KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: society

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.

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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!

How Do We Define Effective Impact Of Research Knowledge?

Impact

Impact can be defined as: a powerful or major influence or effect; a force or impression of one thing on another – or an economic, social or cultural change or benefit to the quality of life within society.

If we apply this to the potential impact of research – impact can be defined as a measurable change in policy, services or products. However, researchers don’t make policy, they usually don’t offer services, and they generally don’t produce products. It is government (public sector) who makes policy, community organizations (voluntary sector) who mostly deliver services, and industry (private sector) who create products. Researchers develop knowledge which can lead to impact, but remember that some research knowledge has no impact at all.

Impact is not measured by the production of knowledge alone. Impact is measured by the application of knowledge. Impact is measured not at the level of research knowledge-producer but at the level of the end-user.

An excellent framework demonstrating impact comes from the knowledge mobilization unit at York University. This framework, called The Co-Produced Pathway to Impact was developed by David Phipps, Executive Director, Research and Innovation Services at York University in collaboration with PREVNet (a Network of Centres of Excellence promoting research and KMb to prevent bullying).

To understand how impact is measured at the level of the end-user, it’s important to understand the beginning process of KMb that leads to social innovation.

How and What KMb

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) helps make research useful to society with the HOW of creating a shared space of collaboration between community and campus…that leads to the WHAT of social innovation.

Co-production to Impact

The shared space of collaboration creates the Co-Production of research knowledge leading to the Activity of knowledge Dissemination. The Output of KMb is the Uptake of this knowledge by the public, voluntary and private sectors to assess its value, leading to the Outcome of Implementation of the research knowledge. The measureable change in policy, services or products is the Impact. However, it is the on-going Co-Production through the process that leads to Impact.

The measure of effective impact is both social and economic, such as an increase in constructive public policy and services creating wider benefit for a full range of people, as well as the measure of competitive municipal, regional and national economic performance on a global scale.

From a healthcare perspective to enhance the quality of life, Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) makes it easy to understand the process of KMb to Impact in his message in CIHR’s recent five-year strategic plan:

“Ultimately, health research is about helping people to be healthier. But while there is one definitive destination (Impact), there are many paths to get there. It may be through the development of new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, or promote population health. It may be through providing the evidence that supports the delivery of the health services Canadians need, when and where they need them. And it may be through the commercialization of a health research discovery to make a new product or service available in the marketplace.”

The social and economic impacts on health include the improvement of outcomes for patients, enhanced disease prevention, a change in healthcare practice that leads to greater public awareness of health risks and benefits, and constructive behavioural changes in such things as diet, exercise, habits and routines. This also includes having the costs of treatment or healthcare become more accessible and affordable as a result of changes in policy and practice.

Other social and economic impacts occur when there has been an influence on the development of policy (including a better understanding of policy) by providing services or products that shape legislation and change behaviour – including the development of personal and practical skills, as well as the on-going training of highly skilled people.

The challenge of creating effective impact is that impact is not something that happens quickly. Just as change takes time to achieve – so too, effective impact takes time.

As CIHR President, Alan Beaudet states, “there are many paths to get there” so effective impacts may occur more readily in some sectors or disciplines and not so much in others.

Impact may also change over time, so there is also a need for monitoring and re-evaluation.

There are also different contexts and diverse perspectives on what can be considered effective impact.

The bottom line of how to define effective impact of research knowledge is obviously the end result. Has there been an economic, social or cultural change or benefit to the quality of life within society? And has this change been scalable and sustainable to achieve wider benefit?

Ultimately, we need to be open to the possibility that impact is limited to different contexts (thank you PARIHS model) and can change based on new, emerging research knowledge, socio-economic shifts – and varying human behaviour – that creates a continuous cycle of co-produced pathways to impact every day.

Community BUILD Includes All Sectors Of Society

Community BUILD

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is about moving available knowledge into active use across a variety of sectors.  I recently made a comment about the requirement of action as part of KMb on a LinkedIn post which asked –

“Is teaching science knowledge mobilization?”

