KMbeing

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

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Active Listening As A Knowledge Mobilization Skill

Active Listening

In our office at the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University listening is one of the most important skills we can have to fully understand the concerns of our graduate students, staff and faculty, while properly supporting them in an academic/research environment. It seems that all of us can become so focused on our work that we can sometimes switch our hearing on and off. It can sometimes be frustrating the number of times some of us interrupt a person speaking before we can actually fully acknowledge what’s being said.

The unfortunate thing is that although we think we may be listening to what’s actually being said, sometimes it’s not always the case.

Several years ago I left a career in the airline industry as a flight attendant to embark on a career in university administration. As an In-Charge Flight Attendant one of the first things I was taught was to listen very carefully. Particularly in the event of any emergency situation, listening skills are crucial for dealing with any safety and security issues to effectively communicate important information to passengers and crew. As my grandmother used to say to me, “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order”. Although I learned to use my listening and communication skills daily, in reality – I admit – I sometimes fail to hear everything said to me. We don’t take in completely everything that is being said to us – and this is rather concerning.

Listening continues to be a major part of my day as I now work in a university setting – and rightly should be for anyone in any setting. We use listening to gain understanding, to exchange knowledge, and learn. If the important parts of understanding what is being said to us aren’t understood then it’s a problem. And if we don’t really listen to understand we’re missing out on important and often missed details.

Being an active listener – especially in the field of knowledge mobilization – will do a number of helpful things for you. It will improve the efficiency of your understanding, the clarity of your speaking and knowledge translation, as well as increase the cooperation of people involved in the conversation. You will avoid more misunderstanding, and improve rapport with a number of key players in your knowledge mobilization network – researchers, intermediaries and research users such as policy makers – and of course it will help improve your overall ability to effectively communicate.

To enhance your knowledge mobilization skills, you need to practice active listening. Active listening is making a conscious effort to listen carefully to not only the words being said but the meaning behind what’s being communicated as well. It’s not as easy as it sounds and requires continual practice.

Active listening as a general skill for any person – and as a knowledge mobilization skill for researchers, knowledge brokers, community partners and policy-makers requires all to remain very focused on what is being said by anyone in the research process. We need to pay attention to the stereotypes of power and politics, the marginalization of the often un-listened-to voices, and ideas of elitist knowledge sources – while also being able to form counter-arguments that can lead to the development of new knowledge. The moment we stop concentrating fully on every partner in the knowledge mobilization partnership we’ re no longer actively listening.

Knowledge mobilization is about communicating knowledge (particularly research knowledge) through listening and dialogue – and turning knowledge into action. Part of that action is paying complete attention to all research partners. We need to give each partner within the research process our undivided attention – and continue to acknowledge what is being said to continuously transform our knowledge within society. This also includes looking for all non-verbal communication as well as the words being said. Throughout the research process, the community-engagement process, the knowledge translation and exchange process, and the policy-making process all partners need to continue to show that they are listening – not just passively listening – actively listening. This is very powerful in continuing to develop and convey knowledge.

The other side of listening for better knowledge development is to give feedback. Our job as listeners is to clearly understand what is being said. Our job as knowledge mobilizers is to also check for understanding. We do this by asking questions and reflecting back what we think is being said. We need to ask questions. Researchers are usually very good at this; community-partners are sometimes hesitant to do so due to those ideas of elitist knowledge sources; and policy-makers sometimes forget to ask further questions. One of the easiest ways of asking questions and reflecting back to any speaker is to simply ask “what do you mean when you say…?” or  “ it sounds like what you’re saying is…” Summarize the knowledge you think is being conveyed and get them to correct your understanding if necessary.

Most importantly – don’t interrupt until an exchanged thought is complete. Don’t say things like, “no, no, no, no…” with hand gestures or body-language that summarily dismisses what another person is attempting to communicate. Interrupting is not only rude – it also wastes time and risks frustrating the individuals speaking to you. Such rude interruptions limit the conversation – and hence limit the potential for effective knowledge mobilization.

Included in giving feedback and not interrupting is the ability to make only appropriate responses. Active listening as a knowledge mobilization skill requires respect and accurate understanding. For more on listening and knowledge brokers please see Phipps & Morton (2013). We add nothing to the conversation by arguing inappropriately or attacking a point of view. Taking the time to not interrupt also provides an opportunity to critically think about what’s being said and how best to respond without a knee-jerk reaction.

