A Summer of Clear Language Summaries Ahead! / À venir, un été rempli de résumés de recherche en langage clair

This summer, our writing team at York University has started working on brand new clear language summaries. Look for new, upcoming ResearchSnapshots to be developed around the topic of Poverty Eradication.

Cet été, l’équipe de rédaction de l’Université York a déjà commencé à travailler sur de tout nouveaux résumés de recherche en langage clair. Ne manquez pas les prochains ResearchSnapshot qui porteront sur le thème de l’éradication de la pauvreté.

This summer, the writing team at the KMb Unit at York are back to begin drafting a new set of ResearchSnapshots for our readers!  The theme for us this year is Poverty Eradication.

The initiative stems from York University’s partnership with the United Way of York Region (UWYR) in making KMb a crucial process for community engagement.  Between 2001 and 2006, growing trends have been identified in York Region.  There has been a 55 percent increase of low income earners, while the gap between high and low income earners continues to widen. This includes a 62 percent increase in the number of children living in low income households.

According to the Canadian Make Poverty History Campaign, more than 3.5 million Canadian live in poverty and the numbers are growing for youth, workers, young families, immigrants and people of colour. The world has enough resources, money and technology to end poverty, yet about 1.7 billion people worldwide continue to live in extreme poverty.

A part of the UWYR’s Community Investment Priorities seeks to support peoples’ transition from a life of poverty to possibility. But what exactly is Poverty Eradication?

Poverty is the lack of basic needs, with the experience of low income, education and health.  It also involves the lack of opportunity or capacity to improve one’s life. By analyzing the causes that create these living conditions, poverty eradication seeks to create change and eliminate these underlying causes.

As you will find over the summer, researchers at York and our partner RIR universities have much to offer in the areas of poverty, education, housing and economic vulnerability.  We have two very enthusiastic and dedicated mobilizers in the process of seeking research expertise and developing ResearchSnapshots: Sabah Haque and Paula Elias.

Sabah Haque: Currently, I am a business student at Schulich, and I have dedicated my summer to a cause I really care about. I am pleased to be working with Knowledge Mobilization on the pressing issue of Poverty Eradication. My goal is to provide a wide range of perspectives on how poverty can be alleviated, by making current research accessible to anyone in the community. Research in the areas of social work, business, health and environmental studies (to mention a few) – all play a role in tackling the issues surrounding poverty. This summer, stay tuned to learn about the next steps you can take to put an end to poverty!


Paula Elias: As a writer for York’s KMb Unit since 2010, I have had the pleasure of working with many researchers and becoming a part of our efforts to mobilize knowledge.   As a non-profit worker and educator, mobilizing knowledge has enhanced what I do.   Addressing clear language and supporting accessible knowledge to my students and community partners are so vital, and I look forward to gaining another summer of experience here at York.

Knowledge Mobilization’s Crystal Ball / la boule de cristal de la mobilisation des connaissances

On Tuesday June 19 David Phipps (RIR-York) gave a keynote address to the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum 2012. He predicted where the field would be in 2017.

Le mardi 19 juin, David Phipps (RIR-York) faisait une présentation lors du Forum Canadien sur la mobilisation des connaissances de 2012. Il a prédit ce que serait ce champ en 2017.

Where will knowledge mobilization be in 5 years? It’s tough to say but there are some themes that repeat at every conference, conversation and community of practice. These common themes are going somewhere, but will their journey be complete by 2017?  These are David’s predictions:

