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.

Ideafest 2014: Mobilizing and Celebrating UVic Research / Ideafest 2014 : mobiliser et célébrer la recherche à l’Université de Victoria

Tara Todesco, RIR-UVic

Tara Todesco, KMb Coordinator at the University of Victoria,blogs about IdeaFest, an annual festival of research held at UVic.

Tara Todesco, coordonnatrice de la MdC à l’Université de Victoria, au sujet d’IdeaFest, un festival annuel de valorisation de la recherche qui se déroule à son université.

This spring, I had the privilege of helping organize IdeaFest, the University of Victoria’s annual festival of research that celebrates and mobilizes diverse ideas, creativity and passion for knowledge from across the university.

Running from March 3-9, this year’s festival attracted over 4,000 participants from our on-campus and off campus communities and showcased over 50 events, with topics ranging from renewable energy technology and global peace making to innovations in music composition and human health. IdeaFest’s comprehensive roster proved once again to be a unique opportunity to celebrate the breadth of research at Uvic—and most importantly— to make this research accessible to both public audiences and the greater campus community.

IdeaFest 2014 photos

As a first time festival coordinator, I saw how the accessibility of this year’s event hinged on both the relevance of the ideas being shared, and most essentially, on the forms in which organizers used to convey their work. Students and faculty communicated new and emergent research in ways that transcended traditional modes of dissemination by presenting their work in a wide range of panels, workshops, exhibits, Pecha-Kucha presentations, performances, screenings and tours.

I found the most effective presenters were those that, regardless of form, brought their ideas to life through the power of their storytelling and a thoughtful engagement with the audience. Scholars who wove their research journey into a compelling story held the attention of festival- goers, incited intrigue and engaged participants’ in the exploration of new ideas and perspectives.

Over 300 faculty, students and staff, from over 50 of UVic’s faculties, departments, schools, centres and labs, took up the challenge of communicating their research and creative projects at IdeaFest. It was a huge team effort to organize the festival, but in the end, the achievements of this year’s event were a direct result of each of the participating scholars, artists and community experts. Their time, energy, passion and imagination- and courage- made IdeaFest 2014 a genuine success.

IdeaFest 2014 Website and Roster of Events

IdeaFest 2014 Tumblr Blog

Tara Todesco, Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator, Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization Unit, Office of Research Service, University of Victoria

-IdeaFest is centrally organized by the Office of the Vice-President Research and the Office of Research Services’ Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization Unit at the University of Victoria.

What is the responsibility of universities to KTT? Reflections from the 4th Annual Knowledge Exchange Day / Réflexions sur la responsabilité des universités envers la MdC, à la suite de la 4e Journée sur l’échange des connaissances

Anne Bergen, RIR-Guelph

The following post first appeared on the Knowledge Exchange Day blog and is reposted here with permission.

Ce récit a été publié la première fois sur le site Knowledge Exchange Day blog. Il est repris ici avec permission.

