aha moments from K* – thursday april 26, 2012

By David Phipps (RIR-York)

In the previous two installments of my aha moments from K* you will have seen all the countries that are home to some of the brokers at this conference. What is also impressive is the diversity of disciplines in which we work: communications, health policy, mental health, education, water, climate change, agriculture, health systems, international development, geography, nuclear disposal (yes…really!)

My aha came today in my panel with Glowen and Leandro. We developed a list of common lessons derived from our very different practices. The lessons learned are:

  • Build trust between partners
  • Develop capacity for K* in all partners
  • Use a mix of methodologies
  • Use web 2.0 tools
  • Involve traditional media
  • Peer supports
  • Knowledge is not static and is co-constructed
  • Understand the political, social and economic situations of the partners
  • Build a culture of K* for all participants

Moderator Derek Brien (Executive Director & Co-founder, Pacific Institute of Public Policy, Vanuatu) helped the panelists and the audience dig into this seemingly dichotomous relationship between convergence and divergence. There was general agreement on these common “guidelines” across different contexts but this doesn’t mean that I could hop on a plane and start my own knowledge intermediary practice in Ghana. These guidelines merely serve as a starting point. Knowing them before going into a new setting gives the broker a head start but it doesn’t replace local context and local knowledge. Aha!

But there is also something else starting to crystalize for me. Not so much an aha! as a hmmmmm….

This conference is the closest thing to a K* love-in that I can imagine. We are converging on many issues and many common themes and diverging on some such as the role of K* in advocacy. I am hearing lots of common challenges/opportunities but we’re not moving to solutions/actions. Today someone suggested we need a K* Code of Ethics. That’s a solution to an identified need around differential power in some knowledge relationships. I am hoping through the K* process – which is ongoing beyond these three days – we can identify common challenges/opportunities and move to addressing some common solutions/actions.

And now, off to Niagara!


York’s KMb Unit part of inaugural conference on knowledge mobilization

The following article appeared in York University’s YFile on April 24, 2012 and is reposted with permission.

York University is playing an important role in the first conference of its kind that is dedicated to better mobilizing and brokering knowledge.

The K*2012 conference, which starts today and continues until April 27, provides a forum for an international cohort of delegates to share their ideas and practices in knowledge mobilization. York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and Research Impact are two of the sponsoring organizations involved in the conference.

“York University is a recognized leader in Knowledge Mobilization in Canada and internationally,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president Research & Innovation. “We are pleased to participate in this event. The K*2012 conference provides an opportunity for global experts to share their perspectives on knowledge-brokering practices and its impact on the creation of public policies.”

How to better mobilize knowledge and maximize its usefulness will be the focus of some 60 experts from 20 countries. David Phipps, director of Research Services & Knowledge Exchange at York University, serves on the conference steering committee and is a participant in a panel discussion featuring experts in knowledge mobilization.

“This conference is the first of its kind,” said Phipps. “I will be sharing York’s knowledge mobilization practices with knowledge brokers from knowledge intermediary organizations around the world. I am particularly excited about presenting a panel with a knowledge broker from Argentina and one from Ghana. Despite the very different national contexts we have identified eight shared outcomes from our very different practices.”

As part of the conference proceedings, delegates will lay the foundation for future work, including establishment of a global community of interested parties and mechanisms to sustain it. The conference chair, Alex Bielak, senior Fellow and knowledge broker of the United Nations University’s Hamilton-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), will create a legacy document to capture ideas on reducing the gulf between knowledge and action.

The York University community can join the conference through social media. There will be a daily conference blog available on GDNet providing updates on plenary and panel discussions and interviews with speakers and participants. The blog offers a forum for University community members to ask questions and share their ideas and research about their experiences navigating the knowledge-policy interface. Twitter updates including photos, live updates, participants comments regarding discussions can accessed by following @Connect2GDNet and #Kstar2012.

University community members can also register here to watch full coverage of the plenary and panel sessions, or they can subscribe to receive GDNet blog email alerts and blog newsfeed offering a daily digest of conference news.

aha Moments from K* – Wednesday April 25, 2012

By David Phipps (RIR-York)

France. Nigeria. Vanuatu. Kenya. Home to more of the knowledge brokers I met today. Truly a global experience.

Lots of work on tap today. Today wasn’t just listening to talking heads – huge THANK YOU for that.

First up – provocative opening by Derek Brien who said we need to focus on the process of K* and not the outcomes those processes enable. This was contextualized but mostly echoed by John Lavis (Program in Policy Decision Making). I don’t disagree with the need to focus on the process. This is the message of my paper with Daniele Zanotti that illustrates that campus-community collaborations are a journey not a destination. We are also on record as saying the knowledge mobilization is a process that enables social innovation. So the process is important. But if we don’t also focus on the outcome how can we measure our processes and improve upon them? I think Derek Brien and John Lavis are saying that (depending on your audience) the outcome is often a political decision that you as a knowledge broker have no control over so focus on the process (over which you do have control) and leave the outcome to those who are making the decision regardless of whether or not you agree with the decision.

