The KM Solution Pt 3: “Now What”

OK, OK… I almost broke a promise to faithful Mobilize This! readers. On August 14, 2009, I started my answer to Wayne MacDonald’s sushi inspired question “What is the problem to which knowledge mobilization is the solution?” To refresh your memory, a lack of cultural transparency between academic researchers and decision makers is one problem that is addressed by KM. On August 25, I posted the second part of this series indicating that KM services, KM infrastructure and KM evaluation can all be informed by the problem of lack of cultural transparency.

Then I had 2 CIHR grants due end of September (more about that shortly). Then I had my day job (York’s fall grants rush) to take care of. Then I had a few more deadlines, travel to technology transfer conferences (check out our video blogs from November 10 and November 11). Then I had Christmas… I’m not complaining but I have been a wee bit busy…

So now, anxious readers, the third and final installment of the KM Solution blog: Now What?

What do we do now we know that we need to develop services and infrastructure to increase cultural transparency between researchers and decision makers? All of ResearchImpact’s tools and procedures now need to be examined through a lens of cultural transparency and evaluated accordingly. In 2010 ResearchImpact (York) will roll out a KM tool kit. As we develop the tool kit for York’s KM Peer-2-Peer Group and post it on www.researchimpact.ca,we shall create a cultural transparency impact rating which will reflect our experience using the tool to increase transparency between academic researchers and decision makers. We can practice by doing a transparency pulse check on some emerging KM literature.

Researchers from the University of Victoria wrote a paper titled “In for the Long Haul: Knowledge Translation Between Academic and Nonprofit Organizations” (Qualitative Health Research, 20 (1): 131-143; http://qhr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/20/1/131). The authors speak of their 10 year long experience working between the university and local non-profits. They cite the need for continued and sustained face time for the research team throughout the research cycle, institutional relationships (that are sustained by personal relationships between front line personnel and graduate students), developing a common language to communicate research findings and knowledge brokers. See the figure for how this would look through a transparency lens separating these factors into KM tools or processes and KM outcomes. Using the factors cited in the paper, I would invest first in knowledge brokers who create personal relationships that are developed through subsequent investments in continued and sustained face that results in institutional relationships that are then supported through investments in a common language (such as clear language research summaries) all of them leading to increased cultural transparency. The initial investment should be in knowledge brokers that have the greatest impact on transparency as the resulting actions would have little effect on relationships and transparency without the initial investments in knowledge brokers. Lower transparency impact investments can then build on the first, most critical investment introducing tools that foster a deepening of relationships that were initiated as a result of knowledge brokering.

Now, what does this mean for York? For York this means that we need to invest first in the human resource infrastructure of knowledge brokers before we invest in meetings and only then do we invest in clear language ResearchSnapshots. Fulfilling the most important need for knowledge brokers, I am pleased to announce that as of December 1, 2009 we welcome Michael Johnny, Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, in a continuing position at York University. Michael was hired in 2006 on a tri-council Intellectual Property Mobilization grant that ended November 30, 2009.

Now what we have to do is continue to fulfill the rest of our transparency focused commitments to KM at York and also for ResearchImpact. Looking through a transparency lens we can better understand the opportunities and constraints of our research collaborators and knowledge partners but unlike a camera lens, this lens looks both ways (KM is inherently bi-directional). As you are looking out they are looking in. That brings us to an obligation of transparency.

Accountability

York’s President, Mamdouh Shoukri said, “We are not going to be competitive as a society unless our knowledge is put to use. We need to translate it in a way that the average person can use it.” (Globe and Mail, January 2, 2010). By investing in institutional KM support services, including Michael Johnny, York is committed to transparency and accountability in research and in knowledge mobilization.