What is the responsibility of universities to KTT? We could first consider what doesn’t work well: academia with a focus on basic research within traditional disciplinary silos and isolated from research stakeholders and end-users. Moreover, training students at the undergraduate and graduate level to prioritize sharing information and knowledge with other academics is unlikely to lead to KTT impact. Similarly, we can reduce research impact by keeping universities as islands in their larger community, eliminating funding for field work or community-engaged teaching and learning, and ensuring research questions are always developed by researchers alone (probably in a windowless basement office).
I’m writing from the 4th Annual Knowledge Exchange Day (aka “Knowledge Share Fair”) hosted by the OMAF & MRA and University of Guelph KTT partnership. A theme symposium this morning has been the shrinking number of actors working within knowledge systems related to agrifood. That is, we have fewer farmers, and fewer funded agricultural extension programs. We have learned that knowledge “doesn’t flow automatically” and that a healthy knowledge system needs continual care and feeding. We know that we need new ways of engaging in extension and KTT work, but we also need to recognize that there is no quick fix to these problems. KTT work is often slow, messy, and labour intensive. Worse, KTT is notoriously hard to evaluate to demonstrate “value” and observable systems-level impacts may take years. A necessary condition to successful KTT is interpersonal relationships. For KTT success, as one apple grower stated, “the value of face to face contact with end-users cannot be overstated”.
Midmorning, we gathered around small tables to discuss topics of common interest. At the “Universities’ Responsibilities and KTT” table, we talked about how to move from research to application, and how universities can facilitate this process. A message that came across clearly was that solving KTT problems require multidisciplinary efforts: we need to build spaces and time for conversations and crossing disciplinary and industry boundaries. Universities are a place where multiple forms of knowledge and inquiry are housed within a single institution. As one Masters of Engineering student pointed out, universities have a unique opportunity and therefore a unique responsibility to be able to host and convene multidisciplinary KTT efforts, moving from basic research to applicable research to application.
Should universities be multi-disciplinary KTT convenors? This is not how universities have traditionally operated, but everything we know about KTT tells us that complex problems cannot be solved in disciplinary isolation. Can universities be multi-disciplinary KTT convenors? Of course, and some are already moving in this direction. More substantive change may require researchers valuing KTT research and practice, and being rewarded for their KTT efforts. In addition, this would require changes to student training in many disciplines. New initiatives in cross-disciplinary training (e.g., partnerships between engineering and public health programs to address climate change) are a good starting place, but there are tensions between the slow speed of KTT work and student timelines that remain unresolved. Yet, the theme of the KE Day is that these are worthwhile changes to university practice, even if change is difficult.
For students, learning how to build relationships and partnerships with research users and stakeholders yields transferrable skills in project and relationship management. When these students leave the university, they are better versed in communication and outreach, and in integrating research, policy, and practice than students without KTT training. Students who take part in KTT projects are also more likely to be part of interdisciplinary networks on and off campus, and to value KTT as a standard practice.
The responsibility of the university to KTT is to look at evidence about how KTT training and practice can be facilitated. The university needs to engage with stakeholders, to listen to evidence about the needs of research users, faculty, and students and try to set policy that supports meaningful KTT practice.

Look out ResearchImpact…here comes Africa / Attention, RIR… l’Afrique entre en scène!

David Phipps, RIR-York

Is it knowledge mobilization? Is it Research Uptake Management? If it walks like a broker and acts like a broker it probably is a broker. And some African universities are brokering to the mutual benefit of communities and universities.

S’agit-il de mobilisation des connaissancesou de capacité d’exploitation de la recherche?Si cette personne marche comme un courtier et se conduit comme un courtier, on ne risque pas grand-chose à l’appeler courtier!Certaines universités africaines font du courtage au profit mutuel des communautés et des universités.

INORMS is the International Network of Research Management Societies. Many countries have associations of professionals that help university researchers find and spend their research funding. In Canada this is the CAURA, the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators. Some universities in Canada, like those in the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) network, are helping their researchers by investing services that connect research to society. We call this anything from knowledge mobilization to community engagement to knowledge translation.

Well there’s another term that is new to Canada but is commonly used in African universities: research uptake which is the act of research being taken up and used by communities. Research uptake management is therefore the professional services provided by universities to support research uptake.

DRUSSA is Development Research Uptake for Sub Saharan Africa, a network of 24 African universities who are funded by United Kingdom Department for International DRUSSA logoDevelopment (DFID) and supported by the Association of Commonwealth Universities to build capacity among research service providers to help connect research to community partners. While there are lots of discipline specific research networks that strive to create social and economic benefits from university research DRUSSA and RIR are networks of universities who are focused on the practice of knowledge mobilization/research uptake at the institutional level. The only other one I know is the Mid-west Knowledge Mobilization Network. MKMN has its origins in education but now strives to build capacity for knowledge mobilization across disciplines.

Because of this synergy between RIR and DRUSSA, I have had the pleasure of participating as a member of the Leaders Network for the DRUSSA program. This has mostly involved commenting on curriculum (yes, they have developed a curriculum for to build capacity for research uptake managers!) but I was invited to INORMS to facilitate a workshop for delegates that included DRUSSA representatives. See the workshop agenda for more information on this session.

