Communities of Practice and Communities of Definition / Communautés de pratique et communautés de définition

Bronwynne Wilton* & Anne Bergen**, RIR-University of Guelph

What happens when a diverse group of academics and government staff get together to discuss the role of the knowledge broker in the research to action cycle?  Lots of different opinions of course!  And this is exactly what happened at a recent meeting of the Guelph Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) Community of Practice. But perhaps, the more we differ, the more we might actually have in common.

Que se passe-t-il lorsqu’un groupe hétérogène formé de chercheurs et de travailleurs de la fonction publique se réunit afin de discuter du rôle de courtier de connaissances dans le cycle recherche-action. Un foule d’opinions diverses, évidemment! Et c’est exactement ce qui s’est produit lors d’une récente rencontre de la Communauté de pratique sur le circulation et le transfert des connaissances de Guelph. Peut-être qu’en fait, plus grandes sont les différences, plus le potentiel d’avoir quelque chose en commun est grand.  

A variety of cables and connectors“I see myself as a connector” commented one participant in a recent meeting of the Guelph Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) Community of Practice.  Another saw themselves as a facilitator of researcher-stakeholder collaborations while a third person noted their role as being something of a bridge between high quality information from extensive data sets and the general public.  This cross-section of roles at the first Guelph KTT Community of Practice meeting of the year demonstrates the wide variety of both individuals and perspectives within the emerging field of knowledge mobilization (KMb).

With the starting point of an interesting post on the Knowledge Brokers’ Forum (Lock, 2013) about the roles and identities that knowledge brokers might take on – the Guelph KTT CoP discussion was off to a great start.

Participants’ self-defined roles and professional identities spanned the continuum of KTT/KMb: some work as knowledge brokers, others as knowledge synthesizers and translators, some in technology transfer, some develop and promote toolkits to engage the public and others carry out primary research and wonder about non-traditional forms of knowledge dissemination.

As highlighted in the multiple and often diverse collaborative definitions within the “What is KT” wiki referenced above, within the CoP, the language we use to define our professional identities might reflect where our KTT/KMb work is situated. Moreover, the language we use to define our professional identities may also reflect some of the major barriers to doing that work. The ways in which we practice KTT/KMb, and the ways in which we talk about this work, depends very much on our institutional cultures. People working in the human health and veterinarian science side of KTT, talk about the difficulties of reaching “end users” with synthesized and translated best practices. In contrast, the words “stakeholders” and “research partners” were used more frequently by participants from both the agricultural and social science fields.  This may reflect the increasingly important and necessary process of collaboratively defining a research problem early on in the research cycle.

One of the key topics discussed was the ways in which a knowledge broker might actively engage their audience(s) in the research process to encourage more uptake of research results.  There was general agreement that more effective uptake of knowledge is associated with earlier end-user or stakeholder involvement and engagement, not only in the “results dissemination” phase of research, but throughout the research process.  However, this approach was challenged by a question about when ‘science’ is ready for end-user uptake, whether that be informing policy or affecting practice or programs, and when is there a need to simply inform the next cycle of scientific inquiry on a given topic.  In other words, pivotal questions for many practicing in the KTT/KMb area are “when is the body of knowledge on a given issue robust enough to inform decision-making?” and “who makes that call?”.

These points emphasize the importance of effective knowledge synthesis and translation in the knowledge mobilization process. In terms of our roles as knowledge brokers, do we carry out this synthesis and translation work? Or is this activity one that should be undertaken by the researcher?  It is also worthwhile to acknowledge the concern that any uptake by the media or interest by the general public might result in misrepresentation of the research. Where multiple audiences exist, there may be tensions between tailored messages aimed at the public and those targeted towards specialized practitioners.

Considering the complexity and the multiple dimensions of accelerating the uptake of knowledge from research, we might view the knowledge broker role as both a gatekeeper on the quality of the knowledge to be disseminated, and simultaneously, as a facilitator of relationships between researchers and end-users.  The Guelph KTT CoP discussed the importance of trust and credibility between researchers and stakeholders, and more broadly, with the general public as well.  Understanding and managing expectations among the various partners and audiences in the knowledge creation process was also viewed as a key role for the knowledge broker to play.

The richness of this discussion between such a diverse cross-section of government and academia representatives demonstrates the real value of crossing our institutional, departmental, and disciplinary boundaries to talk about the intersections between knowledge creation and knowledge uptake.   With open minds to share our collective experiences, we can continue to inform and improve our practices in our respective areas of interest.