Knowledge Exchange + Action = KMb

KMb is most effective when knowledge is exchanged and co-produced with collaboration among all sectors of society for social benefit:

  • Community/Voluntary
  • Academic/Institutions
  • Business/Private Sector
  • Government/Policy Makers

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A great recent example showcasing the effectiveness of knowledge mobilization across sectors comes from the collaborative efforts of United Way York Region (Community/Voluntary) working with York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (Academic/Institutions) and ventureLab (Business/Private Sector) and funded by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment (MEDTE) through the Office for Social Enterprise (Government, Policy Makers).  Working across all sectors is the development of the Community BUILD program.

“Sitting at the intersection of community engagement and entrepreneurship, Community BUILD is a Collective Impact organization providing a system of supports for social ventures in York Region.

The overall objective of Community BUILD is to continue to develop a Regional system of supports for social enterprise that creates investment ready ventures that will create jobs, develop novel approaches to food security and youth employment in York Region and brand York Region and Ontario as leaders in social innovation.”

The development of such a collaborative knowledge mobilization/social innovation program is an example of creating social benefit that includes all sectors of society.  The Community BUILD program is knowledge mobilization leading to social innovation through action that includes entrepreneurial and government knowledge and investment.  Although MEDTE has provided government backing for the Community BUILD pilot project, there is a continued call to action for government policy makers to sustain such an important program.

Without the inclusion and support of government/policymakers in such programs that can create social and economic benefit knowledge remains limited – like those that consider teaching science as knowledge mobilization.

Trying to get students “interested” in developing knowledge in science, technology, engineering and/or math may be public engagement but it’s not knowledge mobilization without student action. Similarly, trying to get government/policy makers “interested” in sustaining programs like Community BUILD may be government engagement but it’s not knowledge mobilization without policy maker action.

Creating sustainable action beyond mere student interest requires long-term engagement and knowledge exchange.

Creating sustainable action beyond mere initial government funding requires long-term engagement and policy-maker involvement.

The Community BUILD program is an example of effective KMb for social benefit that includes all sectors. Let’s hope government continues to be part of this innovative solution as an included leader in social innovation and a continued part of the KMb model.

 

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.

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(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.

Universities & Research In A Knowledge Society

paradigm shift

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) produces the potential to “cross-pollinate” knowledge and address complex challenges confronting society. KMb actively encourages making research useful to society. As such, both universities and communities have an important role to play in this process.

Today universities are no longer the strongholds of exclusive research and learning. We now live in a knowledge society that has created a variety of ways of doing research and developing knowledge – from socially conscious business development research to community-based participatory research to MOOCs to individual research online – all contributing to social benefit beyond the once elite-world of university-driven research.

KMb enables a multi-sectoral production to developing knowledge in our new knowledge society that can inform policy-makers in supporting the ability to create social change for social benefit. Because of this, KMb has reshaped the way universities need to think about community-university relations by creating opportunities of interdisciplinary engagement (within universities) and cross-sector engagement (externally).

Yet, just because we have experienced a knowledge revolution and now live in a knowledge society doesn’t mean universities don’t have a continuing and valuable research role to play. It just means universities need to adapt to this new paradigm as many industries needed to adapt during the industrial revolution.

Universities are the primary generators of new talent. Universities provide leverage, consistency, and the infrastructure that can’t be matched by the new knowledge society model of non-university research. It’s one of the extraordinary success stories of academia throughout the ages that they’ve been able to have such a worldwide impact with established structures and resources. As our research choices and our knowledge society continue to increase (yes, non-academic research continues to grow) it gets ever more important that universities make conscious choices about what knowledge mobilization strategies they want to support and how. Added to this are the pressures from grant funding agencies that require a social and economic return on investment from universities.

2014 saw the completion of a new approach (and pressures) in the UK with the Research Excellence Framework (REF) to assess the quality and impact of research being done by UK universities. Assessment outcomes are now being done and UK funding agencies intend to use these assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their research funding to universities beginning in 2015-16.

Australia also has the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) with the next round of research evaluations scheduled for 2015.

Although no such frameworks exists for universities in Canada or the Unites States, granting agencies are now requiring university researchers to articulate knowledge mobilization strategies in their grant applications to achieve outcomes of social and economic excellence.

