Post Cards from Congress – Day 6

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

How things have changed…

The first Congress I attended was in 2008 at the University of British Columbia. I spent a few days at the ResearchImpact booth talking to people about the work we do. Back then, I spent a lot of time talking about what knowledge mobilization was. People weren’t familiar with the term and were often confused by it. Usually after sharing a story or two about a research project that used knowledge mobilization they would understand.

This time around, I have spent a lot less time explaining what knowledge mobilization and more time talking about how we do knowledge mobilization. I’ve been getting the sense that researchers I’ve been talking to here at Congress get the concept of knowledge mobilization and are actively engaged in it.

And it hasn’t just been researchers from only certain disciplines; I’ve talked to people in Geography, Communications and Culture, Women’s Studies, Political Science and more. I’ve also talked to a lot more community based researchers than I have at other academic conferences.

It has been a great to see a shift in the conversation and to have substantial discussions about different knowledge mobilization activities and methods with researchers from across Canada.

Post Cards from Congress – Day 5

Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake

View of Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

What are the chances?

On Wednesday morning at breakfast, I grabbed the first seat I could find at a table where five people were chatting with each other.  Unlike my fellow York KMb colleagues, Michael and David, I am decidedly not a morning person and don’t have a lot to say before I have some coffee, so I was concentrating on my breakfast when I suddenly heard, “I think Yaffle is the best example of that”. For readers who may not know, Yaffle is an online platform that connects innovators in Newfoundland and Labrador with knowledge and expertise at Memorial University and is a tool used by RIR members The Harris Centre.

It turns out the topic of their conversation was the development a database to help match up researchers and community partners for collaborative research projects. I talked to them about our brokering activities at York and how we mainly rely on our networks to identify possible partnerships.

But this question of using a database to identify potential research partners came up a few more times during the day. I was asked by a few visitors to our booth if we use a database in our brokering activities. This got me thinking about the value of using this type of tool for research collaborations.

Besides the usual technical complications of developing and maintaining this type of database, I wonder about its role in identifying and supporting research partnerships- Would it replace face-to-face brokering? Would it compliment it? Would it just be a starting place for the partnership or could you potentially establish a “virtual” partnership, say on a global research project?

Not sure I have the answers to these questions. I would be interested in hearing other people’s views on the subject. Does anyone have any experience using databases for knowledge brokering? How does it fit in with face-to-face brokering?

upStream Open House – Getting Fresh in York Region / Soirée porte ouverte d’upStream : fraîcheur garantie pour la région de York

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

York Region Food Network is addressing the issue of food security through an interesting and innovative project. Through collaborative partnerships and a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, upStream Aquaponics has been launched to pilot sustainable and healthy food development throughout the year.

Le réseau alimentaire de la région de York (York Region Food Network) aborde le problème de l’insécurité alimentaire par un moyen original et innovant. Grâce à des partenariats et des collaborations, et avec une bourse des Centres d’excellence de l’Ontario, upStream Aquaponics a entrepris de guider, au cours de l’année qui vient, le développement durable de l’offre d’aliments sains.

AquaponicsYork KMb had the pleasure of attending an Open House for a project led by the York Region Food Network (YRFN) which has realized development of an aquaponics lab – an urban agriculture innovation hub.  This facility is located in Newmarket, ON, steps away from the GO train station in Newmarket.   Approximately 30 people attended to learn more about the aquaponics lab and to tour the facilities.  YRFN Executive Director Joan Stonehocker addressed the crowd in attendance, identifying that this experiment is an important step for YRFN and the local community to address sustainable food development, healthy eating and food security for neighboring communities.

The KMb Unit at York University was approached by YRFN to partner in support of a research and development opportunity for their successful Ontario Centres of Excellence application, which provided direct funding support for the development of the aquaponics lab.  According to YRFN, the lab is producing 800 heads of lettuce each month and almost 150 tilapia.  Food is distributed through the Good Food Box program to underprivileged residents in the community, local restaurants as well as through an emerging retail operation.

With food insecurity identified by YRFN and United Way York Region as a community priority, KMb is a proud partner of this project and is seeking engagement from interested researchers on an ongoing basis.  Efficacy, economic, health and environmental themes are all prevalent in the development of an aquaponics lab.  Our office was also proud to support an event on Friday April 4, which YRFN hosted around Food Waste.  York graduate students and researchers from the University of Guelph participated in the presentations and workshops that were aimed to promote education, awareness and an action agenda around food security and food waste management in York Region.

KMb engages in a wide range of activities bridging and enabling research to help inform public policy and professional practice.  Based on the samples I was able to consume following the Open House, YRFN and their upStream project are well positioned to have a significant and positive impact on communities in York Region.  Add a nice balsamic vinaigrette and we’re taking KMb to the next level!

Aquaponic Lettuce

communityBUILD / BÂTIR ensemble

David Phipps, RIR-York

CommunityBUILD is a unique partnership between community, business and the university that is creating a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region. Combining the assets of different sectors creates opportunities that none could support working alone.