Knowledge Brokering (n.d.). In What is KT Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from

Knowledge Dissemination (n.d.). In What is KT Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from

Knowledge Synthesis (n.d.). In What is KT Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from

Knowledge Translation (n.d.). In What is KT Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from

Knowledge Transfer (n.d.). In What is KT Wiki. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from

Lock, D. (2013, January 7). Professional identities. Message posted to

*Bronwynne Wilton is the Manager of the OMAF and MRA- University of Guelph Knowledge Mobilization and Communication Programs for the Office of Research, Strategic Partnerships at the University of Guelph.

**Anne Bergen is the Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator for the College of Social and Applied Sciences and the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph.

Originally posted at  reposted with permission.

David Phipps’ Opening Address to the Community Sector in the United Kingdom / Mot d’ouverture de David Phipps à l’attention du milieu communautaire du Royaume-Uni

David Phipps, RIR- York

David Phipps (RIR-York) was in the UK recently and included an address to open the annual general meeting of 3VA. 3VA is a Council for Voluntary Service, providing support for voluntary and community organizations across Eastboume, Lewes District and Wealden.  David was introduced as “the most influential knowledge broker in Canada and a recognized world leader in the field of universities empowering local communities and the voluntary sector”.

David Phipps (RIR-York) était récemment au Royaume-Uni et prononçait le mot d’ouverture de la rencontre annuelle de 3VA. 3VA est un conseil pour le bénévolat qui fournit un appui aux organisations communautaires et bénévoles à travers Eastoubme, Lewes District et Wealden. David a été présenté comme “le courtier de connaissances le plus influent du Canada ainsi qu’un leader mondialement reconnu dans la mouvance des universités qui favorise l’habilitation des communautés locales et le secteur bénévole”.

The address started with the video of the Green Economy Centre of Nottawasaga Futures as an example of knowledge mobilization enabling a social innovation. York’s partnership with the United Way of York Region was used as another example of a community agency leading in community development. Both are important partners for York University.

“On behalf of my community partners in Canada, it is a pleasure to welcome you to your AGM.

I believe the community sector is rich in talent and expertise. Community expertise and local knowledge is critically important to effective implementation of any new policy, program or service.  Similarly tacit knowledge, traditional knowledge and other forms of knowing are found in the community.  All knowledge is important and different knowledges must collaborate to enable social innovation.

I have read that the community sector is not an innovative sector.  This is rubbish as the community sector has always made a practice of doing more with less which forces innovative and creative solutions to challenges. The limitation we all face is the issue of scale. How can a local innovation be shared with other communities and scaled for broader impact? These limited resources means we have to collaborate to do more with less and that is what I wish to talk about today. Collaboration between the community and academic sectors.

As you open your AGM – it is my pleasure to talk to you about our university and community efforts in Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) to support social innovation.  KMb is an institutional infrastructure. KMb at York, like the Community University Partnership Program at the University of Brighton is unique. Both provide services that connect community talent to university talent including researchers and students. Although we implement differently the goals are similar.

Over the last 5.5 years York’s KMb Unit has helped to forge over 225 relationships. We have helped community agencies raise over $1M for programs and services and have attracted over $1M to the university in sponsored research opportunities. Supported by York’s KMb Unit, university researchers and their community partners have received over $17M in engaged scholarship grant funding. We have placed 35 KMb graduate student interns with community and public sector partners and eight of them have been hired by their placement partners.  We also have an active social media strategy.

University researchers have always partnered with a variety of organizations, that isn’t new.  What is new is that some institutions like York and Brighton have developed an institutional capacity to support this activity for the mutual benefit of the university and the community.  It is my belief that the community sector is the heart of our communities. Community agencies are committed and innovative and agile. You have ability to respond to opportunities and collaborate with universities without a bureaucratic web of red tape or a maze of intellectual property agreements.

I am traveling in UK to speak about social innovation and knowledge mobilization visiting Edinburgh, Eastbourne, Brighton and London.

I would also like to recognize that today (December 1) is World AIDS Day, a day to remember those we have lost, their friends, families and allies and the community agencies who provide a wide range of services to people affected by HIV/AIDS. Today is also a day to renew our commitments to research and service for HIV/AIDS. Some of our work has been with HIV/AIDS community service organizations. We have placed a graduate student intern at an AIDS service organization in York Region and we have written and posted clear language summaries that summarize published HIV/AIDS research.

I invite you now to pause, just for a moment and remember those who have lived and continue to live with HIV/AIDS.

Let us reflect on the value that we might be able to generate for HIV/AIDS when we work together.  When academic research and community expertise collaborate to bring new ideas to fruition.

