The Importance of Knowledge Mobilization in Benefiting Our Region

The following was first published by United Way York Region on June 4, 2012 and is reposted here with permission.

As a concept, Knowledge Mobilization was introduced in Canada in 2001-2002 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) and can be defined as putting available the knowledge gathered through research regarding social issues (poverty, housing, immigration, climate change, security, Aboriginal issues and social determinants of health) into active service to benefit communities.

As Universities are the main producers of new social science research, connecting academic knowledge to non-academic decision-makers about public policy can create significant change in our community and society in general. As such, United Way York Region (UWYR) is working proactively with York University to identify and address community priorities.

Since 2006, York University has employed a knowledge-mobilization unit to foster relationships between university research and non-academic partners. York’s Knowledge Mobilization unit currently houses three full-time knowledge brokers, one of whom works directly with us here at United Way York Region.

While we are continuing with our traditional role of supporting agencies to meet urgent needs, UWYR is also working hard to tackle the root causes of social issues. With the funding that was awarded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to York University and United Way early last summer, projects are underway that will draw on the university’s strong interdisciplinary research to respond to our community needs and systematic social challenges identified by United Way of York Region.

United Way York Region’s Strength Investments is an example of this innovation, providing seed funding to build civic muscle. Strength Investments bring community, faith, business and agencies together to work on simple, collaborative and unique solutions. The funding, which arose through research undertaken by three York University graduate students in the summer of 2010, represents a new way for us to support the rich, informal network of caring and ground-breaking solutions that already exists across the region.