Your Research Can Help Improve BC’s Housing Policy

Dale Anderson, Housing Policy Branch, British Columbia

Dale Anderson from the Housing Policy Branch in British Columbia provides this week’s guest blog post. 

Picture of apartment buildingBC’s Housing Policy Branch develops housing policy on behalf of the British Columbia provincial government. We work in three primary areas: social housing; affordable market housing; and strata (condo) housing. The branch also serves as liaison with BC Housing, the Crown corporation responsible for implementing the Province’s housing direction. We also work closely with the two other branches that, with Housing Policy, make up the Office of Housing and Construction Standards: the Residential Tenancy Branch, and the Building and Safety Standards Branch.

Not surprisingly given the importance of housing to individual households, communities and wider society, our work encompasses a wide range of policy issues. Some of the issues we’re interested in include:

  • The most effective strategies to prevent and address homelessness.
  • How depreciation reports and other measures help strata (condo) corporations better manage their common assets over the long term.
  • How best to structure rent supplement programs, to assist lower-income households.
  • How investor-owned, rented strata units affect the rental and the homeownership markets.
  • Housing affordability, including assessing how laneway and carriage housing, or access to good transit, affect affordability.
  • The preparedness of our communities and housing stock for the increase of seniors we will see in the coming years, and how best to support ‘aging in place.’
  • Where and how manufactured home parks best provide affordable housing options.
  • General economic conditions and demographic changes affecting housing.

The Housing Policy Branch would like better connections with researchers across BC (and elsewhere) doing housing and related research, to support us in our work. Your research can help improve housing policy in British Columbia, so please consider sharing it with us. Or, as readers of this blog might say, ‘mobilize your knowledge’ by sending it to a group of policy analysts interested in learning from you. We’d be pleased to receive summaries of your research findings, copies of your research, links to your websites, or notice of public presentations you do. You can reach us at housing.policy@gov.bc.ca.

Dale Anderson is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Housing Policy Branch. She can be reached at Dale.Anderson@gov.bc.ca. More information about the Housing Policy Branch and the Office of Housing and Constructions Standards is available at: www.housing.gov.bc.ca.

Knowledge Mobilisers: Putting Research into Practice (and Policy)

The following was originally posted on The Guardian’s Higher Education Network blog on October 9, 2012 and is reposted here with permission.

Maximising the impact of research on society depends on universities brokering the right partnerships with public policy, says David Phipps – and Canada is leading the way.

Good research should have a ripple effect on society and knowledge mobilisation can push it out.

Earlier this year on the Higher Education Network, I introduced knowledge mobilisation as a university-based process that connects academic social sciences and humanities research to non-academic decision makers to inform decisions about public policy and professional practice, enhance social innovation and develop sustainable solutions to social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges.

I then reflected on its past – the roots of knowledge mobilisation as we now understand it. In this third installment, I return to the present to see how York University in Toronto is supporting collaborations between researchers and partner to maximise the impact of research on society.

We started York University’s knowledge mobilisation practice by trying to push out existing research results to find “receptors” and soon realised that we needed more interactive methods of closing the gap that exists between research within a higher education context and the policy and practice which could use it. Researchers and their partners need to find a middle ground in which to collaborate so that research not only meets the academic standards of scholarship but is also relevant to non-academic partners.

Today York University’s knowledge mobilisation unit uses a suite of services available to faculty and students from all disciplines across the university. Our knowledge mobilisation staff help faculty and partners identify and develop research collaborations through meetings support, student interns and the use of social media as a connecting channel. We have recently published a report on our full range of services.

Continue reading

Social Media: Friend or Foe? / Médias sociaux: Amis ou Ennemis?

Is social media friend or foe of evidence? Social media tools are increasingly used to amplify medical debates and maximize engagement around research and evidence. But where is the evidence that social media works for knowledge mobilization?

Les médias sociaux sont-ils les amis ou les ennemis des données probantes ? Ils sont de plus en plus employés pour amplifier les débats dans le domaine médical ainsi que pour accroitre le recours à la recherche et aux données probantes. Mais où sont les preuves que les médias sociaux sont réellement utiles pour la mobilisation des connaissances.

