Clear Language Writing and Design Workshops

Matthew Shulman

Matthew Shulman

On July 29, the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York hosted a half-day workshop for York graduate students and non-academic research collaborators on Clear Language Writing and Design.  The session, titled “Write for the Reader” says it all.  The hands-on workshop, led by Matthew Shulman, Executive Director of the Peel Halton Dufferin Adult Learning Network  provided principles and examples of reader-centred writing.  Adopting an action-oriented approach to writing – what do you want the reader to do – supports effective communication.

The common interest for all participants was the development and utilization of clear language research summaries. York’s KM Unit has developed a library of research summaries (read the  Mobilize This! story here). Graduate students present, will produce two ResearchSnapshot summaries which will be added to the library in exchange for the training they received. For the graduate students, who are emerging academics, this training enhances their academic skills and supports their capacity to promote the utilization of their own research and their own engagement with non academic research partners.  Dr. Sandra Cunning, Director of Research and Evaluation with Kinark Child and Family Services,  along with two of her colleagues also attended, demonstrating that this workshop provides great value for our non-academic collaborators as well. 

Clear Language WorkshopFor more information on Clear Language Writing and Design workshops please contact me, Michael Johnny, at There is a workshop tentatively scheduled for August 18.

P.S. Seems I need to attend more of Matthew’s sessions as this blog post is registering at a Grade 13 level.


What do Machiavelli and Dr. Seuss have to do with Knowledge Mobilization?

Machiavelli and The Cat in the Hat

Concludero’ solo che al principe, e necessario avere ilpopolo amico – I will conclude then that it is necessary for the prince to have the people as friends.

Lesson: No silo research. Research partnerships must be broad and most importantly, engage the people impacted by the outcome.

ResearchImpact and a key community partner, the United Way of York Region recently published an article in Issue 22 (June 2009) of Research Global, the magazine of the Global Research Management Network published by the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

All we could do was to sit, sit, sit. And we did not like it, not one little bit. Then something went bump. How that bump made us jump.

Lesson: Enter all partnerships with an initial plan, a willingness to change depending on the circumstances and, when something goes bump, be present. Full commitment, engagement and openness are critical. If not, do not enter.

Research Global June 2009The article titled “Lessons learned from knowledge mobilisation: turning research into action” is a whimsical look at 10 lessons learned from 3 years of growing Canada’s first institutional knowledge mobilization unit broadly serving the needs of university faculty, graduate students and their non academic research partners.  Each lesson is inspired by and offered with apologies to either Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli’s The Prince or Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and we back up each lesson with a real life example drawn from our own knowledge mobilization practice.

The lessons are instructive and the stories are real.  The article concludes “Universities need to work hard to develop relationships that include but also transcend individual researchers, projects and partners, in order to maximize the impact of the university on its communities, both local and global. Collaborating is not easy and you will encounter bumps along the road. The key to riding out the bumps is trust, a shared commitment, and never forgetting to communicate, communicate, communicate with funders, faculty, students and collaborators.”

Read the article and all 10 lessons here and see a PowerPoint presentation of the 10 lessons here.

ResearchImpact says O3 is an Overall Outstanding Opportunity

O3 Play Day July 2009

O3: ORION’s new social networking platform for Ontario researchers and their collaborators provides the most comprehensive suite of social networking and collaborating tools for research and knowledge mobilization.

Launched for early adopters at Discovery 2009, O3 serves the needs of: researchers “O3 enables researchers across groups, institutions and geographies collaborate on specific projects or build a community share ideas”; students “O3 is perfect for graduate students who need a place to collaborate on research wherever they are or create and share content that supports their learning” and educators “educators can build repositories of curriculum and teaching strategies to share across schools, boards and subject areas or interact with students.”  O3 has elements of social networking (blog, profile, messaging, comment board, photo gallery, chat) combined with the collaboration tools of a wiki and discussion forum combined with a document management system.  No other platform that I know of combined all of these elements.

And it’s free to Ontario researchers, educators and their collaborators both inside and outside Ontario. Members of the Ontario R+E community can contribute to the O3 community at large or have their own sub-community for their organization that can be as public or as private as they want to be. Throughout the summer, ORION is looking for keen early adopters to try out the service and help it tweak it for its official October launch at the ROM.