This doesn’t mean we have to sugar-coat everything thing we say in response. It simply means being open and honest in our responses – while also being respectful in our opinions. We can convey what we mean and exchange our knowledge in a manner that is tactful and diplomatic – not by demeaning or talking-down to someone.

Active listening in everyday life and as a knowledge mobilization skill takes much practice, concentration and determination – but is worth the effort to turn knowledge exchange into an action for greater social benefit.

As a researcher, research partner or policy-maker, if you practice active listening as a knowledge mobilization skill and continue to remind yourself to include this in all of your communication with others, not only will your understanding of others improve – you’ll also be amazed at how much more you actually increase your knowledge to make the world a better place, and isn’t that the point?

Evidence-Informed Research versus “Best” Evidence Research

evidence-75x75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ups & Downs Of Knowledge Sharing

Ups and Downs

Why can’t all life’s knowledge sharing journeys be downhill? Because if there were no uphill climbs of knowledge exchange there would be no downhills of understanding.

A Path To Knowledge Understanding

path together

When confused or frustrated by another person’s knowledge think of it as a path between two points of possibility to engage and learn. Keep walking down the path with openness and you will arrive at common understanding and potential to make the world a better place.

Knowledge Mobilization with a K.I.S.S.

keep it simple

We live in a complex world and think that only a few “expert” people have the “intelligence” or “best” knowledge to teach us how to deal with the complexities on this planet if we’re to survive and thrive in this world. That seems to be what many people want us to believe – that only a few people have “expert” knowledge to share that can make a difference. What really matters is not how much knowledge we have but how knowledge is shared in order to improve our lives, our communities and our planet and make things better for ourselves, our humanity and our world. That is what knowledge mobilization is all about.

We diminish each of our lives when we think that the knowledge we have to share for social benefit isn’t “good enough” or we’re not “smart enough” by not committing ourselves to many causes and activities of global knowledge sharing to make the world a better place for everyone. Every bit of knowledge that is shared for social benefit and combined with someone else’s knowledge brings us closer to global understanding – despite living in a complex world. Knowledge sharing is about being open to the knowledge of others and knowing that even the “limited” amount of knowledge that you have to share can make a difference when it’s connected to the greater good of global knowledge sharing for social benefit to make the world a better place for everyone.

There are many who think that the world is too complex to create global change through global knowledge sharing. There are many who think that the world is made up of too many differences in customs, beliefs and ideologies that ultimately lead to extremes and insurmountable conflicts that overwhelm us and condemn us to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again and never learn from the knowledge of the past. There are many who think that society has too many wicked problems to overcome. Yes, the reality is that these wicked problems exist and the complexity of these wicked problems continues to create barriers to social improvement and global peace. But thinking that these problems are too complex for us to make a difference by not even contributing and sharing from the experiences and knowledge that each of us has to make the world a better place – or by simply leaving it to the “intelligent” knowledge “experts” to figure out only adds to the barriers that already exist.

Knowledge sharing for social benefit is actually simple, and only through the simple will we overcome complexity. Of course, we have to be open-minded and recognize that the differences that lead to our global complexities, fears, hatred and violence stem from ignoring our common humanity and opportunities to focus on combining our knowledge globally.

There is an expression keep it simple, stupid – or K.I.S.S.

I think that the “stupid” are those too close-minded to share knowledge for social benefit, who ignore opportunities for each of us to combine our knowledge globally rather than being too caught up in the personal insecurities about the value of our own knowledge or default to the knowledge of the “experts”.

Knowledge sharing for social benefit is simple. That doesn’t mean that we will avoid the complicated when it’s necessary to face it, but that we realize that the very action of making a start to share knowledge for global understanding can make the world a better place. It’s a simple thing and does not need to be complicated, for all of our knowledge has value when we share it and are open to the knowledge of others. When we combine our knowledge differences to focus on our common humanity we can create change or improvement for all in the world – and in so doing we can create knowledge with a K.I.S.S.

May The Knowledge Force Be With You

force

You have a strength, a knowledge force, a knowledge energy that can be shared with others; and because there is only one of you in all of time, your knowledge is unique. You bring to the world knowledge that is special and distinctive.  You are the only one of you that has ever existed, and the knowledge you share, the perspective you have to give is unlike any other person who has ever shared knowledge. Do you give yourself credit for this?

Do you spend any of your time trying to develop your knowledge? Do you try to learn new ways to share your knowledge force and continue to increase this knowledge energy that will help other people develop their own knowledge force and mobilize their knowledge energy to live their lives better, create social benefit and ultimately make the world a better place? This is what individual knowledge mobilization is all about.

