The Third Annual KM at York Summit

Professional Development and Team Building are activities which, when done properly, can be quite enjoyable!  The staff of York’s KM Unit recently participated in their third annual KM Summit.  Objectives of the Summit are:  fun, exploring theoretical and operational challenges for KM, fun, acknowledging the contributions of summer student staff, did I mention fun?  We’re nothing if not a work hard/play hard group.  On August 19, the KM staff took a half day trip to the Toronto Islands.  The professional task for the day was brainstorming a better term than ‘social innovation’ to define the range of impacts that are enabled by KM.  And what better venue to get the creative juices flowing than Centre Island in Toronto, where lunch on a patio overlooking the harbourfront, a walk through the Far Enough Zoo (or is it Fair Enough Zoo?), a necessary stop for ice-cream and an addition to David’s pen collection were the activities of the afternoon.  Of course, we failed to realize we would be the only group of adults who would not be pushing strollers or supervising grade school campers.  Still, it beat a February Summit at the Toronto Islands!

Some lessons from the day:

– A Summit which lacks competitive physical activity (Summit I – golf; Summit II – bowling) was a welcome change

– An iPod Touch serves as an excellent dictionary/thesaurus and diversion (on occassion) from professional development tasks

– The Island Ferry may wish to consider a BYO Lifejacket policy for the peak season.  Just an observation.

– What is the difference between Smoked Meat and Corned Beef?

– Social Innovation is a challenging term to deconstruct

– The KM Summit IV may launch into a formal debate on poetry and its movement into mainstream literature

– Oddly, a split rail fence can keep a 500-lb hog and a 400 lb sow, who clearly want to be together, apart

– While we have advanced our thinking and understanding of KM, we need to maintain clear messages about what is KM, who we are, what we do, and why we feel this is important, and,

– This is an amazing team of students and professionals who are passionate about their work and who enjoy working together as a team

KM Team photo


ResearchImpact Evaluation Survey

The KM Units which are leading the ResearchImpact network (York University and the University of Victoria) are undergoing an evaluation, and we would like your feedback!  We are asking you to complete a survey regarding your experiences with the Knowledge Mobilization Unit. The purpose of the survey is to gather information  on how a specific research partnership may have influences you, your organization, and/or your community. The survey should take approximately 15 minutes of your time and will be greatly beneficial in the improvement of the KM Unit. Please access the survey by clicking this link.

The KM Solution Part 2: “So What”

The KM Solution Pt 2: “So What”

So what if cultural transparency is a problem: KM services, infrastructure and evaluation

In a previous blog we developed the thinking that cultural transparency (or a lack thereof) between researchers and their non academic research stakeholders is the underlying problem that challenges knowledge mobilization (  Despite this sushi inspired analysis, one is forced to ask “so what”.  We know KM works.  We have published on the top 10 lessons learned from knowledge mobilization ( so how does knowing the problem help with implementing the solution?

This deeper understanding allows us to refine services and develop infrastructure aimed at increasing cultural transparency and allows us to develop more robust evaluation protocols so that we can better demonstrate the impact of turning research into action.

Services: Understanding the problem of cultural transparency allows us to develop specialized services to address this barrier and foster research based relationships between researchers and their non academic counterparts.

  • knowledge brokers to serve as cultural ambassadors supporting often challenging conversations and partnerships between researchers and non academic research stakeholders.
  • support for engaged scholarship such as the Major Collaborative Research Initiative and Community University Research Alliance programs of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (
  • training academics in clear language writing that makes research and researchers accessible to non academic research stakeholders such as ResearchImpact’s ResearchSnapshot series (

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SSHRC logo

Infrastructure: As identified in Part 1 (“What”), social media has a role to play in facilitating transparency by helping to form and support distributed networks in a community of practice model where loose connections must form before collaboration can begin. We have previously written ( about one social media platform, O3 that ResearchImpact is starting to use to link researchers and their partners.  Infrastructure can also include databases such as yaffle ( and should link to existing tools that support access to research such as Canada’s Synergies project ( and the CANARIE broadband network (

Yaffle logo


“networks are the infrastructure for doing business in the future.”