ResearchImpact has been a featured project on O3 since its launch and we have been exploring the functionalities for a couple of months.  On July 14 ResearchImpact hosted a morning of O3 play where we got to play with the features and provide technical and user feedback to ORION.  York’s KM Unit welcomed participation from ABEL, the Steacie Library, Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Canadian Mental Health Association, Institute for Work and Health and Mobilizing Minds a large mental health knowledge mobilization project hosted by York and U. Manitoba (see our previous Mobilizing Minds blog posting here) as we explored O3.

According to Liz Lambert (IWH), “O3 has many of the features that will allow IWH to manage our systematic reviews and other knowledge exchange projects. We look forward to exploring these features in greater depth.”

Certain features need to be improved such as the wiki (but we understand that a new wiki is forthcoming) and the message feature which needs to embrace more than 1-to1 messaging.  Overall the greatest attraction is the degree of flexibility of the system.  We were able to imbed a blog and twitter feed widget into the ResearchImpact O3.  We are also able to adeptly manage a variety of permissions to allow differential access to different features.

In addition to ResearchImpact, York University Information Technology is piloting O3 as a collaboration platform for research at York.  O3 promises to be the most useful tool for network enabled knowledge mobilization.  ResearchImpact will begin using O3 as a social networking platform for its main operation platform and we will encourage ResearchImpact associated projects such as Mobilizing Minds to adopt O3.

For more information on O3 please contact Gary Hilson  at

Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) Symposium “From Recession to Renewal: The Vital Contribution of Community Based Research”

Last month in Ottawa Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) held a working Symposium “From Recession to Renewal: The Vital Contribution of Community Based Research”. This event was co-hosted by the Faculty of Public Affairs at Carleton University, and saw a number of speaking panels comprised of both academic and community leaders. A paper titled “Funding and Development of Community University Research Partnerships” was presented by Rupert Downing and Budd Hall, and opportunities for networking and discussion occurred throughout the day.

CBRC is a network of people and organizations engaged in Community-Based Research to meet the needs of people and communities. CBRC came into being through the Community University Expo Conference held in Victoria, BC in May of 2008.

Since that time many more universities and organizations have joined . The Universities of Carleton (Dean Katherine Graham), Quebec at Montreal (Dr. Jean-Marc Fontan) and Victoria (Dr. Budd Hall), have stepped up to take on the roles of Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary, with Tim Simboli of the Ottawa Community Based Research Network and Ottawa Family Services as a community representative on the Executive Committee. There is also a Steering Committee of community organization and university representatives. A website and newsletter is about to be launched, and resources are being developed from a variety of sources. An Action Plan has been developed that focuses on: Building community-based research (CBR) capacity; mobilizing knowledge on CBR practices and outcomes; influencing policy and institutional environments to strengthen support to CBR, and; providing networking and learning opportunities. Rupert Downing, the former Executive Director of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network and Co-Director of the Canadian Social Economy Research Hub, is assisting with the formative work to establish CBRC.

For more information, please visit:

Everything is ready to go for another GS 500 Interdisciplinary Graduate course at the University of Victoria!

BC Ministry of Housing and Social DevelopmentThese courses match interdisciplinary graduate students up with real life research questions coming from a partnering agency in the community. For the fall 2009 course the Community partner is the BC Ministry of Housing and Social Development. Questions coming from the Ministry will focus on topics such as: homelessness in our community; rental market and market housing; housing needs in Aboriginal communities; sustainable and green housing, and much more.

The course will be co-taught by Dr. Bernie Pauly from the UVic faculty of nursing, and Dr. Cecile Lacombe, director of housing research for the BC Government. The Knowledge Mobilization Unit will facilitate the matching of graduate students to research questions appropriate for their area of study. The students will then work one on one with a research partner from the BC Ministry of Housing and Social Development, with a focus on action and recommendations to the Ministry. The end of the term will be marked by student presentations at a knowledge dissemination event that will open to all people who are interested in the topic.