Is social media friend or foe of evidence?  That was the question posed to a panel at the Canadian Association of Health Services and Policy Research annual meeting in rainy, rainy Halifax on May 11, 2011. David Phipps of ResearchImpact-York shared this panel with David Clements (Canadian Institute of Health Information) and Rob Fraser, Nursing grad student and author of The Nurse’s Social Media Advantage. The panel followed a plenary presentation by Andreas Laupacis, Executive Director, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Andreas used the case studies of Liberation Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis and the Herceptin story of Jill Anzarut to illustrate the emerging role of social media in the evidence dialogue among patients, their advocates and the health care system(s). Andreas’ conclusion was that social media risks privileging anecdote over evidence; therefore, it is incumbent on scientists to participate in social media or risk becoming marginalized. As one audience member put it “social media has burst the scientific research bubble and we no longer have the option to not use it”.

This set up the following panel which explored the role of social media in knowledge translation, “The Changing Landscape of KT: Social Media, Friend or Foe of Expert Knowledge?” David Clements started out by sketching the big picture of social media in research and evidence. Rob Fraser provided his reflections as someone who uses social media and is considering what it means to use social media tools in research: to collect data, share data and ideas, engage with stakeholders and disseminate results. David Phipps presented two case studies from ResearchImpact-York. We have written about Mobilizing Minds: Pathways to Young Adult Mental Health, most recently on November 8, 2010. David presented the new Mobilizing Minds video of young adults presenting the results of Mobilizing Minds research. Young adults expressed interest in receiving information about mental health from a variety of sources including online media.   Continue reading

There really are no new ideas / Il n’y a vraiment pas de nouvelles idées

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York)

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) is new but it is founded on established practices of knowledge brokering: linking researchers and decision makers who can co-produce knowledge and information to inform decisions about public policy and professional practice. The idea might not be new but we are implementing it in new ways.

Le réseau Impact Recherche est nouveau, mais est fondé sur des pratiques éprouvées en courtage de connaissances : mettre en lien des chercheurs et des décideurs qui peuvent co-produire des connaissances et de l’information pour éclairer les décisions en matière de politiques publiques et de pratiques professionnelles. Cette idée n’est peut-être pas nouvelle, mais nous la mettons en œuvre d’une façon novatrice.

I was in London, UK recently and I saw “Blood Brothers“, a story of twins separated at birth. It’s not a new story. This archetypal storyline was seen in The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, the film Start the Revolution Without Me and The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas. As much as I enjoyed the show I realized there really are no new ideas (did you notice that Avatar was just Dances with Wolves in space?).

The next morning I came across an article titled Using Knowledge Brokering to Promote Evidence-Based Policy-Making: The Need for Support Structures by Jessika van Kammen, Don de Savigny and Nelson Sewankambo. The article examined two case studies of knowledge brokering, one from the Netherlands and one from The Regional East-African Community Health (REACH)-Policy Initiative. The article concludes that knowledge brokering functions organize “the interactive process between the producers and users of knowledge so that they can co-produce feasible and research-informed policy options” (does this sound familiar?). This article was published in 2006 which means the work was probably done in 2004-2005 before RIR was anything more than a bright idea. The article also summarizes these functions which I reproduce below and align them with the brokering roles we provide at RIR-York. Continue reading

York brokers knowledge for climate change/L’engagement des courtiers de connaissances de York dans la lutte aux changements climatiques

On March 1st, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration hosted the York University Climate Change Policy & Research Day. This was the biggest event held so far as part of the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change project. The event gave us a taste of just how valuable and urgent it is to seek greater research collaboration between researchers and policy makers to tackle climate change.

Le 1er mars dernier, l’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances de York et le Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration ont organisé la journée des politiques et de la recherche sur les changements climatiques. Il s’agissait du plus important événement tenu à ce jour dans le cadre du projet Mobilisation des connaissances et changements climatiques. Cet événement nous a permis d’entrevoir la valeur et l’urgence d’une collaboration accrue entre chercheurs et décideurs publiques dans le but de contrer les changements climatiques.


