Post Cards from Congress – Day 7

ResearchImpact booth

ResearchImpact booth

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

Until next time!

It’s been another great Congress! Here’s what happened this year:

  • Over the 7 days we had more than 170 conversations with researchers from 30 plus universities and 6 community organizations
  • I had 2 great breakfast conversations about knowledge mobilization with community engaged researchers from RIR member universities Carleton and University of Saskatchewan
  • I made  good progress on the sock I am currently knitting and had 7 conversations with other knitters. Like knowledge mobilizers, knitters love to talk to each other about what they are working on and the different methods they use
  •  I had a great time exploring Brock’s campus and the surrounding area. Even though I have seen Niagara Falls many times before, it’s a site that always impresses me

Thanks to the Federation and Brock University for another great Congress!

Picture of knitted sock

Påske Sock #2

Post Cards from Congress – Day 6

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

How things have changed…

The first Congress I attended was in 2008 at the University of British Columbia. I spent a few days at the ResearchImpact booth talking to people about the work we do. Back then, I spent a lot of time talking about what knowledge mobilization was. People weren’t familiar with the term and were often confused by it. Usually after sharing a story or two about a research project that used knowledge mobilization they would understand.

This time around, I have spent a lot less time explaining what knowledge mobilization and more time talking about how we do knowledge mobilization. I’ve been getting the sense that researchers I’ve been talking to here at Congress get the concept of knowledge mobilization and are actively engaged in it.

And it hasn’t just been researchers from only certain disciplines; I’ve talked to people in Geography, Communications and Culture, Women’s Studies, Political Science and more. I’ve also talked to a lot more community based researchers than I have at other academic conferences.

It has been a great to see a shift in the conversation and to have substantial discussions about different knowledge mobilization activities and methods with researchers from across Canada.

Post Cards from Congress – Day 5

Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake

View of Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

What are the chances?

On Wednesday morning at breakfast, I grabbed the first seat I could find at a table where five people were chatting with each other.  Unlike my fellow York KMb colleagues, Michael and David, I am decidedly not a morning person and don’t have a lot to say before I have some coffee, so I was concentrating on my breakfast when I suddenly heard, “I think Yaffle is the best example of that”. For readers who may not know, Yaffle is an online platform that connects innovators in Newfoundland and Labrador with knowledge and expertise at Memorial University and is a tool used by RIR members The Harris Centre.

It turns out the topic of their conversation was the development a database to help match up researchers and community partners for collaborative research projects. I talked to them about our brokering activities at York and how we mainly rely on our networks to identify possible partnerships.

But this question of using a database to identify potential research partners came up a few more times during the day. I was asked by a few visitors to our booth if we use a database in our brokering activities. This got me thinking about the value of using this type of tool for research collaborations.

Besides the usual technical complications of developing and maintaining this type of database, I wonder about its role in identifying and supporting research partnerships- Would it replace face-to-face brokering? Would it compliment it? Would it just be a starting place for the partnership or could you potentially establish a “virtual” partnership, say on a global research project?

Not sure I have the answers to these questions. I would be interested in hearing other people’s views on the subject. Does anyone have any experience using databases for knowledge brokering? How does it fit in with face-to-face brokering?

Post Cards from Congress – Day 2

David Phipps, RIR-York

The power of wine.

That’s what we were thinking as the President’s reception started at 5 pm. There were two changes for Day 2 at Congress. The book fair where we are exhibiting was shifted 2 hours being open 10am-7pm. This allowed for the second change with the President’s Reception being held in the book fair. The reception area was packed with people coming for the food, the wine, the exchange of ideas and to check out all the booths in the book fair including our booth.

Day 1 we had 21 meaningful conversations at the booth. Day 2 this shot to 50 conversations from 26 universities including 2 from the US. We had 30 conversations from 10am-5pm (4.3/hour) and 20 conversations from 5am-7pm (10/hour). Lesson Learned: wine and food bring people round to chat about knowledge mobilization and the impacts of research which mirrors our experience with serving a hot breakfast for morning events.