  1. Knowledge mobilization as a profession: None of us grew up wanting to be a knowledge broker but increasingly we are seeing roles such as Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, Knowledge transfer Specialist, Knowledge Broker not only in large scale research projects but in research institutions as well. Crystal Ball says: Yes, we will see knowledge brokering acknowledged as a profession in 2017.
  2. Professional training for knowledge brokers: In the US there are accredited courses for technology transfer and research administration run by AUTM and SRA, their respective professional associations. There are individual courses for knowledge mobilization such as those run by Kathleen Bloom (U. Waterloo) and the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at UVic. Waterloo also runs a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation and Melanie Barwick runs the only university accredited course called the Knowledge Transfer Professional Certificate. Crystal Ball says: sort of. We will continue to see individual courses developed in topics related to knowledge mobilization but we may not see a full curriculum leading to professional designation.
  3. Social Media: 15-20 years ago IT folks had to develop a business case to convince corporate leaders to invest in an enterprise e mail system. Today e mail is a fact of life (unfortunately). Many of us are now using social media as a broadcasting tool and a large portion are also using it as a listening tool. We are now starting to figure out how to use social media as a tool for engagement but we’re not there yet. These trends will accelerate. Crystal Ball says: not in 5 years but in 5-10 years social media will become an everyday tool to support research engagement.
  4. Systems and networked knowledge mobilization: Sandra Nutley and colleagues have written that research utilization will grow from individual project level efforts to system level efforts operating in networks of knowledge mobilization. We are already seeing this in initiatives like ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche, K*, KT Canada and the KTE Community of Practice. Crystal Ball says: yes, we will increasingly operate within systems and networks of knowledge mobilization.
  5. KT, KMb, KTE, KTT, KI, KM, K*, Engaged Scholarship:  I am on record as choosing to not engage in this debate. Words matter. Intensions and actions matter more. Crystal Ball says: no. We will not have a single term for all of our related activities.
  6. Evaluation: Under the leadership of the Institute for Work and Health we undertook a systematic review of tools to evaluate knowledge transfer and exchange. We started with 9998 articles and identified only 54 that described quantitative tools. Of the studies that did provide measurement properties only five provided a minimum indication of reliability and validity. Almost 10,000 articles and only five pointed in the right direction. Crystal Ball says: no. Our practices span from relationship building to implementation science. From poverty to climate change to water. We will not have an easy way to articulate return on investment in knowledge mobilization by 2017.
  7. Evidence informed knowledge mobilization practice: We are all knowledge hypocrites. Researchers don’t connect to practitioners and practitioners don’t connect to research. Much. But that’s changing. Initiatives like the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum create a venue where knowledge mobilization researchers and practitioners can begin to build their own bridge between research and practice. Crystal Ball says: yes. Finally.

The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum is a landmark event for knowledge intermediaries in Canada. Peter Levesque, the driving force behind the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum describes the rationale behind the Forum on his website. “Knowledge Mobilization has seen a significant growth over the past decade.  There are more organizations engaged in active knowledge mobilization efforts.  There are more people with knowledge mobilization as their profession. Research efforts to understand and optimize knowledge mobilization practice have accelerated and are attracting more resources.  It is now time to come together to share both the science and art of knowledge mobilization.  The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum will provide access to some of the best minds and most creative practitioners in the field.”

Thanks to Peter and the Forum for allowing me to gaze into the crystal ball.  Come back in five years and we’ll see if the crystal ball was accurate.

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit wins Best Practice Award

The following story appeared in York University’s YFile on June 12, 2012.  It is reposted here with permission. 

On June 12, 2012, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit received the Knowledge Economy Network Best Practice Award from the European-based Knowledge Economy Network (KEN). The award, which was part of a group announced by the network was presented during the network’s annual forum, which took place June 11 and 12, in Maribor, Slovenia.

KEN is an European nonprofit association that acts as a “network of 16 European regions and countries, interested in boosting their knowledge-based competitiveness, exchanging good practice, encouraging collaboration and implementing new knowledge into innovative products in response to a larger, global need to enhance and support efforts to build knowledge economy, not only at European, but at a truly international level.”

In addition to national level awards recognizing innovation in the four domains of education, research & development, innovation, entrepreneurship, plus one media award, the three Best Practice Awards announced this year went to:

  • European Affairs Fund, AP Vojvodina, based in Serbia, which KEN described as “an example of good practice in multicultural education”
  • Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University, which was cited by the network as ”an example of good practice of a new scheme run by the University and involving all triple helix [government, community and industry] partners”
  • South East European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, based in Croatia, which KEN highlighted as ”an example of good practice in successful regional cooperation in training and education”

“This recognition from a European agency is testament to the growing international reputation that York is gaining for its work in knowledge mobilization,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “Knowledge mobilization connects researchers and students with partners, so that their research and expertise can be applied to real-world challenges, in addition to helping to inform decisions about public policy and social services.”

