and KMb Forum report writers I am pleased to see this theme as an extension of knowledge mobilization that can lead to social and economic innovation.

Here are 10 reasons why it’s important to attend the Canadian KMb Forum:

  1. The Canadian KMb Forum will provide an opportunity to learn about key issues in the knowledge mobilization field that pertain to a wide variety of sectors.  Attendees come from a mix of sectors including health, academia, children & youth services, workplace safety, environment, addictions & mental health, education, disability services, business, agriculture, domestic violence and social services – and the 2014 KMb Forum promises a similar mix.
  2. The Canadian KMb Forum is a place to meet people and learn about organizations addressing how to make research more useful to society through knowledge mobilization activities.  The Canadian KMb Forum will provide learning and professional development experiences for students, practitioners and scholars (“pracademics“) and other stakeholders interested about and/or working in knowledge mobilization from around the world.
  3. The Canadian KMb Forum will bring people together who have established a relationship on social media and will provide in-person connections from those relationships – as well as continue to invite remote participants to join via social media.  It will also initiate new relationships with others that can be continued by social media.
  4. The Canadian KMb Forum will be a chance to learn about professional and student jobs, projects and funding possibilities that further advance and compliment the successes of such outcomes that were created by previous KMb Forums as part of the work we are engaged in as KMb professionals.
  5. The Canadian KMb Forum will offer valuable insight into the experiences of others who face challenges similar to yours, as well as learning about approaches to find concrete solutions to create benefit from the results of research in your field and other sectors through social and economic innovation strategies.
  6. The Canadian KMb Forum will present opportunities to learn about publications and other KMb resources relevant to your areas of interest, and create ideas for articles, books, blogs and other professional and social media writing.
  7. The Canadian KMb Forum promises to help establish and strengthen existing partnerships locally and globally in promoting knowledge mobilization efforts around the world.
  8. The Canadian KMb Forum will identify opportunities for knowledge mobilization within various professions and the possibility of developing communities of practice (CoPs) within your own local community.
  9. The Canadian KMb Forum will provide a space for you to demonstrate your commitment to your profession in making the world a better place through knowledge mobilization efforts.
  10. The Canadian KMb Forum is taking place in a central city of Canada with urban parkland trails, the breathtaking South Saskatchewan River beneath vibrant skies on the edge of nature with endless beauty that allows you to become familiar with the area, culture and entertainment that makes Saskatoon an ideal place to hold Canada’s third Knowledge Mobilisation Forum.

For further information and to register click here.  I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow knowledge mobilizers at the Canadian KMb Forum!

A New University Paradigm


Universities are considered one of our most reliable and cherished knowledge sectors with great expectations of delivering quality education and world-leading research. There has been increased pressure on universities for financial income and resources along with increased pressure from government granting agencies that expect a valuable public and/or private return of investment for providing research funding. With the creation of CIHR in 2000, Canadian health researchers were required to articulate knowledge translation strategies in their grant applications. Some NSERC funding programs require commercialization strategies. In 2011 SSHRC launched its renewed program architecture which requires all grant applications to have a knowledge mobilization strategy. This created an expectation that universities will effectively address social and economic issues and spend their money wisely – along with a mandate from the granting councils to incorporate knowledge mobilization and technology commercialization strategies into research grant applications.

So why aren’t some universities still not doing this?

If universities are to deliver the most promising benefits of knowledge and research for society and meaningfully follow funding guidelines an approach needs to be considered about how research is conducted. This approach needs to include those inside and outside the university who contribute to the research and social/economic innovation process. This is where knowledge mobilization comes in.  Yet many universities still have an unenthusiastic and unresponsive attitude to integrating knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategies into the university structure itself.  Many universities still do not have an actual knowledge mobilization unit within their university, or worse have a great misunderstanding of what knowledge mobilization actually is and how to do it successfully – which is also often the reason why they fail to receive funding from granting agencies and continue to struggle financially.

The old university paradigm of receiving funding without a knowledge mobilization strategy is dead.

Universities see themselves to be in a risky situation as a result of economic pressures combined with increasing demand for quality research to provide social benefit.  In a climate of uncertain funding and a greater demand for valuable research, understanding how knowledge mobilization can bring opportunities to improve research, create social and economic innovation and affect government policy needs to be considered. When this is done it leads to important social and economic change.

Community-University partnerships and engagement are not new and have been around for at least a decade. Some examples include CUPP Brighton UK, CUP Alberta, Canadian Social Economy Hub, Emory University Center for Community Partnerships, and Concordia University’s Office of Community Engagement. In an informative journal club post David Phipps also discusses Mobilising knowledge in community-university partnerships.

So some universities get it and are definitely ahead of the game as the public sector benefits from these community-university collaborations.  Yet there are other universities who continue to ignore the broader benefits of such synergies. This is where greater work needs to be done to help the universities who continue to be stuck in old academic-infrastructure paradigms and help sustain community-university partnerships programs that do exist by the institutions themselves.