We had two decision maker organizations visit, Treasury Board Secretariat and London Catholic School Board, and both were interested in connecting to a researcher. This is a difference from other years where decision maker organizations were either not attending Congress or not coming to the booth. It is great to talk to faculty and students and nice to now have that interest complemented by potential research partners.

The day 2 RIR impact story we exhibited was from University of Saskatchewan. Nazeem Muhajarine and his partners from the City of Saskatoon showed how collaborative research can inform decisions about the built environment and healthy kids. Great example of how collaboration supports research having an impact on the lives of citizens.

And the quote of the day from a research at a Toronto university, “I wish you were at my university. You guys are, like…wow!”

Thank you. We aspire to be, like….wow.

St. Catharines-20140525-00435

Post Cards from Congress – Day 1

David Phipps, RIR-York

Welcome to Congress 2014 hosted at Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. It is the university’s 50th anniversary and the 83rd year for Congress.Congress 2014 day 1

David Phipps and Michael Johnny (RIR-York) are hosting the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche booth. This year the booth is featuring posters of RIR projects that have had an impact on the lives of children and youth. A new university project will be featured everyday using the posters that were produced for the Social Innovation event held on Parliament Hill, February 24, 2014.

Today we had 21 meaningful conversations at the booth with researchers from Brock, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, University of Victoria, McGill University, McMaster University, Waterloo University, University of Toronto and the University of Saskatchewan. This year the topic of conversation was mostly about impact. Other years the conversation was about knowledge mobilization but this year it appears that many nod in understanding about knowledge mobilization and the new conversation is the relationship between knowledge mobilization and research impact.

And that’s why we exhibit at Congress.

We also had a chat with someone from York Region District School Board who has asked to be connected to researchers looking at policies that direct students to choose college or university for their post-secondary choice.

And that’s also why we exhibit at Congress, to find new opportunities to connect decision makers to research and expertise.

Great first day.

Spring Travel 2014 and the Need for a Shared Calendar / Printemps 2014 : événements, déplacements… et calendrier commun

David Phipps, RIR-YorkPicture of globe, plane and suitcase

This spring Canada is hosting a number of key knowledge mobilization and related events….but can we please speak to each other so this confluence of riches doesn’t happen next year

Ce printemps, de nombreuses rencontres importantes pour la mobilisation des connaissances ont lieu un peu partout au Canada… On devrait discuter de planification, pour éviter que ce carambolage d’occasions se reproduise l’an prochain!

Below are 9 events happening across Canada, all with amazing content all featuring amazing people and all in the same 4 weeks:

CUVIC 2014 – Victoria, BC, May 20-22; Beyond Engagement: Creating Integration, Innovation and Impact; a conference on scholarship and practice of community engaged scholarship, Hosted by Institute for Studies and Innovation in Community University Engagement (ISICUE); RIR-UVic will be playing a key role as will RIR-UGuelph colleagues at ICES and Community Based Research Canada.

Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities – Brock University, St Catherine’s, ON, May 24-30; “Unrivaled in scope and impact, the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences is the convergence of over 70 scholarly associations, each holding their annual conference under one umbrella.  Now in its 83rd year, this flagship event is much more than Canada’s largest gathering of scholars across disciplines. Congress brings together academics, researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners to share findings, refine ideas, and build partnerships that will help shape the Canada of tomorrow.”; RIR always hosts a booth in the book fair and is a very visible example of Canadian knowledge mobilization.

Social Innovation Exchange Summer School – Vancouver, BC, May 27-29; How can we increase our impact – Shifting cultures, changing systems and preparing for surprise? A global event where some leading social innovation practitioners come to Canada to explore the intersection of the various meanings of culture and social innovation. RIR-York is sponsoring and David Phipps is on a panel on institutional change.

Social Frontiers – Vancouver, BC, May 30; “The next edge of social innovation research”; this is the research day accompanying the SIX Summer School. It will feature about 60 social innovation researchers mainly from Canada but with some global leading talent. RIR York is sponsoring and Robert Haché, Vice President Research & Innovation, is introducing one of the key note speakers.