March 1st was a big day for the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change project.  York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit along with its partner, the Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration (CCRAI), hosted the York University Climate Change Policy and Research Day.   The event was chaired by Karen Kraft Sloan, Special Advisor on the Environment to the Vice President Research and Innovation, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies and Canada’s former Ambassador on the Environment.

This event brought together 3 distinct groups (a complete list of panelists is included below):

  • policy staff from local and regional governments and community organizations
  • researchers from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, as well as Science & Engineering
  • graduate students from across various academic disciplines

The event began with a morning open forum between policy staff and researchers. An audience of York graduate students and faculty as well as other invited policy staff observed the forum. The policy makers presented on climate change issues they face, shared adaptation strategies, and identified areas where they need expert opinions and more research. York’s professors responded with their ideas and presented their latest research on climate change impacts and adaptation. Continue reading

York University Climate Change Policy and Research Day

This is an invitation to an upcoming event as part of the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change project.


You are warmly invited to take part in the York University Climate Change Policy & Research Day. The goal of this event is to profile some of the climate change related work being done at the municipal and regional level, have a discussion on the existing research gaps and needs, and explore opportunities for collaboration between local policy makers and York researchers.

Presenters from the City of Toronto; the Regions of York, Durham, and Peel; Toronto and Region Conservation Authority; and the Weather Water Gateway project will be joined by a panel of York faculty members with research expertise and interest in climate change related topics.

This event will also allow graduate students to hear from policymakers about potential career paths and speak to them directly about the Climate Change summer internships being offered by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit. To get full details about the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change Internship competition, please go to this link.

Date: March 1st, 2011

Time: 8:30am-3:00pm

Location: Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson

York University

For full details of scheduled activities, please see the event agenda by accessing the following link. Seating is limited. Please register for your ticket by going to the following Eventbrite link. Breakfast and lunch will be served.This event is generously supported by funds from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Special Workshop on Knowledge Translation and Brokering, October 20, 2010 – Montréal, Québec

In less than a month, the Special Workshop on Knowledge Translation and Brokering will be held at the Hyatt Regency Montréal under the auspices of the Canadian Science Policy Conference.  This one day knowledge exchange and networking event is being organized by Environment Canada’s Science and Technology Liaison Division, ResearchImpact, the Canadian Water Network, and collaborating partners York University, Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and the British High Commission Ottawa.

The workshop will be the first multi-sectoral event of its kind in Canada, bringing together participants in an interactive and exchanging forum to discuss this important field.  The workshop is attracting participants from across the country and abroad who hail from a range of sectors including government, academia, industry and community based organizations.  It is of particular interest to those working at the science-policy interface, operating as knowledge brokers and translators, or seeking to develop contacts and greater awareness in this emerging field.

The agenda features a keynote address by Andrew Campbell, former Executive Director, Land & Water Australia, an internationally recognized leader in knowledge translation and brokering.  There will be two participant-driven sessions that promise to stimulate lively debate among and between experts and practitioners.  Other highlights include three valuable skills and capacity building sessions that range from introductory (understanding knowledge mobilization) to applied (effective communication to targeted audiences and finding the right knowledge translation and brokering tools).  Learn more about the workshop and see the full agenda on the Environment Canada Science and Technology website.

Register now!  Registration for the workshop is open via the Canadian Science Policy Conference website.

Join in the conversation!  Follow the workshop through the @ResearchImpact twitter feed or through the hash tag #KTKB2010

March 25 Talks at York – A Smorgasbord of KMb Activity

Our experiences within research is such that ethics approval on human cloning would be a touchy subject, let alone the technological challenges, so when two interesting talks at York were scheduled for the same date and time, we were pleased to be part of an enthusiastic team that allowed us to split up and cover off presentations with relevance to KMb.

