RIR Brokers – Sharing Stories / Courtiers RIR – Partage Histoires!

A recent Skype teleconference allowed brokers of ResearchImpact – RèsearcuImpactRecherche to share and exchange stories of engagement events, showing we have much in common!

Une récente téléconférence Skype permis courtiers de ResearchImpact – RèsearcuImpactRecherche de partager et échanger des histoires d’événements d’engagement, montrant nous avons beaucoup en commun!

 

The technology worked well and six RIR brokers were able to convene to share and exchange stories of recent events our offices hosted. The purpose of the conversation was to listen to Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, Bojan Fürst, of Memorial University, share details of the highly successful MUNbuttoned events last fall which saw three back-to-back-to-back evenings hosted in St.John’s around topics of natural sciences, social and economic research, and arts and heritage.  Based on activities and projects supported by KMb at MUN, researchers engaged with the public in quick roundtable presentations in a beautiful community space in St. John’s.   The real success, as shared by Bojan, was engagement and allowing MUN researchers a chance to talk about their research off campus.  The creative use of space – the events took place in open community space above a bakery in St. John’s – which allowed for inclusive participation from community members and is a critical consideration for any successful KMb event.  The team at the Harris Centre provided excellent support to help make the evenings a success and now part of regular annual service by KMb at MUN.  With this fall being the 10th Anniversary of KMb at MUN, there promises to be more exciting events!

Having RIR Brokers meet on Skype allowed for questions and chances to learn good practices in KMb. Several brokers have less than two years’ experience in their role and this regular conversation space allows for dialogue on issues which are important to us in supporting KMb within our respective institutions.  The success of Memorial’s MUNbuttoned event provided us all an opportunity to share recent outreach and engagement successes.  University of Victoria knowledge broker Tara Todesco share of her work in leading IDEAfest which had 58 separate activities taking place across campus over the course of a week.   For the Ontario RIR brokers who were on Skype, we shared our recent SSHRC supported Pecha Kucha-style events which were supported under the Imagining Canada’s Future events which SSHRC recently released.

The conversation flowed freely and there were several questions which people had throughout our hour long talk. We have agreed to share and exchange workplans and lessons learned from this work.  The opportunity to help each other and provide ongoing and active support in our roles as knowledge brokers is the essence of the RIR network.   On April 30, Anne Bergen from University of Guelph will lead the next conversation where she will provide an overview of her work at Guelph which – like all of us – has unique local and institutional elements which shape the development and delivery of KMb services.

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.

Meet Karen Follett, KMb Coordinator at The Harris Centre

The following blog story was first published in The Harris Centre’s newsletter The Regional, Fall 2011. It is reposted here with permission.

When I started with the Harris Centre three years ago, I remember being very confused at my first meeting by the onslaught of acronyms and strange terms. KMb, brokering, knowledge transfer, stakeholder, lay summary, Yaffle. Even my title seemed daunting: Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator.

So, how exactly was I supposed to coordinate the movement of knowledge? When you boil it down, my job is to connect the university with the rest of the province.

Thankfully, I soon got the hang of it, becoming fluent in “community engagement” speak and getting to work on bringing Memorial expertise into Newfoundland and Labrador communities.

The thing I love most about my job is it’s never boring. Some days I help a non-profit group enter their research needs into Yaffle, our online research database, and then help find a match for them at the university. Then there are the days I get to travel with researchers to a remote community in a twin otter airplane.

One of the most exciting ways I connect people is by bringing people together face-to-face through workshops and other events. I could open up my own travel agency with the knowledge I’ve gained in planning logistics with the Harris Centre. We bring Memorial faculty, staff and students into different regions and communities of the province to interact with community leaders and decision makers.

It’s amazing what you learn and experience by leaving the university environment and going into a community to talk with residents about their real-world issues.

The thing that keeps me on my toes is problem solving and learning from others on-the-job. For example, I could never have been taught in school the lessons I learned when I had to get a group back to St. John’s (including myself), and were met with weather delays in Nain, Labrador during one of our workshops.

I’m also thankful for the lesson I learned about sharing knowledge: it sometimes comes from unexpected places. I now know that those inside the university community gain as much knowledge and experience from community-university engagement as do those from outside the university.

Please feel free to contact me with your questions or projects at kfollett@mun.ca — I’m here to help!