BÂTIR ensemble est un partenariat unique entre la communauté, le monde des affaires et l’Université. Son objectif est de créer un réseau de soutien et d’appui aux entreprises d’économie sociale de la région d’York. En alliant leurs atouts, les trois secteurs ouvrent des possibilités qui ne s’offrent pas à chacun d’eux pris isolément.

build: construct (something) by putting parts or material together (Oxford English Dictionary)

BUILD: a program of ventureLAB “designed to support entrepreneurs of technology ventures – especially first time entrepreneurs.” (http://bit.ly/1pKUsW6)

communityBUILD: a program of ventureLAB (VL), United Way York Region (UWYR) and York University designed to create a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region.

This past week communityBUILD ran the first Mash Up. Mash Up sought to identify new ideas to address to grand challenges in York Region: youth employment and food security.

Jeremy O'Krafka, Mentor Network

Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Network

An open call was made for innovators and their supporters to submit ideas that addressed one or both of these grand challenges. Twenty nine ideas were submitted. Nine were selected to come to the Mash Up. Within 45 minutes of the first day these were down to four: one addressing food security, one addressing youth employment and two of them addressing both.

Over two days of Mash Up and one day of work the four teams of between three to six team members worked with mentors from VL, UWYR and York to develop their ideas. These four ideas were then pitched to a panel of social entrepreneurs and community builders. Each had the chance to secure $5,000 of consulting services, become a VL client and receive VL mentoring.

  • Upstream New Gardens Initiative is a project of York Region Food Network that sought to build on its existing hydroponics facility and use sale of hydroponic lettuce to fund Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Networkfood awareness programs.
  • Mentor Network seeks to match youth job seekers with experienced mentors who will use their own networks to help make a match between youth and the 80% of jobs that are never advertised through traditional recruitment methods such as job fairs. Mentor Network will pilot with Seneca College students.
  • Hon’r Snacks places healthy food snack towers in offices and proposes to use youth from the NEET (not in employment, education, training) group to stock the towers.
  • Cultivating Opportunities builds on the established therapeutic connection between nature and young people living with mental illness and addictions to provide farmers with steady employees. Youth with lived experience of mental illness and addictions will work on the farm and be paid in vegetables that they can then sell as healthy food baskets in farmers markets or to office workers.

From a one minute pitch on Monday morning to a 10 minute presentation on Thursday all four groups successfully went on a journey with their mentors through the Lean Start Up and the Business Model Canvass.

Keys to success of the Mash Up were:

  • A clear call for projects addressing critical issues important to York Region
  • A well structured journey
  • Mentors to guide along the journey so that teams were actively supported every step along the way
  • Experienced judges to provide critical feedback
  • A pool of talent in York Region and the GTA open to growth and opportunity
  • Three partners each bringing unique assets to the table

communityBUILD is a partnership between the academic, community and business sectors. It is not a campus centric incubator. It is not charity. It combines the power of lived experience in community with the discipline of business with the perspective of academia. Each partner contributes unique assets that combine in complementary ways to create a system of supports for social enterprise. The Mash Up is the first roll out of communityBUILD that has already helped four new ideas move toward implementation. They aren’t social enterprises yet but they have started on a path that will support their early exploration.

Neither VL, UWYR nor YorkU have a mandate to support social enterprise. Only by working together and combining their assets could a regional system of supports for social enterprise be developed that promises to grow from the Mash Up into a new player in the social and economic infrastructure of York Region.

See coverage of communityBUILD in the Toronto Star.

 

Commnuity BUILD - Mashing Up at the Markham Convergence Centre

Community BUILD – Mashing Up at the Markham Convergence Centre

 

Imagining Canada’s Future: Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council invites you to look at vital questions impacting Canadians over the next 5, 10 and 20 years…

TundraQuestion: “What knowledge do we need to thrive in an interconnected landscape and how can emerging technology help leverage that goal and its benefits?”

Answer: We need Information and Communication Technologies solutions for Canada’s arctic to mobilize its cultural resources for community development

JOIN US for an in-depth interactive presentation

THURSDAY MARCH 20, 6-8pm

@ MaRS 101 College Street, Toronto

York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit Manager, Michael Johnny, will introduce members of the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage research team:  led by Dr. Anna Hudson; with co-investigator, Prof. Angela Norwood; doctoral candidate, Erin Yunes; and Industry Partner, IsumaTV, represented by Gabriela Gámez and John Hodgins

RSVP here Light refreshments will be served

A Knowledge Broker’s Perspective on Research / Recherche : le point de vue d’un courtier de connaissances

Michael Johnny, RIR-YorkU

This story was originally posted on the Mitacs website on Janaury 24, 2014 and is reposted here with permission.

Ce récit a été publié la première fois sur le site Mitacs, le 24 janvier 2014. Il est repris ici avec permission.

Michael Johnny

Michael Johnny

I have a unique and enjoyable role at York University as a knowledge broker.  My role is to connect York researchers with community, industry and government for collaborative research on complex social issues, which fits well with the type of work Mitacs does.  Knowledge mobilization is a key way to make the work done at universities relevant to greater society by helping shape policies and practices and by driving technological development through academic and industry collaborations.