Wierarchy, June 27, 2009

Evaluation: A better understanding of the problem (cultural transparency) allows us to develop a new logic model for KM.  Investing in services and infrastructure will result in one specific output: an increase in cultural transparency.  This allows us to construct outcomes based on increased cultural transparency including: collaboration, sharing (of people, information and resources), trust, relevance, access, awareness and engagement.  These outcomes then allow for the identification of impacts including changes in: behaviour of researchers and decision makers; reputation of the university and placement of HQP.  For each of these outcomes and impacts indicators can be developed and measured.

Application of social media to support communities of practice also allows consideration of an emerging metric, Return on Investment on Interaction ( as a means of evaluating the impact of KM.  ROII is a way of measuring the creation of economic value out of intangibles including the value of an organization’s networks.  Intangible assets that are affected by interactions (networks, part of KM infrastructure) include brand, reputation, ideas, relationships and know-how but evaluating these softer assets requires social science evaluation methods such as surveys and focus groups rather than counting tangible assets such as dollars or square feet.  York is currently engaged in just such an evaluation employing social science methodologies to evaluate the last 3 years of York and UVic’s KM units and the ResearchImpact partnership.  Stay tuned closer to the end of 2009 for the results of that evaluation.

Understanding the “so what” of cultural transparency creates a theoretical underpinning of KM allowing us to develop and evaluate better KM services and infrastructure.  By enhancing cultural transparency knowledge mobilization is your passport to social innovation.

Passport photo

Stay tuned to Mobilize This! for the third and final installment of this series -The KM Solution: “Now What”

Cage Match: Tapscott vs. Weinberg (I’ll take them both, and the margarita…)

Grown Up Digital and The New Community Rules

I just finished two books that have received a lot of press of late – Dan Tapscott’s “Grown Up Digital” and “The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web” by Tamar Weinberg.  “Grown Up Digital” is an exploration of the Net Generation (31 years old and younger) who grew up in the digital age while “The New Community Rules” explores the social media tools those NetGeners use and how they can be applied to marketing your business.

Tamar WeinbergLet me say off the top that I enjoyed both books but for different reasons.  “New Community” gives detailed descriptions of social media tools including blogging, microblogging, social networking sites, social bookmarking, social news, new media (videos and photography) and informational social media such as wikis – and check the end of each chapter for the chapter summaries and a snapshot of key messages.  Each chapter explores a different aspect of social media with leading product offerings and case studies of how businesses have used each tool for marketing purposes.  “Grown Up” explores how NetGeners different from previous generations in education, work, consumerism, family, democracy and civic engagement.  Of note are the eight NetGen norms: freedom, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, entertainment, speed and innovation.

TapscottIf you want to learn how to maximize your use of (and maybe return on investment in) social media you should read “New Community” but if you want to learn how to work or live with someone under 31 (and a lot of people over 31 as well) then you should read “Grown Up”.  Face it, you should read them both.

ResearchImpact has been blogging for over 1 year and on twitter since May 2009.  We have launched some knowledge mobilization videos and have more in production but I found the advice from Tamar Weinberg particularly useful, especially the chapter on blogging which has some great tips for new and experienced bloggers.  But working with ResearchImpact and the rest of the Office of Research Services at York University ( I work with a lovely and diverse group of staff from 20 to 62 years old.  The description of the Net Generation in “Grown Up” helps me manage the different work and life experiences that all staff bring to their jobs.

However, the comparisons need not stop at these books.  Both Tamar Weinberg (@tamar) and Don Tapscott (@dtapscott) are on Twitter and have 8672 and 8167 followers respectively (as of August 16, 2009) although Tamar has posted 3100 tweets to Don’s 858.  Both also have social media sites connected to their work.  Tamar can be found at and Don Tapscott’s site for his book is  Both of these sites dig into their subject matter in different ways allowing the consumer to contribute and in Tapscott’s words become the Margaritaprosumer.

If I were to be stranded on a desert island which book would I want?  If I had access to the internet I would want the “how to” information provided in “New Community Rules” but if I were trapped on a desert island with internet access and people under 31 I would want “Grown Up Digital”….of course if I were trapped on a desert island with internet access I’d just swim up to the pool bar of the resort and order another margarita because why else would I be on a desert island in the first place?

The KM Solution Part 1: “What”

If knowledge mobilization is the solution then what is the problem?