Association for Nonprofit and Social Economy Research (ANSER) – Brock University, St. Catherine’s, ON, May 28-30;  “ANSER brings together leading academic researchers, practitioners, consultants, policymakers and community organizations from Canada and internationally to discuss current and emergent issues, debates and challenges in the fields of civil society, social economy, and nonprofit research and practice. Join us for what promises to be an engaging and provocative conference. The theme for the seventh conference at Brock is: Nonprofits and the Social Economy, Pursuing Borders without Boundaries.”  Would love to be there but RIR doesn’t have any presence due to the competing priorities.

CACSL – Ottawa, ON, May 28-30; “As a pan-Canadian community service-learning conference and Volunteer Center Leadership Forum combined, the conference’s vision is to facilitate comprehensive, cross-sector partnerships between post-secondary institutions, volunteer centres, and community based organizations” Lead by colleagues from CFICE with friends from RIR-Carleton; RIR-York Michael Johnny will be on a panel.

Pause for 6 days….ahhhh….

Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum – Saskatoon, SK, June 9-10; This is the big event in knowledge mobilization in Canada. All RIR universities will be represented, we are sponsors of the event and are having a dedicated RIR meeting on June 8.

3rd Annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education – Lowell, Massachusetts, June 10-12; OK…it’s not Canadian but “This inspired gathering of higher education practitioners, academics and faculty focuses on engaging participants in an examination and discussion of emerging strategies and practices that encourage innovative and entrepreneurial education, campus culture and community/business engagement.” RIR-York David Phipps is on a panel with colleagues from the Pond Desphande Centre (UNB) and McConnell Family Foundation speaking about campuses and social innovation.

Canadian Association of University Research Administrators (CAURA) – Ottawa, ON, June 14-16; RIR has been participating in his annual conference since 2006. There is always increasing interest in knowledge mobilization as a service to researchers and their partners.  All RIR universities are present but often represented by research administrators and not necessarily knowledge brokers.

Amazing content, amazing people, a chance to create a national buzz in the field of knowledge mobilization and related concepts…but REALLY….does it all have to be packed in 4 weeks???? Next year you can add CUExpo 2015 to the mix. Thanks to our RIR colleagues at Carleton for hosting May 25-29, 2015…if you’re holding a conference next Spring 2015 please check your dates and consider something in the fall…please!

Practicing the Fine Art of Doing Nothing: A Knowledge Mobilizer’s Introduction to Open Space Facilitation / L’art subtil de ne rien faire : L’animation d’un forum ouvert expliquée par une courtière de connaissances

Lindsey Thomson, RIR-Guelph

Lindsey Thomson, Community Engaged Learning Manager at the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship, University of Guelph, reflects on Open Space facilitation and knowledge mobilization.

Lindsey Thomson, responsable de l’apprentissage tourné vers la communauté à l’Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship de l’Université de Guelph, offre des pistes de réflexion sur l’animation d’un forum ouvert et la mobilisation des connaissances. 

Lindsey ThomsonBeing relatively new to the role of knowledge brokering and mobilization, I am often on the lookout for new skills and practices to enhance knowledge flows and the brokering of relationships – in my case, in the world of university-community collaborations in research at the University of Guelph.

Over the previous 8 years I have been fortunate enough to work my way up through school to achieve (and survive) a graduate level education which, not surprisingly, included multiple thesis projects, more course work and community research experience than I would have ever thought I could handle at one time, and eventually beginning my career in program evaluation. I believed that there was no way these experiences could not have prepared me well for my current career in knowledge mobilization. I believed that intervening with the major pieces of knowledge and skills I had acquired over the years was always necessary to facilitate successful partnerships in research. Much to my surprise, one Open Space Facilitation workshop I attended this month has led me to seriously reconsider this thought and instead feel that mastering the fine art of doing nothing at the right time and in the right place can sometimes be just as (if not more) valuable as jumping in and facilitating the heck out of a situation.

Okay, wait. So, after all of these years of education and training in individual and community-level interventions for the betterment of society and quality of life, I can effectively (and perhaps MORE effectively) facilitate community action and change by… doing… nothing? WOW.