There are three fundamental aspects of knowledge mobilization which I feel are important:

1. Co-produced knowledge is the most effective form of knowledge mobilization

Simply put, collaborative research projects provide the best environment for research utilization.  York’s David Phipps has introduced this previously and our work to support graduate student internships has reinforced this.  Bringing together researchers with decision makers at the start of the research cycle creates a clear and common research agenda, to maximize the benefits of outcomes.  There are two examples based on internships which we like to share with people that reinforce this point, one around youth homelessness and the other about green economic development.

2. Benefits of the research can take time

Since 2006, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has helped support almost 400 unique collaborative activities and projects.  Almost 50 of these have been internships.  This has not only helped students develop new skills and employment opportunities, it has also helped their non-academic partner organizations through research knowledge and access to university facilities. But while collaborative projects sometimes don’t provide impact immediately upon completion, many benefits can be seen longer term.  Impact can take time.

3. Relationships matter

The ability to facilitate a two-way exchange of knowledge, information and expertise relies on a strong relationship between researchers and decision makers.  Graduate student internships are a powerful mechanism to support knowledge mobilization.  Many of our success stories at York are predicated on successful internships.  If you want to embark on a successful internship, make the time to get to know your partner and understand them – their needs, motivations and assets.

Has your company benefitted from knowledge mobilization with a university?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Want to learn more about how Mitacs internships are helping to connect Canadian researchers with industry?  Contact a local Mitacs representative.

Sustainability and Institutionalization of Knowledge Brokers / Permanence et présence institutionnelle des courtiers de connaissances

Human Resources word cloudDavid Phipps (RIR-York) recently posted a knowledge mobilization journal club on “Sustainability and institutionalization of knowledge brokers”. The journal club post discusses two research articles. This blog reflects on the leadership of human resources and knowledge mobilization.

David Phipps (RIR-York) vient de publier un billet sur le thème de « la permanence et la présence institutionnelle des courtiers de connaissances », sur la page du cercle de lecture sur la mobilisation des connaissances. Il y passe en revue deux articles de fond. Le blogue lui-même est un lieu de réflexion sur l’influence des ressources humaines et de la mobilisation des connaissances.

The knowledge mobilization journal club made the following reflection:

What these two articles really demonstrate but do not dig into is the lack of leadership and management of knowledge brokers in these two settings. The brokers at U. Edinburgh are (I am guessing) hired by the researchers who hold the grant funds and (I am guessing) have little experience in knowledge mobilization and knowledge brokering. Effective leadership and management would address a number of the issues identified by the knowledge brokers. Effective leadership and management would:

  • work with HR to clarify roles and ensure that compensation is aligned
  • provide opportunities for training
  • support mentorship and peer networks
  • ensure that evaluation and assessment were aligned with clarity of roles and supported by training and mentoring
  • hire the right people for the right roles

I thought we should check into how we’re doing this at York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit:

  • work with HR to clarify roles and ensure that compensation is aligned
    • We recently (2013) reviewed and updated the job description for the Manager, Knowledge Mobilization (Michael Johnny) and in 2012 we recruited the Knowledge Mobilization Officer (Krista Jensen) into a new unionized position. These roles were rated and banded in accordance with university policies. They are centralized research support services in the Office of Research Services under the Vice-President Research & Innovation. It is important to keep job descriptions current to embrace scope creep and remove redundant tasks.
  • support mentorship and peer networks
    • We have tried to develop a Peer to Peer Network on campus but it has never taken off. It’s not that anyone thinks this is a bad idea but with everyone’s busy schedule it never seems to make it to the top of the priority list. The RIR brokers have an active peer network.
  • ensure that evaluation and assessment were aligned with clarity of roles and supported by training and mentoring
    • We can do better here. Michael is evaluated on outcomes and accomplishments but we have yet to create an environment where he has time, incentives and rewards for engaging in the literature and evidence on knowledge mobilization.
  • hire the right people for the right roles
    • I think we have- both Michael and Krista have a combination of academic and non-profit experience. We have recently hired Anneliese Poetz (KT Manager) and Elle Seymore (KT Coordinator) for NeuroDevNet again with combinations of academic and non-academic expertise. We also work closely with Jane Wedlock, Knowledge Mobilization Officer for United Way York Region who was hired in 2011 to work on joint projects between UWYR and York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit. Jane brings deep experience in community engagement.

It is important to realize we have taken seven years to get here. In the early years Michael Johnny suffered from role ambiguity as we built the role together. Until his position was made permanent in 2009 he was in a limited term contract. We had few role models (thank you Harris Centre and Cupp) and no local expertise to build on. Training was on the job and professional development was non-existent. But seven years on we have a leadership team (Vice-President as Executive Lead, Executive Director and Knowledge Mobilization Manager) that is committed to providing a challenging environment where it is possible to achieve success in knowledge mobilization.

As I reflected in a related post for the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization, “Leadership in knowledge mobilization has less to do with the practice of knowledge mobilization and more with the ‘business’ of knowledge mobilization.” Managing human resources is at the centre of the work of any knowledge mobilization operation. Without happy and hard working knowledge brokers there is no ‘business’ of knowledge mobilization.