Michael Johnny, York U’s Manager, Knowledge Mobilization, attended a lunchtime panel presentation hosted by the CITY Institute that shared results on two suburbia research projects. Five York Researchers, along with a researcher employed by the City of Vaughn, shared highlights of their research on the topic, “Suburbia in Transition: Infrastructure and Planning in Toronto’s In-Between City

It was encouraging to see a crowd of upwards of 50 people in attendance, diverse in interests. Speakers shared how this innovative concept brings unique needs and challenges to planning and development. The panel presentations did an excellent job framing such concerns for areas that are “anti-residential”, “splintered” in their existing land use, and requiring unique strategies to planning and development, which requires both “more and less” flexibility in certain areas of planning.

The work of York’s KMb Unit within York Region over the past four years made the messages from Prof. Lucia Lo resonate. Prof. Lo was one of the Principal Investigators on an Infrastructure Canada-funded project, ‘Infrastructure in York Region: A GIS Analysis of Human Services‘. The main message conveyed was that ballooning growth within the Region has resulted in a supply of York Region services not aligned to areas of need. And with some community leaders and York Region planners in the audience, the messages met a receptive audience.

And in successful KMb fashion, the time afterward allowed for necessary follow up and informal conversation between the speakers and the audience. Michael was encouraged to see the level of engagement that faculty colleagues demonstrated in connecting their research to their audience(s) and looks forward to ongoing support in this area through the success of a Major Collaborative Research Initiative within the CITY Institute of Global Suburbanization.

While Michael was attending the CITY Institute presentation, Knowledge Mobilization Officer Krista Jensen and KMb Digital Researcher Gary Myers attended “Evidence of Democracy? The Relationship Between Evidence-Based Policy and Democratic Government”. The talk is part of the Osgoode-York Seminar Series in Policy Research. It was an engaging presentation given by York alumnus Shaun Young, now a senior policy associate at U of T’s Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation.

As part of a paper-in-progress to be published by UBC Press (please do not cite without permission from Shaun; shaun@mowatcentre.ca) Shaun discussed how the jumping-off point for the contemporary view of evidence-based policy is the 1999 Modern Government paper of Tony Blair. Evidence-based policy emerged from evidence-based medicine, but is now often referred to as evidence-awareness, evidence-informed and evidence-influence as part of the evolving debates about what constitutes evidence. Shaun also pointed out that policy-makers continue to identify more with science based research evidence within the hierarchy of a select privileged group.

Shaun states that evidence has become a key element among policy makers, yet the debate continues about what constitutes legitimate evidence. Shaun argues that evidence-based policy is incompatible with democracy given the tensions between beliefs in political equality necessary to stimulate the democratic process and protecting the practice of majority government ruling. Shaun suggests evidence-based policy may often be “up to political whim”, but at least politicians are “forced” to pay attention to evidence.

In further successful KMb fashion, participants shared opinions and asked questions including one by Gary: Given the nature of knowledge mobilization to broker between academic social science and community-based practice to inform evidence, how can this focus of KMb be more incorporated into government democracy?

Sean Young’s reply: “It will require a culture-change.”

Looks like we have our KMb work cut out for us with our Canadian politicians!

Public Policy Forum on Social Innovation, November 10

On November 10, I had the pleasure of attending a one-day conference hosted by the Public Policy Forum on Social Innovation. MaRS, Social Innovation Generation, Imagine Canada and HRSDC also provided support to the conference. With 100 attendees representing policy, public service, research and the private sectors and with representation from across Canada (I had the pleasure of sitting with Eastern Canadians).

The event provided a forum for open dialogue, and with 100 people present, that was an impressive feat. The Public Policy Forum encouraged participants to share information throughout the day, and I was one of many who were ‘tweeting’ interesting nuggets on good practices on social innovation.

In addition to panels of practitioners who shared their experiences and examples of social innovation, highlighted speakers were Janice Charette, HRSDC Deputy Minster and SSHRC President Dr. Chad Gaffield. Dr. Gaffield shared the leadership role that SSHRC has played in supporting research to enable social innovation. He gave a shout out to ResearchImapct, led by York University, as an example of Canadian university leadership in enabling social innovation. Dr. Gaffield stated a new integrated model of collaboration calls on university researchers to play a part. ResearchImpact is honoured to be playing a role to facilitate this new model of collaboration.