On June 18 I was at lunch with my friends from SSHRC Wayne MacDonald (Director, Corporate Performance and Evaluation) and Craig McNaughton (Director, Knowledge Mobilization and Program Integration).  We were enjoying sushi at Festival Japan discussing all things KM and research impact evaluation when Wayne asked me, “What is the problem to which KM is the solution”?

Tekka Maki RollI stopped mid maki.

Having been a KM evangelist since I wrote our first KM grant application late in 2004 this should have been an easy question to answer.  After I finished masticating my maki I promised Wayne I’d get back to him with an answer.

I asked the knowledge brokers in the ResearchImpact network and we started a wiki and associate discussion.  I tweeted and got the following feedback from @petertwo:

“Sustaining innovation – nurture trust, design & implement collaboratively, monitor & adjust in real-time, share value”

I asked my friend and colleague Charles Ungerleider of the Canadian Council on Learning (Director, Research and Knowledge Mobilization) who said, “Put as succinctly as I can, the question to which knowledge mobilization is an answer is: How might the benefits of investments in research be enhanced?”

Sandra NutleyWe then turned to the electronic equivalent of the library stacks and started reading some really interesting literature that took us to the “two communities” work of Nathan Caplan (American Behavioral Scientist (1979), Vol. 22, No. 3: 459-470).  Sandra Nutley and colleagues ( pointed out the limitations of the two communities approach (Journal of Health Services Research & Policy (2008) Vol. 13 No 3: 188–190) so we looked to the university-industry literature on cultural difference to inform our thinking about KM as a bridge between the different cultures of research and action.

Julie Ferguson at CHSRF also discussed the cultural divide between researchers and policy makers in international development (

CHSRF logo

If KM bridges this cultural divide then knowledge brokers are cultural ambassadors.

We were getting closer but still had a little way to go. What is the problem that manifests in cultural differences?

Transparency: Digging deeper we propose that a lack of transparency between researchers and decision makers reinforces this cultural divide. While researchers and decision makers might co-exist even within co-creative collaborations, our institutions continue to reinforce barriers to full participation. These cultural barriers include tenure & promotion, academic jargon, academic publishing, exclusivity of university libraries, exclusivity of graduate student dissertation committees which all privilege academic scholarship.

Ettiene WengerKnowledge brokers increase transparency by acting as guides to researchers seeking to step out of Ivory Towers and to decision makers reaching in. Etienne Wenger illustrates how to increase cultural transparency through participation in communities of practice ( and Christian Dalsgaard and Morten Flate Paulsen illustrate the power of social networking to enhance transparency in learning environments (International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (2009) Volume 10, Number 3:1-22).

So, Wayne, cultural transparency (or lack thereof) between researchers and decision makers is the problem to which knowledge mobilization is the solution.

An effective KM infrastructure including investments in knowledge brokers and social media to support communities of practice will increase transparency between researchers and decision makers and help turn research into action.

This is the first in a series of blogs on knowledge mobilization and cultural transparency. You’re read the “What”. Stay tuned for the “So What” and then “Now What” (thank you Levesque Peter Levesque)

Items of Interest to Ontario Community Groups and Especially those in York Region – Help with Social Media and Access to Infrastructure $$$

York Region covers 1,776 sq km and encompasses nine municipalities north of Toronto, Canada and had a total population of 983,100 in 2007. With a five year growth rate of 22% (2001-6) and with new Canadians making up 43% of the population (almost twice that of Ontario), York Region is one of Canada’s fastest growing and most diverse communities. It has elements of inner city (i.e. downtown Markham), high wealth creation (i.e. Vaughn), an Aboriginal reserve (in Georgina), rural agriculture (i.e. East Gwillimbury) and environmentally protected areas such as the Oakridges Moraine.  This diverse region has diverse opportunities for collaboration with university researchers to co-produce and mobilize knowledge for social innovation.