Now, this was my initial reaction to the content of the workshop. Luckily, the story does not stop there and there is much more to ‘doing nothing’ as a facilitator at an Open Space event than one would initially assume.

Open Space Technology was born out of creator Harrison Owen’s observation that the most ‘useful’ part of conferences were often the coffee breaks. His goal with open space was to foster this same level of energy and self-organization of people and make this into an event in itself through meeting structures that encourage a more horizontal organization of people and their ideas (e.g. sitting in a circle, giving everyone the opportunity to post session topics, democratic prioritization of next steps, etc.). Rather than sending in a professional facilitator to lead discussions or spending hours upon hours devising a conference program, Owen instead decided that the full range of stakeholders in attendance should be responsible for setting their own agenda for the day (or multiple days). Situations that lend themselves well to Open Space Technology include a diverse group of participants who must deal with a complex issue for which no one has a single, clear answer.

The principles of open space technology are simple:

1. Whoever comes are the right people

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.

3. When it starts is the right time

4. When it’s over it’s over

Informing the flow of the meeting and conduct of participants is also The Law of Two Feet: If you find yourself in a situation where you are not contributing or learning, move somewhere where you can.

Learning about Open Space has not prompted me to discount the learnings I have been privileged enough and worked hard (oh so very hard!) to accumulate over the years – it has simply sparked an important moment of questioning of some of the fundamental assumptions about what it has come to mean for me to be an effective social worker, facilitator, community researcher, and knowledge mobilizer.

The idea of ‘holding space’ and its contrast with more traditional ideas of facilitation was the big ‘take home’ message for me. To ‘hold space’ is to engage a leadership style that feels unfamiliar and is more concerned with being rather than doing. To ‘hold space’ is to be present in a fully authentic manner and to go let go of any attachment you may have to a certain set of outcomes for the meeting. In Open Space, knowledge mobilization is less about an innate urge innate urge to intervene and occupy a more traditional leadership role and instead is very much about the creation of important safe and open spaces for knowledge sharing, with the utmost trust in attendees to self-organize and to effectively and efficiently address issues most important to them.

As a knowledge mobilizer and broker it now feels very worthwhile, freeing, and advantageous to ‘hold space’ in which university-community collaborations can be shaped by those most impacted by their content and function. I look forward to incorporating the fine art of doing nothing into my current and future work as a knowledge mobilizer!


Owen, H. 2008. Open space technology: A user’s guide (3rd Edition). Berrett-Koehler: San Francisco.

Corrigan,  C. (n. d.). Open space technology. Retrieved from

The UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum in Second Life / Le forum britannique sur la mobilisation des connaissances dans Second Life?

David Phipps, RIR-York

David had the privilege of attending the UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum 2014 in person. George Julian (@GeorgeJulian) attended in Second Life. Did it work for George the same way it did for David?

David a eu la chance d’assister en personne au
Forum britannique sur la MdC 2014. George Julian (@GeorgeJulian), lui, y a assisté dans Second Life. Les choses se sont-elles passées pour George de la même façon que pour David?

The short answer is no, but that doesn’t mean it was a failure. I think it was a successful first experience. Second Life doesn’t mimic real life… because in real life you can’t attend as a cat (as George did) nor can you transport to different environments that offer different perspectives on knowledge mobilization.

Second Life is an online virtual environment platform. Users create avatars and join other online users in a variety of online “lands”. Health Land was created by Dave Taylor of Imperial College as a space for holding a conference in Second Life. The online space mirrors the real life space in that there is a gathering hall where participants in Second Life can view the posters that are posted in real life.

Photo of second life #1

Health Island also has a conference room with a projection screen and a tweet wall. In this picture you can see Peter Levesque (@peterlevesque) making opening remarks at the Forum. All the presentations in real life were projected into Second Life.

Second Life photo #2

In Second Life you can view posters, listen to the talks and ask questions to the Second Life moderator who is attending in real life. You can also have one on one or small group conversations with other participants in Second Life if you have a head set and microphone. But you miss the networking and off program serendipitous conversations.

But did it work?