DRUSSA workshop 140410There were over 40 participants from 23 countries including countries from Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Oceania/Australasia. What I found most interesting were the examples presented by the African universities. Many were around local agriculture and local poverty reduction such as the Community Integrated Rural Development Project (CIRDP) implemented among rural women in Ile-Ogbo, Osun State, Nigeria with University of Ibadan.

The key to many of these projects that I saw was the local element. I got the impression that these universities had developed close ties with their local communities. This is the feeling I get in the one university-one town model like in Lakehead/ThunderBay or Brock/St Catherine’s. These universities are naturally closely interwoven with the local cultural, social and economic fabric of their towns. Knowledge mobilization comes naturally to them.

Now imagine the situation where a university and a local community have developed a shared desire for knowledge mobilization/research uptake. And then layer on that a multi-year funded project with two critical components: 1) training and networking to build capacity for professionalization of research uptake management; and 2) leaders at each institution investing resources (funding, space, staff time) to support research uptake management. That is a recipe for success.

In Canada we have elements of these but we lack the multi-year funding to build capacity and provide incentives for institutional leaders to invest. Many universities have examples of successful knowledge mobilization and engaged scholarship but they are research/partner driven, often not supported by institutional capacity. The RIR universities are building institutional capacity but without incentives that come with external funding. Canada needs funding equivalent to the DRUSSA program to create a pan-Canadian capacity for knowledge mobilization. From 1995-2009, the tri-council IPM program funded the growth of Canada’s university technology commercialization sector. We need a similar program to build capacity for knowledge mobilization

It is working for African universities. Indeed African universities in the DRUSSA network are poised to become global leaders in research uptake management because of their local culture, their institutional leadership and the DFID funding and support from the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

But the question remains. Is it knowledge mobilization or research uptake? The answer is: yes.

Thanks to Christine Trauttsmandorff (@ChristineTrautt), SSHRC, for discussions at INORMS that contributed to this post.

DRUSSA workshop


upStream Open House – Getting Fresh in York Region / Soirée porte ouverte d’upStream : fraîcheur garantie pour la région de York

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

York Region Food Network is addressing the issue of food security through an interesting and innovative project. Through collaborative partnerships and a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, upStream Aquaponics has been launched to pilot sustainable and healthy food development throughout the year.

Le réseau alimentaire de la région de York (York Region Food Network) aborde le problème de l’insécurité alimentaire par un moyen original et innovant. Grâce à des partenariats et des collaborations, et avec une bourse des Centres d’excellence de l’Ontario, upStream Aquaponics a entrepris de guider, au cours de l’année qui vient, le développement durable de l’offre d’aliments sains.

AquaponicsYork KMb had the pleasure of attending an Open House for a project led by the York Region Food Network (YRFN) which has realized development of an aquaponics lab – an urban agriculture innovation hub.  This facility is located in Newmarket, ON, steps away from the GO train station in Newmarket.   Approximately 30 people attended to learn more about the aquaponics lab and to tour the facilities.  YRFN Executive Director Joan Stonehocker addressed the crowd in attendance, identifying that this experiment is an important step for YRFN and the local community to address sustainable food development, healthy eating and food security for neighboring communities.

The KMb Unit at York University was approached by YRFN to partner in support of a research and development opportunity for their successful Ontario Centres of Excellence application, which provided direct funding support for the development of the aquaponics lab.  According to YRFN, the lab is producing 800 heads of lettuce each month and almost 150 tilapia.  Food is distributed through the Good Food Box program to underprivileged residents in the community, local restaurants as well as through an emerging retail operation.

With food insecurity identified by YRFN and United Way York Region as a community priority, KMb is a proud partner of this project and is seeking engagement from interested researchers on an ongoing basis.  Efficacy, economic, health and environmental themes are all prevalent in the development of an aquaponics lab.  Our office was also proud to support an event on Friday April 4, which YRFN hosted around Food Waste.  York graduate students and researchers from the University of Guelph participated in the presentations and workshops that were aimed to promote education, awareness and an action agenda around food security and food waste management in York Region.