Sociologist Joseph Ben-David – who died in 1986 – was prophetic in his book The Western University on Trial. Ben-David pointed out the then-emerging circumstances leading to these current pressures on universities today by identifying the shifting movement towards inclusion of non-academics in the decisions affecting university research. He saw the initial pessimism about the decline of university research (particularly scientific research) during his time in the 1970s and 80s which has now lead to the inevitable paradigm shift in university research that we see today.

Almost 30 years later there are still universities who are falling behind without a focus on research excellence and multi-sectoral, non-academic engagement to develop research in our knowledge society through knowledge mobilization strategies. Like industries lost in the industrial revolution, these universities will be left behind, shut down and forgotten if they also don’t adapt.

The thing about paradigm shifts is that they don’t happen overnight, yet those that don’t adapt die out. So, perhaps there’s still time.

The following are a few questions that may help universities and researchers think about how they want to allocate knowledge mobilization strategies and develop research excellence for social and economic benefit:

  • Is your university drawn to research that meets the needs of institutional “self-interest” right now, or to research that works towards long-term solutions that benefit society (not just the university) for the future?
  • Does your university prefer to support proven community-research partnerships or does more inward-focused research appeal to you?
  • How much institutional research impact and leverage do you seek?
  • Is your university still a research “spectator” watching how other universities excel in community-university partnerships or is your university more actively involved in creating potential community engagement?
  • How much of your university research activity is the result of opportunities and outreach from the university, and how much from unprompted funding? (Hint: universities do a lot of outreach because it benefits society, not because a granting agency tells them to. Universities will get more recognition by how they engage.)
  • What story do you tell yourself about your university and your community-university engagement?
  • Are you overly-focused on the number of peer-reviewed publications from your university researchers? Or does it make more sense to focus on the university’s research impact as it goes about creating social benefit? How will you decide to measure that research impact for social benefit, or does it not matter to you?

There are no perfect universities just as there are no perfect human beings. But the imperfection of human beings doesn’t keep us from engaging with each other – we just pick the “right fit” that best serves our mutual needs. The same goes with community-university engagement. Not every “cross-pollination” of knowledge will work in each context – but engaging with others outside the university to find the “right fit” in research is better than being isolated and being the university left behind in this new paradigm our knowledge society.

The Success Or Failure Of A Society Is Determined By How Knowledge Is Shared

success failure

The success or failure of a society is determined by how knowledge is shared. Knowledge is not only measured in terms of how much or how little we have but in how it is shared. A person may have an abundance of knowledge; however, without sharing knowledge and an openness to the knowledg of others knowledge can still be considered “useless” no matter how much knowledge a person has.

Yet it’s also important to not worry about how much or how little knowledge we have. The very act of sharing knowledge combines knowledge and creates opportunities for the benefit of society and the general public. This is the importance of knowledge – the action of sharing it for social benefit.

Knowledge Mobilization & Laws

laws

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) helps policymakers make evidence-informed decisions. The stability of a country and order in society are based on decisions to create rules and laws that benefit its citizens. Adhering to decisions and obeying laws are meant to give us freedom not oppression, keep us safe and not inflict harm. Although it may appear that laws are designed to restrict citizens, laws are created to bring freedom and safety if we obey them. A red traffic light means you’re not allowed to cross for danger of being hit or possibly killed. A “no entry” sign or a rope closing off an area may look insignificant but it represents a protection of your freedom and safety. Obeying laws include everyone in a society from the President, Prime Minister, Sovereign, Governor, Premier, Mayor or Council Member. If those who govern us don’t follow laws themselves the country will become unlawful and lead to chaos. However, laws are also based on best-practices and are evidence-informed. Laws – like our knowledge – can change and evolve.

This is why knowledge mobilization is so important to society. Knowledge mobilization is the process of providing policymakers with knowledge to make evidence-informed decisions that continue to make the world a better place and its citizens better people.

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 Validity

Remember that your own knowledge is valid if it makes you and/or others better people.

Knowledge Advancement

An advancement of society requires an advancement of knowledge.