Developing long-term knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategies involves commitment and greater cooperation from all bodies of the university – staff, students, faculty, deans, vice-presidents, and governing councils; and most importantly from the university president.  It’s about multi-disciplinary and inter-departmental conversations to provide differing views from varying capacities to create an academic environment that provides social benefit that includes engagement within and beyond the walls of the university from many directions.

The greater return on investment for social benefit requires a broader approach to have faculty, university research services, knowledge mobilization unit knowledge brokers and university industry liaison offices work together across sectors instead of as separate university contacts and entities. A great start of this integrated approach comes from the University of Alberta which has amalgamated the Industry Liaison Office, the Research Grants Office and components of Research and Trust Accounting into an integrated Research Services Office. U of A thinks “the move to a “one-stop shop” provides researchers with more effective and streamlined services, with enhanced accountability and productivity.” However, a truly integrated approach that maximizes the impact of university research would also include a knowledge mobilization unit.

Canada has ten universities that are part of ResearchImpact – a knowledge mobilization network with further examples of such integrated structures. UQAM engages both research services and technology transfer in their support of knowledge mobilization; Offices of research services at both Wilfrid Laurier University and York University include technology commercialization as well as York’s KMb Unit as research grant support; and University of Victoria combines research partnerships and knowledge mobilization (but this does not include grants).

Another interesting pan university approach to supporting innovation is the appointment of Angus Livingstone and Innovation Catalyst. Formerly head of the UILO, Angus took up this new post in February 2014. It is too early to know what impact this new position will have but one can only hope that it embraces social as well as economic and technology innovation.

A further set-back for Canadian universities is the recent Canadian government announcement in its 2014 budget of a $10-million College Social Innovation Fund connecting colleges with community-based applied research needs of community organizations.  Colleges and polytechnic institutions have traditionally been places for trade learning and apprenticeship. It now looks like they are stepping up into the league of universities to create social and economic innovation. It may be great news for colleges – not so much for universities; especially those who haven’t already started community-university engagement.

This infusion of capital into Canadian colleges for social innovation development has set back any future benefit and funding for Canadian universities who have not yet understood the connection between knowledge mobilization and social innovation, thereby creating a missed opportunity for certain universities to gain the lead on investment in knowledge mobilization and social and economic innovation.

As the saying goes…you snooze, you lose! So is your university a winner or a loser? 

Combining university knowledge mobilization units with university research services and industry liaison offices that engage with both community partnerships and business innovation opportunities all in a “one-stop-shop” can bring great returns on investment – socially and economically – for universities and communities – but some universities are sadly still far behind.


Overcoming Wicked Problems

One of the unfortunate contradictions of our time is that we have more knowledge and the ability to share our knowledge faster with greater numbers of people in the world than ever in our history – and yet we still have poverty, homelessness, climate change, hatred and war. These harms are referred to by social scientists as wicked problems.

It’s pretty amazing to think about the vast amount of knowledge that we have available to us to share with billions of people to make the world a better place than ever in the history of humanity.  Social media, for example, gives us huge amounts of knowledge – global knowledge to share, to share more quickly, to translate more easily – and yet, these social problems still exist.

We can communicate with people anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, and we have almost instantaneous access to knowledge that years ago would have taken a long time to receive or translate – but what is the purpose of sharing knowledge so quickly, what is the purpose of sharing knowledge if we still can’t overcome these wicked problems?

These are questions I ask myself quite frequently. Why are we still grappling with these wicked problems if we have the ability to share knowledge so much easier today? What is the connection between shared knowledge and wicked problems? Ultimately, I think it comes down to the deeply ingrained human failings of greed, control and abusive power. Will such human failings ever be eliminated? Probably not. Does that mean we should just give up? Certainly not. For those who want to continue to be part of the solution and not the problem -the answers are social innovation and knowledge mobilization.

Social innovation is finding new ways to address persistent social, cultural or environmental challenges. Knowledge mobilization is the process of sharing knowledge for social benefit.

We’ve heard that old saying knowledge is power. I think this an out-dated understanding of power that needs to go. It’s time to replace this old selfish notion with sharing knowledge is power – but in the sense of a collective power for social benefit for all humanity. It’s the way we share our knowledge that’s important.

How do we share our knowledge?  How do we use social media? To communicate understanding? To spread peace, love and compassion? To focus on eliminating poverty, homelessness, hatred or war? Or do we try to control the many things that we think we need to control – promoting ideologies and doctrines that are more divisive than inclusive? Sometimes we spend so much of our knowledge and energy selfishly wasting time or trying to control things and other people that we end up seeming like we have power or “the truth”. Forget about “the truth”. Truth is different for everyone. Sharing knowledge to create understanding and overall social benefit is what brings us together.

Until we can overcome the things that divide us, we are still powerless – we only seem to have power but our energies are still misdirected. When we find positive ways to share our knowledge for overall social benefit we can begin to eliminate wicked problems, and the more we’re able to do so – as each person recognizes our collective humanity – the more our knowledge will grow, and the less wicked problems will occur . . . it’s one of those very positive cycles that only each of us contributing together for everyone on this planet can put into motion.
We all have the knowledge of what needs to be done to overcome wicked problems – even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming human impulses.  What are you doing to share this knowledge to overcome wicked problems?