Karen

David Phipps and York’s KMb Unit named Canada’s biggest influencers

The following article appeared in York University’s YFile on September 28, 2011 and is reposted with permission.

David Phipps, director of York’s Research Services and Knowledge Exchange, has been named the most influential knowledge broker in Canada, according to a report by Knowledge Mobilization Works, a consulting and training company based in Ottawa.

The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization 100, a survey run by Knowledge Mobilization Works, asked respondents to rank the biggest influences of their knowledge mobilization practice. Phipps, who leads York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche, Canada’s knowledge mobilization network, topped the list.

Left: David Phipps

Also mentioned among the top influencers in Canada were Peter Levesque (Knowledge Mobilization Works), Melanie Barwick (Hospital for Sick Children), Ben Levin (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) and Gary Myers (KMbeing.com).  The survey collected responses from Jan. 5 to June 15, and results were released by Knowledge Mobilization Works on Monday

“Knowledge mobilization is a key element of York’s research outreach strategy,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “Through David’s efforts and leadership, York’s excellent reputation as a leading knowledge mobilization university in Canada continues to be strengthened. This recognition by his peers is well deserved.”

York piloted institutional knowledge mobilization in 2005 under a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Since then, York has grown its knowledge mobilization collaboration with the University of Victoria to include the other four ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche universities: Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Guelph and University of Saskatchewan. York also works closely with the United Way of York Region to deliver knowledge mobilization services to the York Region community, municipal and regional agencies.

Knowledge mobilization is a suite of services that connect university research and expertise to government and community agencies so that research can help these organizations make better informed decisions about public policy and social services. Knowledge mobilization is a process that results in social innovation. Continue reading

Meet a Mobilizer – Monica Nunes / Faites la connaissance d’un agent de mobilisation – Monica Nunnes

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche would like to extend a big KMb welcome to one of our newest knowledge brokers – Monica Nunes. Monica is working out of York University’s knowledge mobilization unit and is supporting researchers, young adults and community partners in Ontario and Manitoba.

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche aimerait souhaiter la plus cordiale des bienvenues à une nouvelle venue parmi les courtiers de connaissances, Monica Nunnes. Monica travaille à partir de l’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances de l’Université York et offre un soutien aux chercheurs, aux jeunes adultes ainsi qu’aux partenaires communautaires de l’Ontario et du Manitoba.

Hello! My name is Monica Nunes and I am the current project coordinator for Mobilizing Minds: Pathways to Young Adult Mental Health, a young adult mental health research project led by young adults, community organizations, researchers, and health professionals. Together we are working to develop resources to assist young adults, and those who support them, in making informed decisions about stress, anxiety and depression. The process of knowledge mobilization – getting the right information to the right people (in our case young adults) in the right format and at the right time to inform decisions – directs our work. And, by having young adults inform and guide all stages of our project, youth engagement anchors how we get that work done.

I am happy to be part of the Mobilizing Minds team, filling in for Jenn McPhee who is busy being a mom (again!). Although I am a relatively new member to this project, I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Mobilizing Minds team. Anyone who has interacted with this team has met a group of dedicated, passionate and hardworking people who have accomplished much in the few years of the project’s existence.

However, one aspect of my involvement with Mobilizing Minds that is quite inspiring for me is how I am regularly being connected to a broader societal movement that is emerging across sectors in Canada. Specifically, the movement that I am referring to encompasses the burgeoning involvement of individuals and communities in activities that understand and respond to mental health in new, progressive and ultimately more just ways.

Indeed, recent actions by diverse groups ranging from governments to high school students to corporations are driving positive social change in the area of mental health. By initiating awareness campaigns, drafting policy frameworks, developing community programs, and forming unique partnerships many are creating opportunities to promote better mental health.  And, as Mobilizing Minds conducts research to produce tools to help young adults make decisions around their mental health, I am also able to count myself a participant of this positive movement.

Certainly, there is still work to be done in the areas of mental health & addictions. Many young adults still face barriers to support stemming from stigma and health system gaps. However, the momentum that individuals and communities are spurring to promote this new ‘mental health movement’ holds robust promise for improvements. These possibilities inspire me.

And speaking of inspiration, outside of work, other things that inspire me include: spending time with my Vóvó and Vôvô (Portuguese for Grandma and Grandpa), biking through Toronto, and ice cream.