Second aha moment came when we were discussing the principles of collaboration and our table got heavily into a discussion about knowledge brokering using on line tools. The principles of on line collaboration were:

  • Provide leadership
  • Create incentives
  • Assign dedicated staff
  • Know the trajectory of your collaboration (have an end in mind)
  • Mix formal and informal networking

We reflected that the principles of collaboration are the same on line and in real life. Maybe it’s no surprise that the conditions required for effective on line collaboration are the same as in real life but who knew until you started comparing the two. Likely there are differences. Maybe access and adoption of technology and the fact that trust is earned differently (but is still earned) is different between on line and real life, but these principles are shared.

And after all the rum tasting (yes, we found time to mobilize more than knowledge) one picture summed up the day (thank you Robyn Read from Research Supporting Practice in Education).

Aha moments from K* – Tuesday, April 24, 2012

David Phipps, RIR-York

Glowen Kyei-Mensah

Ghana. Canada. England. Mauritius. Netherlands. Argentina. Scotland. Germany. Australia. United States. And many more. The opening reception of the K* conference brought together many friends of ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche and introduced us to new knowledge intermediary colleagues from around the world.

The start of the K* (“Kstar”) conference saw the 60 or so delegates going through some ice breaking events to get to know each other – which might have been needed in other settings but the energy was high this evening as brokers and policy makers got to chat to researchers and practitioners from around the world.

I am pleased to say that the two delegates with whom I am sharing a panel, Leandro Echt from Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC, Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth), Buenos Ares, Argentia and Glowen Kyei-Mensah from Participatory Development Associates in Accra, Ghana were the finalists in the competition to win a copy of Louise Shaxon’s book.

Louise Shaxon (ODI, UK) and colleagues had a pre-launch of their book, Knowledge Policy and Power in Internatioinal Develeopment, A Practical Guide.

Leandro Echt

This book includes a chapter on knowledge intermediaries and how we all, at some point, act as knowledge intermediaries in connecting science and research to policy and practice. The book launch was the first event of the K* program.

I am delighted to be representing York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche network at this international workshop designed to describe a global knowledge intermediary practice. I shall be blogging and tweeting throughout the week. Stay tuned for stories from the floor of the K* conference.

It’s also the closest any of us will come to knowledge mobilization groupies. “I am a huge fan of your work”. “We are using your publications as the basis of our intermediary work.” “Your blog is amazing” are some of the comments that made me smile this evening.

KMb, KT, KTE…it’s almost time for K* / Mobilisation, transfert, échange de connaissances…c’est presque le temps pour K*/ Movilización, traducción e intercambio de conocimiento: es tiempo para los intermediarios de conocimiento (K*)

David Phipps, RIR York

David from Canada is about to share his knowledge mobilization experiences with Leandro from Argentina, Glowen from Ghana and about 50 others from around the world at a conference that is aiming to describe a global knowledge intermediary practice. We are a world apart but share so much in common.

David, du Canada, est sur le point de partager ses expériences de mobilisation des connaissances avec Léandro d’Argentine, Glowen du Ghana et environ 50 autres personnes du monde entier dans une conférence dont le but est de décrire une pratique globale d’intermédiaire de connaissances. Nous  sommes différents, mais avons tant à partager.

David (Canadá) compartirá sus experiencias de movilización  del conocimiento con Leandro (Argentina), Glowen (Ghana) y otras 50 personas de diferentes partes del mundo en una conferencia que busca describir una práctica global de intermediación de conocimiento. Somos mundos distintos, pero tenemos mucho en común.

Way back on May 1, 2009 I wrote about the importance of language and how I will leave that debate to others and just get on with brokering knowledge based relationships.  K* (Kstar) is term introduced at the KTKB workshop at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in 2010 designed to embrace all the K-words (mobilization, management, exchange, translation, transfer, integration, purveyor, curator) associated with knowledge intermediaries and move beyond the paralysis of language enabling us to better describe a global practice.

That energy is about to culminate in an international K* conference that will feature knowledge intermediaries from around the world.

Leandro Echt

Led by the United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment & Health (UNU-INWEH) and sponsored by many agencies including York University and ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche. At the K* conference (April 25-27) I will have the pleasure of working with Leandro Echt from Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC, Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth) in Buenos Aires and Glowen Kyei-Mensah from Participatory Development Associates in Accra, Ghana where she manages the Mwananchi Ghana project. The three of us are presenting a panel on knowledge intermediary work with civil society and community organizations.