The Power of Social Networking: Knowledge Brokers Broker Knowledge about Knowledge Brokers

Peter WestPeter West uses the name WestPeter on Twitter. According to his Twitter profile he lives in London, ON and is interested in “scholarly articles, books & proceedings of interest to knowledge workers.” On July 1 he posted the following:

WestPeter Matching knowledge brokering strategies to environmental policy problems & settings (Environ Sci & Pol) #KM $ is a shortened url that takes you to the following url:

Sarah Michaels… which is why we use shortened urls but that’s not the purpose of this blog… this url is an abstract of a paper from Sarah Michaels (U. Nebraska) titled “Matching knowledge brokering strategies to environmental policy problems and settings”. Only the abstract was available so I contacted Sarah who was kind enough to send me the pre-print (thank you Sarah). Two things are important here:

1. There is a whole body of literature on knowledge brokering for environmental policy that I never knew about. I have never heard of the scholars (except Lindquist) listed in her references yet it appears that knowledge brokering for environmental policy aligns well (see table below) with those of us who inform our practice using a health frame of reference. ResearchImpact draws its knowledge brokering practice mainly from Lavis et al [Journal of Health Services Research and Policy (2003) 8(3):165] using the producer push, user pull and knowledge exchange methods plus our description of co-production [Evidence & Policy (2009) 5(3):211]. But Sarah introduces us to a new term – capacity building: “intensive knowledge brokering is about creating and sustaining capacity for innovation”.

Michaels vs Phipps & Shapson

It is nice yet surprising to see a whole body of literature that has arisen independently but consistently with our practice and yet to learn something new.  I wonder if Sarah is aware of the work we draw from: Lavis, Landry, Estabrooks, Grimshaw, Nutley, Levin…

2. The second important observation is I found this on Twitter.  Sarah published her paper, WestPeter found it, tweeted, and because ResearchImpact follows WestPeter I saw the tweet, got the link, e-mailed Sarah, read the paper and now you’re reading the blog and maybe you will read her paper.  That is the power of social networking.  Sarah’s paper found a wider audience, I read some new literature and I “met” a like minded colleague – all thanks to less than 140 characters.

Unlike how it markets itself, Twitter should be “what do you want to share” not “what are you doing”!

Go on… log on to Twitter and connect to lasting value in less than 140 characters.

Those who can do…

CIHR does a great job creating training spaces for emerging KT (their acronym for KM) researchers. CIHR has posted KT learning modules on line and they hosted a KT summer institute which was recently written up from the perspective of some of the students at the institute, available here. Michelle E Kho and her fellow students wrote about some of the take home messages learned at the CIHR KT Summer Institute:

    • KT is interdisciplinary and collaborative
    • Negotiation skills are integral
    • The KT process is complex, confusing, and multifaceted
    • Use the most rigorous methods of inquiry to answer different research questions

They conclude by recognizing “the importance of relationships, the complexity of interactions, the significance of timing, and the potential for ingenuity and innovation in the field of KT.”

As a practitioner of KM I want to say, “Well, duh!”. It is great that CIHR creates these learning environments for new KT researchers but why hasn’t it occurred to those of us in the field to publish these conclusions that are evident to us on a daily basis? I think we spend so much time “in the trenches” that we forget there is a body of academics and their literature that we need to embrace to inform our practices. As practitioners of KM we need to practice what we preach. If we don’t use theory and evidence to inform our own practices what good are we as role models to researchers and their partners?

This is doubly important for those few university based KM practitioners who are “in the trenches” within the ivory tower. We always talk about bridging the theory-practice gap but we’re so busy practicing we forget the theory is being made just down the hall. Conversely the KM theorists and KT researchers need to look down their hall and recognize the amount of evidence on their own door steps. ResearchImpact is a network of KM Units that are each KM laboratories. We’re testing and trying things out all the time. We work with community and government based practitioners who have their own data, stories and expertise but for our own reasons we don’t get around to writing it up (except look for a forthcoming paper from York University’s KM Unit in Evidence & Policy 5(3):211-217).

So, a challenge to KM practitioners everywhere: practice what you preach.

And an invitation to KM researchers: talk to us, please. Break down those barriers you write about.