Looking forward to Social Innovation / Dans l’attente de l’innovation sociale

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact York)

What is social innovation? If knowledge mobilization (the process) results in social innovation (the outcome), knowledge brokers need to capture and evaluate social innovation outcomes that arise from knowledge mobilization.

Qu’est-ce que l’innovation sociale? Si la mobilisation des connaissances (le processus) conduit à l’innovation sociale (le résultat), les courtiers de connaissances doivent alors identifier et évaluer les résultats de l’innovation sociale qui découlent de la mobilisation des connaissances.

I have recently read four interesting and thought provoking pieces on social innovation.

The Power of Social Innovation (2010) by Stephen Goldsmith presents the lessons learned from a two term mayor of Indianapolis including case studies from education, poverty and housing. This book is also backed up by a website and the author may be found tweeting as @powerofsocinnov.

The Philanthropist (2010) released an Open Access edition (Volume 23, Number 3) of their journal featuring articles about Canadian social innovations. The entire edition and individual articles can be found here. This journal featured articles written by Stephen Huddart of the McConnell Foundation and Frances Westley of SIG @ Waterloo among others.

On February 6, 2011, The Huffington Post published the interview Rahim Kanani had with Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, on the Evolution and Promise of Social Innovation. There are wonderful stories about social innovation, collaborations and some lessons learned by the Rockefeller Foundation.

“Horizons” is published by Canada’s Policy Research Initiative. In February 2011, Horizons published a number of articles on social innovation and the community sector. This follows their earlier briefing on social innovation that did little more than ask the questions. You can read their analysis and their answers online here by clicking on the left hand menu bar. There are many articles including ones on social impact bonds, public sector innovation and an interview with Louise Pulford of the Young Foundation in the UK.

All of these complement the national work of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance who tweet as @socialfinance and the international reach of the Ashoka Foundation who tweet as @ashokatweets.

But what is it? What is Social Innovation?

In The Philanthropist, Geraldine Cahill published “Primer on Social Innovation: A Compendium of Definitions Developed by Organizations Around the World”. This includes definitions of social innovation drawn from practice around the world. In 2009, ResearchImpact-York published the following definition:

Social innovation is “the creation or application of research and knowledge to develop sustainable solutions to social, environmental and cultural challenges. Social innovation results in more efficient and effective human services, more responsive public policies and greater cultural understanding.”

It’s a good definition as it links to results but the most elegant definition I read was from Louise Pulford in which she defines social innovation as “devising new and better ways to tackle social problems”. This is simple and easily understood but what relationship does it have to knowledge mobilization (KMb) and the work of ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche and the many engaged scholarship and research projects underway in Canadian communities and universities?

In our 2009 paper we linked our definition of social innovation (above) to KMb by saying that “KMb (the how) enables social innovation (the what)”. We have recently refined this to say that social innovation is the outcome of the process of knowledge mobilization. KMb isn’t an end in itself. KMb is a process that allows researchers and their partners to develop social innovations which are new and better ways to tackle social problems. At RI-York we have spent 4 years focusing our attention on the process of KMb but without looking we have also supported some examples of social innovations:

  • The Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (PARC) Heat Registry. The Heat Registry is a community based innovation that tracks and provides services to poor and vulnerable populations at risk of heat exposure on hot summer days. The Heat Registry is based in part on the research and evidence collected by Tanya Gulliver, a York University Knowledge Mobilization Intern whose research helped the PARC Heat Registry raise operating funds that benefited the community and citizens of Parkdale. The increased risk of heat exposure due to poverty is an example of a social determinant of health.
  • In the summer of 2010, York U and United Way of York Region jointly supported three interns who undertook research to map social assets in York Region. The work of these three interns previously appeared in Mobilize This! on June 21, 2010 and their work provided data and evidence to inform a UWYR Board decision to launch Strength Investments, a new form of UWYR investment that invests in the strengths of coalitions of York region citizens and community groups.
  • Susan Lloyd Swail (former MES graduate working with Professor Gerda Wekerle) was a KMb intern jointly funded by Nottawasaga Futures and MITACS Accelerate program. Her research contributed to the development and launch of the South Simcoe Green Economy to Nottawasaga Futures (see Mobilize This! from April 13, 2010) . Susan is now Manager of their Green Economy Centre that provides knowledge and services to local business to improve and maximize the efficiency of Green Business Practices.