Daniele Zanotti (CEO, United Way of York Region) and I have previously written on lessons learned from our knowledge mobilization practice. For the K* Conference, Glowen, Leandro and I have developed our own list of nine lessons learned from our own knowledge intermediary work with civil society and community organizations. Stay tuned to the K* website for reports from the conference for those nine lessons and follow us on twitter (#Kstar2012) but what I will share now is that the three of us share eight of those nine lessons. Across three very different contexts in three very different cultures we find 8/9 things in common.

The nine lessons learned aren’t rocket science but the fact that they are common across these different K* contexts is really

Glowen Kyei-Mensah

interesting and we will use part of our panel to explore why these commonalities transcend cultures and nations.  Leandro has an appointment in Social Science, University of Buenos Aires but his day job is at CIPPPEC a think tank in Argentina where he is interested in the role of think tanks and the links between research and policy. Glowen has been an Adjunct Lecturer at the Regent University of Science and Technology in Accra, Ghana and she has worked extensively in project management that targets deprived communities focusing on trade policy and food security. She is presently the Country Coordinator of ODI’s Mwananchi Ghana Project. I am working in a very large university in the largest urban centre in Canada managing over $65 million in research funding and connecting research to external audiences from the public, private and community sectors. We operate in thee very different contexts. And despite those differences we find we have so much in common. Leandro, Glowen and I have shared e mails and one Skype call and while I don’t (yet) know them I feel I know their K* practice as it shares so much in common with mine.

David Phipps

I am looking forward to meeting Leandro and Glowen and all the other international knowledge intermediaries at the K* conference. As Leandro says, “I have high expectations for K* Conference as I believe that reflecting about this practice will lead me to plan my work with more clarification.” Glowen agrees, “’I am excited about being a part of the K* conference as there are many ways in which I can share the experience back in Ghana. Knowledge is key to improving the lives of the marginalized that I work and interact with in my line of work.”

It’s almost time for K*!

Just do it / Faites le!

David Phipps, RIR-York

David Phipps has taken a break to read some journal articles that have been piling up. Reading about the science of knowledge mobilization is good. Getting out and actually mobilizing knowledge is better.

David Phipps a pris une pause pour lire quelques articles de journaux qui s’étaient empilés. Lire sur la science de la mobilisation des connaissances, c’est bien. Sortir et vraiment mobiliser les connaissances, c’est mieux.

I had some time to sit back and read some recent issues of Evidence and Policy and came across the following article- Adrian Cherney and Brian Head (2011) Supporting the knowledge-to-action process: a systems-thinking approach. Evidence and Policy. 7(4): 471-488.

Cherny and Head developed a holistic model supporting the knowledge-to-action (KTA) process based on systems thinking. It is based on 9 C’s: communication, capacity, competency, compatibility, committment, collaboration, creativity, compliance, champions (see figure). Like the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARiHS) framework (see below), this is another model that helps practitioners think about our practie but it is not a practice per se. Cherny and Head say, “We have purposely focused on the principle and processes that should underpin a support system for enhancing the KTA process.  While infrastructure is central to the delivery of such support it is important to specify principles rather than physical activities because we want to highlight the building blocks for an effective support system relevant across a range of contexts.” Cherny and Head are explicitly saying that they chose to focus on thinking about it rather doing it.

It reminded me of a recent article in Implementation Science- Cheryl B Stetler, Laura J Damschroder, Christian D Helfrich and Hildi J Hagedorn (2011) A guide for applying a revised version of the PARIHS framework for implementation. Implementation Science. 6(99).

The PARiHS framework was developed to help understand those elements that contribute to successful implementation of evidence into practice in health care settings. The PARiHS framework is a function of the interplay of three core elements: 1) the level and nature of the evidence; 2) the context or environment into which the evidence is to be placed; and 3) the method or way in which the process is facilitated. By 2010 there had been 32 papers published on the PARiHS framework, but according to Stetler et al (2011), “No published studies were identified that used the framework comprehensively and prospectively to develop an implementation project. The ability to fully evaluate its usefulness thus has been limited.” The authors mean that this framework is a way of thinking about practice, not a practice per se. For more on the PARiHS framework see the KMb Journal club post.

It must be nice to be able to think about something and never have to do it.

But then that’s the role of researchers in many fields. Researchers think about things and study things without actually doing the things they study. Then there’s the role of practitioners.  We do things without having incentives or rewards (ie the time) to sit back and think about and reflect upon what we do.