George tweeted :

#UKKMbF14 Being in SL was educational, visceral reminder of what it feels like to not be in the room where the convo happens!!

One of the poster winners was a poster presented in Second Life by a participant in Second Life. That is a huge testament to the potential of conference participation in Second Life.

But George was also kind enough to let me know the following.

The massive plus is that I can attend at minimal cost given I’m 4hrs away from London. The experience is an interesting one, really don’t know how to sum it up in a couple of sentences, definitely need to blog about it. I’d say it’s a good reminder of what it’s like to feel completely new to something (I only joined SL for this conference), but also to try and be part of a conversation when you’re outside of the room. We’ve had teething troubles with audio and video, so technically it’s not been the easiest to follow, that said it’s been good to see people, and combined with twitter has made me feel like I can follow some of it.

I’d say it’s been educational, certainly so far, in many ways. It’s been good to meet a couple of people, but we’re a very small group in SL and it does feel like we’re missing out on a lot of the benefits of being in the room, especially networking obviously.

George also posted her own blog on her own experience.

My experience of Second Life mirrors George’s although she was in there for 2 days and I was popping in and out. Second Life offers great potential to engage a wide audience in the content of the conference. The conference organizers intend to use Second Life to carry on small group discussions and special interest groups arising from the Forum.

I need to become more proficient in my own use of Second Life. The audio issues were likely amplified due to the time delay between real life and Second Life. It might actually be easier when participants are all in Second Life. We know this is possible because of SLActions, “the original international conference held simultaneously in several countries on the topic of virtual worlds and metaverse platforms”. It is a conference that can be attended solely in Second Life.

The UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum isn’t there yet but huge shout out to the organizers for this experiment. The KMb Unit at York University tried out Second Life David Phipps' Second Life Elf Lord avatarwith very unsatisfying results about 5 years ago. Returning to Second Life now, with a coach like Dave Taylor, made for a much more successful experience.

By the way…. The elf lord you see in these pictures is me. As a newbie to Second Life I chose the only off the shelf avatar that had grey hair. With more time and more experience I can choose to lose the cloak and sword, add glasses and look more like my real life self.  Or just remain as an elf lord… I bet they can mobilize all sorts of things!

And don’t forget to check out the CDN KMb Forum in Saskatoon June 9-10.

A Knowledge Broker’s Perspective on Research / Recherche : le point de vue d’un courtier de connaissances

Michael Johnny, RIR-YorkU

This story was originally posted on the Mitacs website on Janaury 24, 2014 and is reposted here with permission.

Ce récit a été publié la première fois sur le site Mitacs, le 24 janvier 2014. Il est repris ici avec permission.

Michael Johnny

Michael Johnny

I have a unique and enjoyable role at York University as a knowledge broker.  My role is to connect York researchers with community, industry and government for collaborative research on complex social issues, which fits well with the type of work Mitacs does.  Knowledge mobilization is a key way to make the work done at universities relevant to greater society by helping shape policies and practices and by driving technological development through academic and industry collaborations.

There are three fundamental aspects of knowledge mobilization which I feel are important:

1. Co-produced knowledge is the most effective form of knowledge mobilization

Simply put, collaborative research projects provide the best environment for research utilization.  York’s David Phipps has introduced this previously and our work to support graduate student internships has reinforced this.  Bringing together researchers with decision makers at the start of the research cycle creates a clear and common research agenda, to maximize the benefits of outcomes.  There are two examples based on internships which we like to share with people that reinforce this point, one around youth homelessness and the other about green economic development.

2. Benefits of the research can take time

Since 2006, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has helped support almost 400 unique collaborative activities and projects.  Almost 50 of these have been internships.  This has not only helped students develop new skills and employment opportunities, it has also helped their non-academic partner organizations through research knowledge and access to university facilities. But while collaborative projects sometimes don’t provide impact immediately upon completion, many benefits can be seen longer term.  Impact can take time.

3. Relationships matter

The ability to facilitate a two-way exchange of knowledge, information and expertise relies on a strong relationship between researchers and decision makers.  Graduate student internships are a powerful mechanism to support knowledge mobilization.  Many of our success stories at York are predicated on successful internships.  If you want to embark on a successful internship, make the time to get to know your partner and understand them – their needs, motivations and assets.