Under the leadership of David Phipps, director of research services & knowledge exchange in York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, the unit has been developing and delivering knowledge mobilization services to faculty, students and their research partners since 2006. The unit has received funding from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Working with 240 faculty, 142 students and 205 partner organizations, the Knowledge Mobilization Unit has brokered more than 250 collaborations between the academy and non-academic partners. These partnerships have attracted more than $1 million in sponsored research funding specifically for York research, and over $1 million in funding for community partners.

Michael Johnny, manager of the Knowledge Mobilization Unit, supports all large-scale grant applications, which in turn has secured over $17 million in external research support for York faculty and their partners. Some of these collaborations are maturing into social innovations that help find new ways to address persistent social and economic challenges.

  • In 2009 Nottawasaga Futures, a nonprofit community development agency, called York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit to help a rural business in making green decisions. The collaboration helped launch the Green Economy Centre.
  • York supported a collaboration between graduate student Tanya Gulliver and the Parkdale Activity & Recreation Centre in 2007. Research conducted by this partnership is now helping to inform Toronto’s Heat Registry Manual, which will assist more than 2.5-million people cope in an increasingly warming world.
  • When the Regional Municipality of York called the Knowledge Mobilization Unit to seek support in evaluating how they delivered services to immigrants, York supported a collaboration between two faculty members and municipal policy-makers. The evaluation undertaken provided evidence to the regional government, which in turn informed the region’s decision to invest more than $20 million to expand the Welcome Centre program. The investment created 86 jobs and provided 48,000 services to new Canadians living and working in York Region, which is home to Canada’s fastest-growing newcomer population.

“Knowledge mobilization identifies and supports these collaborations,” said Phipps. “The Welcome Centres, Heat Registry and Green Economy Centre are examples of social innovation.”

As a result of these and other stories of the impact of research, Phipps is widely sought as a speaker on York’s model for knowledge mobilization, which is increasingly becoming recognized as a critical component of engaged scholarship and learning.

To watch Phipps’ acceptance speech for the Economy Network Best Practice Award, click here.

Innovation brokers / Courtiers en innovation

David Phipps, RIR-York

David Phipps (RIR-York) published another knowledge mobilization journal club article last week. The journal club discusses work on “innovation brokers”. Are you a knowledge broker or an innovation broker?

David Phipps (RIR-York) a publié un autre article dans le cadre du club de lecture sur la mobilisation des connaissances.  La discussion porte sur les « courtiers en innovation ». Êtes-vous un courtier de connaissances ou bien un courtier en innovation ?

We wrote a number of blogs on the K* conference a few weeks ago. At that conference I met Laurens Klerkx, a scholar from Wageningen University, The Netherlands who writes on innovation and innovation brokers in particular. I had just finished my presentation as part of the K* to civil society panel in which I showed our video of our collaboration with Nottawasaga Futures resulting in the Green Economy Centre. You can read about that collaboration and view the video here. In the video Valerie Ryan speaks about our role as helping connect them to York University research and expertise, to funding “right down to editing my proposals, we simply couldn’t have done this without them, we simply couldn’t”. Thanks Val!

In the Q&A after the panel presentations Laurens pointed out that we had done more than broker knowledge saying we had played the role of an innovation broker. Innovation broker was a new term for me. I asked for more information and Laurens sent me a couple of his papers that I discuss on the KMb Journal club.

Innovation broker? Is this truly a different term easily differentiated from the more narrowly construed knowledge broker or are we really using different words to describe the same function? If you are a knowledge broker placed within a discipline specific project or unit then you are likely brokering knowledge; however, that knowledge and that brokering function nonetheless sits within a broader system of knowledge creation to implementation.  If you are an institutional knowledge broker like those in the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche universities you are brokering relationships within a broader system. We all care about what happens to our “knowledge” post brokering and strive to evaluate the impact of our brokerage by tracking forward to implementation and impact. As such we are tracking forward through a broader innovation system.

So are we all innovation brokers? Is this a new term (to me, clearly not to the literature as Laurens has been writing about this since 2008) to describe our work or is it describing something that we are not doing? And if the latter should we broaden the scope of our work?

Interesting beer talk. While we should avoid jumping on the terminology band wagon we should think about our roles and consider how this new terminology can help us become better brokers of either knowledge and/or innovation.