As we grow in our KMb efforts we need to evaluate on outcomes (social innovation) as much as on process (KMb). We first wrote about social innovation in our 2009 paper. Now that more people are writing about and acting on social innovation we will also update our thinking and re-energize our actions to capture and evaluate social innovation outcomes as well as KMb processes.

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche is still Canada’s knowledge mobilization network but now we know that we need to articulate those social innovations that emerge from our KMb efforts.

Are you working with a consultant or a knowledge broker? / Travaillez-vous avec un consultant ou avec un agent de mobilisation des connaissances?

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact York)

What’s the difference between consulting and knowledge mobilization? It depends on co-creation and the level of engagement.

Quelle est la différence entre la consultation et la mobilisation des connaissances? Elle repose sur la co-création et le niveau d’engagement.

Peter Levesque (@peterlevesque), one of Canada’s few KMb consultants, posted a blog story recently about knowledge transfer, communications and marketing. It is important to note that Peter asked about knowledge transfer (KT) and not knowledge mobilization (KMb). This is an important distinction when comparing to communications and marketing as KT is a unilateral push of information while KMb is a multidirectional engagement of researchers and research stakeholders. I commented and mused at the difference between KMb and consulting because much of what I see presented as KMb looks more like consulting to me.

Academic faculty often play dual roles of academic researcher and consultant. Both are important but research happens under the auspices of the university while as consultants they are operating as independent agents, sometimes as principals in their own consulting company. Sometimes those independent consultants operate on campus and employ students on consulting projects. This introduces all sorts of administrative challenges for the university such as ownership of intellectual property and liability and it also further muddies the distinction between academic researcher and consultant.

When engaging in KMb activities academic researchers work with their non-academic partners. So do consultants (but they are called clients). Both frequently review literature and provide information to partners. Some consultants also engage in primary data collection, analysis and evaluation. So do academic researchers. Both academic consultants and academic researchers will work in an iterative, knowledge exchange fashion with their clients/partners.

So where’s the difference?

Both the Rural Knowledge Network (@RuralKnowledge) and the Toronto Immigrant Employment Data Initiative (TIEDI) work with non-academic partners to identify needs and exchange information that meets those needs. Is this consulting or KMb? Both are funded by SSHRC Knowledge Impact in Society grants. If their partners were clients who paid for the work they would be consultants. The fact that SSHRC funds the work should not be the deciding factor.

I believe the difference is found in the level of engagement. More than just producing a report both TIEDI and Rural Knowledge are present in their communities. They are known in their communities because they make presentations, organize events, convene workshops, hold seminars and yes, they also produce reports that are valuable to their partners. They are trusted in their community as an honest broker (a shout out to a book about science in politics, The Honest Broker by Roger Pielke).

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RI-RIR), Canada’s KMb network, is similarly present in its local communities holding events (such as York’s KM in the AM, MUN’s Synergy Sessions and Guelph’s Open Access Session), sitting on community committees (York sits on the Community Engagement and Research Committee of United Way of York Region) and providing support to provincial and Regional governments and community agencies (via knowledge brokers and graduate students). Bennett & Bennett[1] have described KMb as collaborative entanglement. “Collaborative entanglement consistently develops and supports approaches and processes that combine the sources of knowledge and the beneficiaries of that knowledge to interactively move toward a common direction such as meeting an identified community need”.

Therein lies the difference between consulting and KMb.

As KMb seeks to co-create knowledge with research partners, this collaboration becomes entangled. Researchers and graduate students become entangled working side by side with their non-academic counterparts. Consultants come for a short research visit and leave behind a knowledge product, often a report and/or presentation. It’s a pleasant visit leaving both satisfied but it’s a work for hire, not ongoing, collaborative research.

Here’s another way to think of the distinction. If your overnight research guest leaves you a present (your report) in the morning, s/he was a consultant. If s/he was someone you trusted to help you make dinner, clean up, walked the dog with you, help put the kids to bed and then left you a present in the morning… then s/he was mobilizing knowledge.

That’s what we do at RI-RIR. We co-host your research dinner party where friends come together to meet, exchange and begin the process of co-production.

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[1] Bennet,. A. and Bennett, D. (2008). The fallacy of knowledge reuse: building sustainable knowledge.  Journal of Knowledge Management, 12(5), 21-33.