Has your company benefitted from knowledge mobilization with a university?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Want to learn more about how Mitacs internships are helping to connect Canadian researchers with industry?  Contact a local Mitacs representative.

Sustainability and Institutionalization of Knowledge Brokers / Permanence et présence institutionnelle des courtiers de connaissances

Human Resources word cloudDavid Phipps (RIR-York) recently posted a knowledge mobilization journal club on “Sustainability and institutionalization of knowledge brokers”. The journal club post discusses two research articles. This blog reflects on the leadership of human resources and knowledge mobilization.

David Phipps (RIR-York) vient de publier un billet sur le thème de « la permanence et la présence institutionnelle des courtiers de connaissances », sur la page du cercle de lecture sur la mobilisation des connaissances. Il y passe en revue deux articles de fond. Le blogue lui-même est un lieu de réflexion sur l’influence des ressources humaines et de la mobilisation des connaissances.

The knowledge mobilization journal club made the following reflection:

What these two articles really demonstrate but do not dig into is the lack of leadership and management of knowledge brokers in these two settings. The brokers at U. Edinburgh are (I am guessing) hired by the researchers who hold the grant funds and (I am guessing) have little experience in knowledge mobilization and knowledge brokering. Effective leadership and management would address a number of the issues identified by the knowledge brokers. Effective leadership and management would:

  • work with HR to clarify roles and ensure that compensation is aligned
  • provide opportunities for training
  • support mentorship and peer networks
  • ensure that evaluation and assessment were aligned with clarity of roles and supported by training and mentoring
  • hire the right people for the right roles

I thought we should check into how we’re doing this at York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit:

  • work with HR to clarify roles and ensure that compensation is aligned
    • We recently (2013) reviewed and updated the job description for the Manager, Knowledge Mobilization (Michael Johnny) and in 2012 we recruited the Knowledge Mobilization Officer (Krista Jensen) into a new unionized position. These roles were rated and banded in accordance with university policies. They are centralized research support services in the Office of Research Services under the Vice-President Research & Innovation. It is important to keep job descriptions current to embrace scope creep and remove redundant tasks.
  • support mentorship and peer networks
    • We have tried to develop a Peer to Peer Network on campus but it has never taken off. It’s not that anyone thinks this is a bad idea but with everyone’s busy schedule it never seems to make it to the top of the priority list. The RIR brokers have an active peer network.
  • ensure that evaluation and assessment were aligned with clarity of roles and supported by training and mentoring
    • We can do better here. Michael is evaluated on outcomes and accomplishments but we have yet to create an environment where he has time, incentives and rewards for engaging in the literature and evidence on knowledge mobilization.
  • hire the right people for the right roles
    • I think we have- both Michael and Krista have a combination of academic and non-profit experience. We have recently hired Anneliese Poetz (KT Manager) and Elle Seymore (KT Coordinator) for NeuroDevNet again with combinations of academic and non-academic expertise. We also work closely with Jane Wedlock, Knowledge Mobilization Officer for United Way York Region who was hired in 2011 to work on joint projects between UWYR and York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit. Jane brings deep experience in community engagement.

It is important to realize we have taken seven years to get here. In the early years Michael Johnny suffered from role ambiguity as we built the role together. Until his position was made permanent in 2009 he was in a limited term contract. We had few role models (thank you Harris Centre and Cupp) and no local expertise to build on. Training was on the job and professional development was non-existent. But seven years on we have a leadership team (Vice-President as Executive Lead, Executive Director and Knowledge Mobilization Manager) that is committed to providing a challenging environment where it is possible to achieve success in knowledge mobilization.

As I reflected in a related post for the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization, “Leadership in knowledge mobilization has less to do with the practice of knowledge mobilization and more with the ‘business’ of knowledge mobilization.” Managing human resources is at the centre of the work of any knowledge mobilization operation. Without happy and hard working knowledge brokers there is no ‘business’ of knowledge mobilization.