The Importance of Knowledge Mobilization in Benefiting Our Region

The following was first published by United Way York Region on June 4, 2012 and is reposted here with permission.

As a concept, Knowledge Mobilization was introduced in Canada in 2001-2002 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) and can be defined as putting available the knowledge gathered through research regarding social issues (poverty, housing, immigration, climate change, security, Aboriginal issues and social determinants of health) into active service to benefit communities.

As Universities are the main producers of new social science research, connecting academic knowledge to non-academic decision-makers about public policy can create significant change in our community and society in general. As such, United Way York Region (UWYR) is working proactively with York University to identify and address community priorities.

Since 2006, York University has employed a knowledge-mobilization unit to foster relationships between university research and non-academic partners. York’s Knowledge Mobilization unit currently houses three full-time knowledge brokers, one of whom works directly with us here at United Way York Region.

While we are continuing with our traditional role of supporting agencies to meet urgent needs, UWYR is also working hard to tackle the root causes of social issues. With the funding that was awarded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to York University and United Way early last summer, projects are underway that will draw on the university’s strong interdisciplinary research to respond to our community needs and systematic social challenges identified by United Way of York Region.

United Way York Region’s Strength Investments is an example of this innovation, providing seed funding to build civic muscle. Strength Investments bring community, faith, business and agencies together to work on simple, collaborative and unique solutions. The funding, which arose through research undertaken by three York University graduate students in the summer of 2010, represents a new way for us to support the rich, informal network of caring and ground-breaking solutions that already exists across the region.

Postcards from Congress – Day 7: Thanks to WLU and UW

So, it’s our last day (and a short one at that)! But even though it’s only a two hour window here at the Book Fair, there is opportunity for conversation. Take earlier this morning, for example- a visitor from the University of Waterloo who had “Mr. Congress” on his nametag! Last evening we had a chance to speak briefly with the President of Wilfrid Laurier University, Dr. Max Blouw. Congress truly is a meeting place. And as we get ready to pack up after a successful week (more later about reflections and numbers), we want to express our thanks to the host institutions and the Federation.

Having two universities hosting Congress is an excellent example of collaboration and this was not lost on the staff of RIR. Both institutions worked tirelessly to support delegates, even through the summer heat and a fall-like monsoon. A special shout out to student volunteers who went above and beyond to provide support. That kind of service does not go unnoticed!

For RIR, it was a week full of conversation, deliberation and innovation. York U and Memorial U’s knowledge brokers worked the exhibit booth and had opportunities to share important messages about our work, learn about our own respective services and build relationships within the RIR team that will strengthen our own efforts moving forward. So as we break out our packing tape, thanks to Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo for creating the meeting place for the RIR network!

Post Cards from Congress Day 6 – Congress is a Marathon

On day six of Congress, the second last day, we have rain. Union Station in Toronto is flooded. Waterloo airport is cancelling flights. And the book fair is quiet with scholars staying dry and collaborating in their own scholarly associations on University of Waterloo campus and avoiding the cold wet trek to Wilfrid Laurier University campus.

But the RIR booth is full with Michael Johnny, Krista Jensen and David Phipps from York and Bojan Furst from Memorial answering questions from book fair attendees. We are pleased to have welcomed questions from across Canada and even from American and British delegates. With the introduction of knowledge mobilization strategies in SSHRC Insight Grant applications, the KMb Units in the RIR network and the services we provide to grant applicants is the envy of many universities.

Looking back on a week of mobilizing knowledge about knowledge mobilisation at Congress 2012 we realize that this is definitely an emerging focus in Canadian schoalrship. We have had 174 substantive conversations about RIR and knowledge mobilization. We have spoken to faculty at 26 universities who wish their institution had a knowledge mobilization unit. There is appetite for and appreciation of knowledge mobilization as an integral part of engaged research and learning.

But at the end of day 6 we are pleased it’s quiet in the book fair. Time for one last President’s Reception. So long as the rain lets up.

And next year we go back to our knowledge mobilization roots. We look forward to joining our first knowledge mobilization collaborators at the University of Victoria which is hosting Congress 2013.

Front row l to r: Krista Jensen and David Phipps (York); Back row l to r: Bojan Furst (MUN) and Michael Johnny (York)