It’s very important that we recognize and share our unique knowledge if we’re going to contribute to the world based on the knowledge we have developed in our own lives – no matter how little or how vast.  Each person’s knowledge contributes. It’s how we share this knowledge that makes the difference. Knowledge can be shared for good or harm.

We are all on knowledge-development journeys. Many people spend their lives trying to share their knowledge in exactly the same ways that they see others sharing knowledge, and they’re confused, discouraged or embarrassed when others don’t understand the uniqueness of each person’s knowledge force. Others may not understand this uniqueness but we must all remember that we each need to recognize that each of us has our own ways of contributing knowledge, ways that are exclusive to us and our life experiences.

Your knowledge force flows through you every day. How do you direct it? How do you translate this knowledge energy? What is the end-purpose of sharing your knowledge? How we share our knowledge is one of the most important aspects of who we are and who we become, and it’s completely up to us in how we share our knowledge and are open to the knowledge forces of others.

Compassion Of Being Open To Knowledge Leads To Wisdom

wisdom

Human beings fear ridule of their knowledge. We worry that others might say that we are stupid, not as knowledgeable, our understanding is limited, or our talk isn’t clear and so on. The important thing to remember is that no one is perfect, so why should we be so concerned with how we share our knowledge as long as we are sharing our knowledge for social benefit and not harm.  If we can bring into our lives more openness and not be so critical of our own ability and value of sharing knowledge, then life is more fulfilling.

A person who knows how to be open with oneself and others has compassion and knowledge that leads to wisdom. When we encounter others and are open to them when they may not seem as knowledgeable but are still willing to share their knowledge we are actually showing compassion and kindness and making the world a better place.

Why should we be so concerned with how much knowledge a person has if we are all on our own personal knowledge journies to keep increasing our knowledge and the knowledge of others when we are open to mobilizing knowledge together?

Knowledge That Promotes Understanding

understanding

In what ways do you replace harmful knowledge with knowledge that promotes understanding?

Without Sharing Knowledge There Is No Understanding

understanding

We live to seek understanding. Without sharing knowledge there is no understanding.  Where do we seek knowledge in life? Knowledge is found in beliefs and experiences – both personal and shared from others. As long as we share knowledge, understanding is within our lives. All of us seek understanding – to be understood and to understand others. Openness to others and the knowledge they have to share is the source of understanding.

Our interactions with others are opportunities for understanding and knowledge. We cannot live without knowledge. Knowledge brings liberation. If we are indifferent to others we are closed to understanding and further knowledge. We are then not free in life but chained by a lack of understanding. All people value sincerity and integrity. When our knowledge sharing with others is sincere and done with integrity, there is understanding.

How Do You Value Your Own Knowledge?

value

Do you forget the knowledge you’ve shared with other people, and only remember the knowledge that other people have shared with you? Do you only think about your own knowledge as “weak” or “worthless”? Are you willing to see the value of your own knowledge as contributing something good in the world – knowledge that is stronger than “weak” and more valuable than “worthless”? Knowledge shared with the intention of good has value. When you share your knowledge with this intention you are making a difference.

Are there conditions to sharing our own knowledge? I think the answer to this question depends on how we value our own knowledge and why we share our own knowledge. If we see our own knowledge as being “worthless” or “not good enough” then we have placed a condition on our own knowledge sharing. But if we see our own knowledge sharing as an act of love for all humanity, an act of love for our planet, an act of love for future generations, an act of love from our own remarkable potential, then there must be more to our own personal knowledge than “weak” and “worthless”. There must be more to our own personal knowledge sharing than “not good enough” to share.

And if there is more to our own knowledge and sharing of this knowledge with the intention of making the world a better place for everyone then we must acknowledge that at the heart of knowledge sharing, at the heart of knowledge mobilization is love. If we are to share our knowledge we must share our knowledge with this in mind. Knowledge can be shared with the intention for good and knowledge can be shared with the intention for harm. If we share our own knowledge with the intention for good, if we share our own knowledge with kindness and compassion, being open-minded to learning from the diversity of others and the diversity of knowledge on this planet, we begin to see the world and knowledge sharing in a different and beneficial light.

When we start to see the inherent value of knowledge from all people we encounter on this planet we begin to see the knowledge of all people as contributing something good in the world. Yes, there are conditions to sharing our own knowledge than simply seeing whose knowledge is “better” than others and measuring individual knowledge against each other. That’s because every person’s knowledge is much more than “weak” or “worthless”. The big question is, how do you value your own knowledge?