I wrote about this on February 1, 2012 when I wrote that we were all knowledge hypocrites. We need more mobilization of knowledge about knowledge mobilization. Researchers need to move beyond thinking about frameworks to working with practitioners who are putting those frameworks into practice. Practitioners likewise need to embed researchers in their practice. At York we are starting a conversation among our engaged scholars and knowledge mobilization projects and their embedded knowledge brokers. Our goal is to inform our practice by working directly with our researchers. That’s also what the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum will start to address. By mixing knowledge mobilization researchers and practitioners it will sow the seeds of mutually beneficial researcher-practitioner relationships. Join many of your knowledge mobilization colleagues in Ottawa on June 19-20.

I have also written that what we do as knowledge brokers isn’t rocket science (see point #2 in a recent journal club).  Knowledge brokering is as much common sense as it is implementation of frameworks. But these frameworks are the opposite, presenting complicated inter-relations of elements, stages and components all designed to maximize the impact of research and evidence on decision making without ever having been evaluated to see if the outcomes support that design. If I had to think of all the elements and sub elements of the PARiHS framework and all 9 C’s of the systems thinking model before addressing any knowledge mobilization opportunity I would be paralyzed, unable to figure what to do first.

I read the literature.  I engage with researchers.  That is important, for sure. And then I just do it.

Toward a Culture of KMb? / Vers une culture de mobilisation des connaissances

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

Staff within York’s KMb Unit are not the only people talking about KMb at York.  Based on our recent experience, there are many faculty and students who are engaged in KMb activity. 

Les employés de l’unité de Mobilisation des Connaissances (MdC) de York ne sont pas les seuls à parler de MdC à York. À la lumière de nos récentes expériences, beaucoup de professeurs et  d’étudiants sont engagés dans des activités de MdC.

One of the early strategic objectives for our work at York University in Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) was to help build a research culture; this was one of the university’s priority areas.  And while priorities may change, no one will argue this does not remain important.  However, what about building a culture of knowledge mobilization?  While I allow you a moment to reflect on that suggestion, I would like to share with you a brief summary from four distinct events which took place March 19 and 20, 2012.

Sustainability Energy Initiative – Monday, March 19, 2012 – Seminar Series – New Research in Sustainable Energy  – The Faculty of Environmental Studies, Sustainable Energy Initiative has been established to build and strengthen the teaching, research and partnerships needed to create new green energy economies in Canada and around the world.  The connection to KMb was made explicit by Prof. Jose Etcheverry in his introductory comments, stating SEI is “trying to mobilize knowledge, taking a quantum lead toward sustainable energy”.  The approximate 50 people present represented research, community and advocacy interests and had probing questions for Prof. Mark Winfield and the three recent MES graduates who spoke on their research in areas of sustainable energy.  Prof. Etcheverry, in his role as facilitator, did a masterful job in seeking connections from research to areas of public policy and professional practice.

York School of Social Work – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – World Social Work Day – York faculty within the School of Social Work participated in an international conversation around social work engagement which was facilitated by a Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar.  Faculty and students within the School of Social Work have a logical and extensive engagement piece associated to their scholarship, and the web cast, “Channeling Change – Making Collective Impact Work” provided some interesting conversation points for the approximate 20 people including community members of the TD Centre for Community Engagement who assembled in the Kinsmen Building to participate.  York’s David Phipps led a conversation for the faculty, graduate students and community leaders who were present.  Knowledge Mobilization practices and processes were central to the conversation, and it was a provocative question to pass to the group, “Does York need to break silos and speak on issues with one voice around engaged scholarship?”.

Faculty of Education – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – Research Support Series – Three York faculty spoke to a small but engaged group about Knowledge Co-creation and Knowledge Mobilization.  Profs. Jennifer Hyndman, Rick Bello and Steve Gaetz spoke about their experiences with engaged scholarship.  Having faculty share their experiences around this is significant given the commitment the university had made in this area as evident by the recent Provostial White Paper  “Towards a more engaged university”.

United Way York Region – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – Meeting House – Part of an ongoing series of community engagement around issues relating to social infrastructure in York Region, United Way York Region (and partner in the delivery of KMb) hosted a meeting for residents in Vaughan.  These meetings (there are two more planned in Markham and Richmond Hill, and two had already taken place in East Gwillimbury and Newmarket) are helping inform a regional summit on social infrastructure in Fall 2012, and York Research and KMb plan to participate.  Such consultation and capacity building is an important first step to engage in KMb.

This two day window of time reflects the extent to which KMb has become a significant part of research culture.  It is worth noting that this reflects three faculties at York seeking to engage the broader York community around issues of KMb.  The KMb Unit has never, nor will it ever, hold proprietary ownership over processes of KMb and we are pleased that we were only audience members contributing to and celebrating KMb success without having to own it.  In these three York events, similar to the event hosted by our community partner, we serve as a resource to support and help amplify the work in KMb which is ongoing throughout the university.

A culture of KMb?  Safe to say we’re well on our way to achieving this! Stay tuned as we develop a regular series profiling engaged scholarship and KMb at York University.