KMb engages in a wide range of activities bridging and enabling research to help inform public policy and professional practice.  Based on the samples I was able to consume following the Open House, YRFN and their upStream project are well positioned to have a significant and positive impact on communities in York Region.  Add a nice balsamic vinaigrette and we’re taking KMb to the next level!

Aquaponic Lettuce

communityBUILD / BÂTIR ensemble

David Phipps, RIR-York

CommunityBUILD is a unique partnership between community, business and the university that is creating a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region. Combining the assets of different sectors creates opportunities that none could support working alone.

BÂTIR ensemble est un partenariat unique entre la communauté, le monde des affaires et l’Université. Son objectif est de créer un réseau de soutien et d’appui aux entreprises d’économie sociale de la région d’York. En alliant leurs atouts, les trois secteurs ouvrent des possibilités qui ne s’offrent pas à chacun d’eux pris isolément.

build: construct (something) by putting parts or material together (Oxford English Dictionary)

BUILD: a program of ventureLAB “designed to support entrepreneurs of technology ventures – especially first time entrepreneurs.” (

communityBUILD: a program of ventureLAB (VL), United Way York Region (UWYR) and York University designed to create a system of supports for social enterprise in York Region.

This past week communityBUILD ran the first Mash Up. Mash Up sought to identify new ideas to address to grand challenges in York Region: youth employment and food security.

Jeremy O'Krafka, Mentor Network

Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Network

An open call was made for innovators and their supporters to submit ideas that addressed one or both of these grand challenges. Twenty nine ideas were submitted. Nine were selected to come to the Mash Up. Within 45 minutes of the first day these were down to four: one addressing food security, one addressing youth employment and two of them addressing both.

Over two days of Mash Up and one day of work the four teams of between three to six team members worked with mentors from VL, UWYR and York to develop their ideas. These four ideas were then pitched to a panel of social entrepreneurs and community builders. Each had the chance to secure $5,000 of consulting services, become a VL client and receive VL mentoring.

  • Upstream New Gardens Initiative is a project of York Region Food Network that sought to build on its existing hydroponics facility and use sale of hydroponic lettuce to fund Jeremy O’Krafka, Mentor Networkfood awareness programs.
  • Mentor Network seeks to match youth job seekers with experienced mentors who will use their own networks to help make a match between youth and the 80% of jobs that are never advertised through traditional recruitment methods such as job fairs. Mentor Network will pilot with Seneca College students.
  • Hon’r Snacks places healthy food snack towers in offices and proposes to use youth from the NEET (not in employment, education, training) group to stock the towers.
  • Cultivating Opportunities builds on the established therapeutic connection between nature and young people living with mental illness and addictions to provide farmers with steady employees. Youth with lived experience of mental illness and addictions will work on the farm and be paid in vegetables that they can then sell as healthy food baskets in farmers markets or to office workers.

From a one minute pitch on Monday morning to a 10 minute presentation on Thursday all four groups successfully went on a journey with their mentors through the Lean Start Up and the Business Model Canvass.

Keys to success of the Mash Up were:

  • A clear call for projects addressing critical issues important to York Region
  • A well structured journey
  • Mentors to guide along the journey so that teams were actively supported every step along the way
  • Experienced judges to provide critical feedback
  • A pool of talent in York Region and the GTA open to growth and opportunity
  • Three partners each bringing unique assets to the table

communityBUILD is a partnership between the academic, community and business sectors. It is not a campus centric incubator. It is not charity. It combines the power of lived experience in community with the discipline of business with the perspective of academia. Each partner contributes unique assets that combine in complementary ways to create a system of supports for social enterprise. The Mash Up is the first roll out of communityBUILD that has already helped four new ideas move toward implementation. They aren’t social enterprises yet but they have started on a path that will support their early exploration.

Neither VL, UWYR nor YorkU have a mandate to support social enterprise. Only by working together and combining their assets could a regional system of supports for social enterprise be developed that promises to grow from the Mash Up into a new player in the social and economic infrastructure of York Region.

See coverage of communityBUILD in the Toronto Star.


Commnuity BUILD - Mashing Up at the Markham Convergence Centre

Community BUILD – Mashing Up at the Markham Convergence Centre