United Way? United Wow!

On April 26 and 27 the United Way of York Region (UWYR) and York University hosted their counterparts from St. John’s, Montreal (UQAM), Guelph, Saskatoon and Victoria. This represented the first time the ResearchImpact universities met and was an ideal opportunity to invite our UW partners. Some of us (York, Victoria, Guelph) have established strong relationships between the university and the UW and the rest were meeting for the first time to explore possibilities. The goals of the meeting were two fold:

  1. Mobilize best practices and lessons learned about KMb from YorkU and UWYR to universities and communities across Canada
  2. Seed a national KMb network informed by evidence and best practice.

“I feel connected to a real network in spirit not just on paper”

The full agenda is available  here- UW-University KMb Meeting Agenda

Introductions: We prepared our recipe cards for success (for a successful meeting I need a pinch of _____________, a dash of _______________ and whole heaping handful of ________________) and shared them around the table. Humour was the ingredient most frequently cited… that we had, in abundance. Thanks to Jennifer Adams Warburton for setting the right tone for the meeting. In Newfoundland & Labrador they just “get ‘er done!”. And that we did!

KMb 101: The use of faculty and community partners in videos during York’s KMb overview grounded the KMb theory in the reality of community practice.

Presentations from Victoria and Guelph: These universities and their UW partners shared their experiences including UW Greater Victoria providing funding for UVic KMb interns and Guelph presenting on their new Research Shop.

Lunch: York’s KMb staff joined for lunch, presented on their KMb projects and we discussed staffing, resourcing and structures of the office.

Unconference Time: The group identified two topics of mutual interest and divided to discuss and report back. The Unconference topics were: 1) evaluation (we actually have very little understanding how to evaluate a system of KMb) and 2) local vs. national projects (a national network needs standards and tools to support local knowledge mobilization and we need a national network to enhance the access to scholarship anywhere across the country and to serve as a community of practice).

ResearchImpact: David Phipps (ResearchImpact York) presented a vision for ResearchImpact focusing on two activities: a community of practice and a larger pool of research and expertise to bring to the benefit of the ResearchImpact community partners. Louise Powell-McCarthy (UW Canada) provided reflections from a national perspective including her role as Director of Knowledge Exchange and her work to ensure all local UW share best practices through their Standards of Excellence.

Dinner: Lago. Good food. Great company. One theme emerged and remained with us – squirrel (you had to be there).

“We are so focused on the day to day but now we appreciate what the end looks like and what this can mean for policy change.”

The next day started with Saskatoon summing up what they heard from Day 1 and putting it in their perspective exploring learnings and opportunities for their community.

O3 demo: this was important as the entire meeting was managed through the ResearchImpact O3 site. A UW-University group was created with access to blogs, forums, gallery, documents and wikis, all of which were used to develop the community, provide materials in advance and set the tone for the meeting. The blog channel for this community is now open so check out the blog postings here.

Yaffle demo: We have previously blogged about yaffle, MUN’s online knowledge brokering service. Jennifer Adams Warburton presented on the launch and university (even province) wide implementation of this tool and described some of the success stories arising from yaffle. We briefly discussed its potential to link decision makers and researchers across the country – no promises but some great thinking.

For lunch that day we were joined by York’s VP Research & Innovation, Stan Shapson, and Assoc. VP Research (Social Sciences & Humanities), David Dewitt. We explored the impacts the meeting had on participants and made commitments to action in the following year. We then, one by one, said good bye, à bien tôt.

“very inspiring, happy to have been able to see how KMb is implemented in different communities”

The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive:

What did you like most about the meeting?
• Seeing how KMb is managed in the different universities and communities
• Meeting great people
• The sharing
• Establishing connections within a network
• Les experiences de chacune des universities et de Centraide et les outils développés.

What did you like least?
• Too many carbs, no decaf, need better snacks
• Le peu d’espace accordé à la traduction en français

Did you find the information about universities & ResearchImpact useful?
• We received a score 31 out of possible 36 points (36 = extremely useful)

Did you find the information about United Ways useful?
• We received a score 31 out of possible 36 points (36 = extremely useful)

After this event would you characterize the potential for United Way-University collaboration?
• We received a score 30 out of possible 36 points (36 = excellent potential)

What was the experience using the O3 social media site?
• We received a score 20 out of possible 36 points (36=excellent)

Are you interested in continuing this dialogue? 11/12 reported yes with one person saying yes so long as the openness continued.

While we have some way to go in supporting the use of O3 and serving fruit would have been nice, we received very positive feedback and have a mandate to move forward with plans for a national ResearchImpact network.

“I can see the power of the United Way national network and the academic network blended together.”

In summary: Watch the ResearchImpact YouTube channel, where we shall shortly be posting a video produced from the event. It was clear from all of the sharing and mutual learning, that collaboration between community and university, enabled by an institutional capacity for knowledge mobilization can maximize the impact of research on social service and community agencies and thus on the lives of Canadians. To cite York’s tag line, the meeting really did “redefine the possible”.

“Potential: need to think about what this [network] could be and connect”

Four common themes emerged from the meeting:

  1. In our diverse experiences community is stepping up to the KMb, plate but faculty, not so much. This culture change for faculty and for our academic institutions recapitulates the early years of technology transfer and industry liaison. Only the consistent application of professional services and an institutional capacity to support university-industry collaborations and time changed the collaboration culture in academic science & technology research. There’s a lesson here for knowledge mobilization.
  2. KMb is not a cookie cutter approach. While broad principles (involve decision makers in all stages; use a variety of KMb methods including push, pull, exchange and co-production; provide training and tools) should be adopted those must be implemented in a way that takes into account local opportunities and constraints. For example, KMb at York and UVic will achieve the same goals but be implemented differently.
  3. One word summed up the meeting: POTENTIAL
  4. And again… squirrel… because you had to be there.

Next Steps: While the next steps in the growth of ResearchImpact will depend on the outcomes of the careful reflection and deliberation of participants upon returning home, the one thing we are all committed to is continued dialogue in an open and transparent fashion.

“The United Way and Universities are two different cultures but by collaborating, change will happen and we can balance Canada’s innovation agenda.”

Thank you to CIHR which funded this meeting through a CIHR KT grant to York University and the United Way of York Region.

One thought on “United Way? United Wow!

  1. Pingback: ♫Reunited and it feels so good♫ « Mobilize This!

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