There is strong leadership in Canada to move forward with an agenda of social innovation. Entrepreneurs, researchers, educators, policy makers, youth and even knowledge brokers have a place to help shape a social innovation agenda for the betterment of Canadians. Most important for me was the opportunity to witness that Social Innovation, like Knowledge Mobilization, is easiest understood from a practical place. I was honoured to be with so many leaders who make a positive contribution to Canadian society through their work.

For more information on the Public Policy Forum, click here.

On the building of silos and bridges

I am writing this on vacation – a few days away in Vancouver….rain, rain and more rain…but it’s not home and that’s important. I always try to catch up on some reading while away and this week I read a lengthy paper from the Research and Policy in Development (RAPID) programme at Oversees Development Institute (a UK independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues) and it reminded me of two blogs I had previously posted. In my blog about Sarah Michael’s work on knowledge mobilization for environmental policy and in an unrelated post, I wrote about how we need to use evidence to inform our own KM services. As I read the piece from RAPID I came back to a synthesis of these two previous blogs.

RAPID produced the paper “Knowledge, policy and power: Six dimensions of the knowledge–development policy interface” available here. The paper explored the six key areas of the knowledge–development policy interface including: Types of Knowledge; Political Context; Sectoral Dynamics; Actors; Innovation Frameworks and Knowledge Translation. Three key things I took away from this article:

1- The authors cite Ian Graham’s knowledge generation and translation cycle model. I am continually impressed how Canadians are among global leaders in thinking about and doing knowledge mobilization.

2- The section on Innovation Systems (IS) aligns well with ResearchImpact’s KM philosophy. To summarize:

  • IS emphasizes the supply as well as the demand for knowledge, and the need to strengthen the voice of knowledge users
  • The importance of tacit knowledge
  • The importance of networks and linkages as channels for increasing the uptake of knowledge, and the need to facilitate trust and interaction
  • The need for ‘intermediary functions’

3- The role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to support the work of intermediaries.  “Rather than trying to bring audiences into an organization’s own space, ICTs have enabled them to take its messages to the audience.”  ODI cites use of RSS feeds, video streamed public meeting, Facebook, the production of short research summaries and Wikipedia.  Click on the “Web 2.0” tag cloud on the blog and see what we have written on ICTs and KM.

The work and writing of ODI from the perspective of International Development is evocative of the writing of Sarah Michaels on Environmental Policy. There is convergent evolution of tools and processes for KM regardless of the discipline. Here’s the first issue: SILOS. On October 7, 2009 Jason Guriel wrote in Mobilize This! about KM as a means of breaking down silos. If we continue to read, write and speak in silos we will not maximize learning opportunities to continually improve our own KM services by using evidence from any discipline to inform our own KM practice.

Here’s the next issue: BRIDGES. As ODI writes, intermediaries are critically important in knowledge-policy interface, “Empirical research on intermediaries is urgently needed given the high level of demand for such a brokering role by analysts, policymakers and practitioners alike, as are efforts to assess and share lessons with regard to new approaches to capacity building.” Knowledge brokers such as those developing within the ResearchImpact network and the networks forming amongst York’s KM associated research projects (see here) are intermediaries. We can build bridges between our own silos.

So a charge to all knowledge brokers: you may need to live in a silo for your own professional service delivery but build bridges between the silos.

And a question: who sets the table that allows diverse knowledge brokers to share a meal? Where can the brokers in nursing talk to the brokers in environmental policy? Where can knowledge brokers in mental health sit down with those in international development? Any thoughts? Use the comment feature above to let us know what you think.

P.S. While in Vancouver check out the Pacific Palisades Hotel. It looks like a converted apartment building just off Robson St. so your hotel room is actually an apartment and centrally located. Come to Vancouver and check out the Pacific Palisades and go to the Vancouver Aquarium where you can participate in “sharing knowledge”.