Brent MacKinnonFacilitating this co-production and knowledge mobilization, York’s KM Unit is pleased to work closely with partners in York Region such as illustrated in our recent publication with the United Way of York Region (read it here).  One strong supporter of community development in York Region is Brent MacKinnon.  York’s KM Unit first met Brent when we brokered a relationship between him (then at Street Kids International) and Uzo Anucha (School of Social Work, York University).  You can see them talk about their collaboration here.  Brent recently launched his consulting company, Social Media Tools for Work and Learning. Brent provides consulting services to nonprofit organizations interested in harnessing the power of the social web to meet their Vision, Mission and Values. Brent’s focus is to support staff in developing their social media strategy and using the right tools to engage supporters and stakeholders. His first issue of his newsletter, MacKinnon’s Cloud was launched this week and features services as well as stories from York Region including a story on the York Region data symposium, which was also featured on Mobilize This! (read it here).

Social Media Tools logoBrent will also be featured at a workshop on social media for knowledge transfer and exchange downtown Toronto on October 5 “What’s the point of 2.0”. Kudos to Brent for being a leader in social media for York Region community organizations and a champion for knowledge mobilization.  You can contact Brent at and follow him on Twitter @brentmack.

One more item for all York Region not for profits is the non profit stream of the federal government’s stimulus package “Creating Jobs, Building Communities”.  Released by Infrastructure Canada, this program will fund infrastructure projects in the following areas: temporary housing shelters; community centres; community services and cultural institutions.  “Projects must be for the substantial renovation or rehabilitation of existing infrastructure or new capital infrastructure”.  Applications are due August 18, 2009.

Knowledge Mobilization & Technology Transfer – Chapter 3: KM as an emerging paradigm for university-industry engagement (and a shout out to Bea Arthur)

No, I haven’t forgotten.  On October 2, 2008 I posted chapter 2 in the series KM & TT (read it here) and now, better late than never, Chapter 3.  I have previously written about how KM and TT are different but there is a common ground where TT officers and knowledge brokers might find they have something in common.

As part of my preparation for this post I tweeted the following on July 31:

1. Simplified: knowledge mobilization is an iterative 2 way socialized exchange that fosters collaboration between researchers and community

2. Simplified: technology transfer is a 1 way push of university research to industrial licensee(s)

3. If knowledge mobilization is analogous to dating then tech transfer is analogous to what?  Suggestions please…

There are many names by which university Tech Transfer Offices (TTO) are known but among them is the name “”University Industry Liaison Office” (UILO).  In a brief phone survey of colleagues in Canadian TTO/UILO I inquired about the balance between tech transfer (the push of patents to licensees) and industry liaison (the brokering of research based relationships between university and industry).  The balance was overwhelmingly on the business of patents and licensing and much less on the active brokering of research collaborations, which is surprising when you look at the stats. In 2006 research contracts attracted $286,667,000 for Canadian university research compared to $59,689,000 received for commercialization of IP (Statistics Canada).  However these relationships generate more than just money.  University industry collaborations are eligible for matching programs from NSERC, CIHR and OCE and provide great training opportunities for graduate students. They also contribute to the university’s reputation.  Furthermore, university-industry engagement doesn’t need to start with IP for science & technology companies.  Companies that derive their inputs from social sciences and humanities (management, law, finance, cultural and heritage industries) account for $696 billion of annual GDP output for Canada exceeding by half the GDP output driven by firms associated with science, technology, engineering and medicine ($431 billion)( Universities can support the broader innovation system by engaging their fine arts departments, business schools, law schools, computer science departments and service learning units with local business and support business and process solutions as well as technology and product opportunities.  But with this opportunity comes a responsibility to invest in and develop an institutional capacity for knowledge brokering (KM and industry liaison) as they currently do for technology transfer.

P&G connect + developAs Larry Huston (who led Procter & Gambles P&G Connect Develop) said, “What we’re talking about is moving from inventing to connecting” ( which is what KM is all about.  With its focus on brokering research based relationships through connecting not inventing, KM is an emerging paradigm for university-industry engagement across the broader innovation system.

Bea ArthurBy the way, in response to my tweeted question, @luisemarie weighed in suggesting that if KM is dating then tech transfer is a forced marriage.  I suggested that if the IP is owned by the institution this is likely correct but if the IP is inventor owned perhaps it is more like an arranged marriage.

Let’s send our faculty out on more research dates and support more of these research marriages. Bea Arthur played Yente the Matchmaker in the premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway in 1964. Let’s hire more Bea Arthurs for research and as the song says:

♫“Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match…”♫