In closing, I invite you watch a video in which Daniele Zanotti, CEO of the United Way of York Region speaks about the value of knowledge mobilization to the university and the community.”

CU Expo 2011, May 10-14, 2011 / CU Expo 2011, du 10 au 14 mai 2011

We are excited to announce the upcoming CU Expo 2011 taking place in Waterloo this May, which will focus on Community-University Partnerships: Bringing global perspectives to local action. ResearchImpact will be leading a session on tools for knowledge mobilization on Friday, May 13th- hope to see you there!

Nous avons le plaisir de vous annoncer la tenue prochaine de la conférence CU Expo 2011. Cet événement aura lieu en mai, à Waterloo, et portera principalement sur les partenariats milieu-université, des perspectives globales à l’action locale. Le Réseau Impact Recherche organisera à cette occasion un atelier sur les outils de mobilisation des connaissances le vendredi 13 mai. Au plaisir de vous y voir!

CU Expo 2011 is a Canadian-led conference designed to showcase the exemplars in Community-University partnerships worldwide, and together to introduce creative ways of strengthening our local communities.

The conference is expected to draw over 800 people from Canada and around the world who are passionate about the power of community-university partnerships as a vehicle for social change. Students, community leaders, researchers, educators, funders, policy makers and others invested in community-building will be in attendance.

The CU Expo movement began in Canada as a response to individuals involved community-university partnerships needing a forum to share experiences, strategies and ideas. CU Expo 2011 will address the conference objectives, themes and streams through a variety of session offerings and opportunities for dialogue.

CU Expo 2011 will be held at Wilfrid Laurier University and throughout the Waterloo Region community from May 10 to 14, 2011.

Check out the programming schedule here.  Click here to register.

Partnering for a better community: Living in York Region – A Community Indicators Project / En partenariat pour une meilleure communauté: Vivre dans la Région de York – Un projet d’indicateurs communautaires

By Michael Johnny (ResearchImpact York)

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit is partnered in a three-year project to support the development of healthy communities in York Region.

L’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances de York est engagée dans un projet en partenariat de trois ans visant à soutenir le développement de communautés en santé dans la Région de York.

The Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York is partnering on a project, Living in York Region, to support community development in York Region that links data, research and residents’ experiences to identify significant trends, and assigns ‘grades’ in areas critical to quality of life. The KMb Unit is pleased to be working with the project lead, the York Region Community Foundation.

Chris Traber of reported in his article on this project in late November,  “As York Region continues to grow in size and diversity, the project represents a joint interest in and commitment to working with others to develop a reliable, made-in-York Region understanding of the well-being of residents and communities”. Read the full article here.

The project has adopted a framework that numerous community foundations across Canada have used called Vital Signs. Vital Signs is an annual community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada that measures the vitality of our cities. Vital Signs is based on a project of the Toronto Community Foundation and is coordinated nationally by Community Foundations of Canada. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation provided critical support for the national expansion of the Vital Signs program.

This is a three-year project that has been funded by an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant. The initiative will focus on key indicators, including arts and culture, learning, health and wellness, environment, transportation, the gap between rich and poor, safety, housing, work, belonging and leadership and the economy.

For the KMb Unit, and its commitment to provide program support in York Region, the fit was clear as the Vital Signs project is a research endeavour that can benefit from the support and input of the university. Participating in a project that can help systematically connect York research and expertise within diverse thematic areas, all merging to support the well-being of residents, neighbourhoods and communities, exactly aligned with the strategic objectives and practical application of knowledge mobilization. Already, this project has engaged two graduate students and one faculty member (with others expressing interest in future engagement).

While these quantitative outcomes are nice, it is the work that the students are doing and the leadership and expertise that York’s faculty are providing that will help build the connections to achieve the project’s objectives, and ultimately its vision- “Our priority is to make sure our communities are healthy and thriving.” It’s great to see research and researchers active in this process, sharing their expertise and access to data.

For me, this project embodies what knowledge mobilization is all about.

Partnership Practices Call for Posters

Shawna Reibling (ResearchImpact – Guelph) announces a call for posters for the upcoming Partnership Practices: Working with Community, Industry and Government event. See below for full details:

As a new mobilizer at the University of Guelph, I want to get to know the projects, ideas and practices, especially in the area of partnerships, that are on-going within the Colleges and Departments on campus.

Therefore, I am lucky enough to be involved in the Partnership Practices: Working with Community, Industry and Government event. As industry, community, government and university researchers work together in various ways to address complex issues, the need to learn from examples of successful partnership structures, processes, and outcomes, as well as examine challenges and outcomes of complex research collaborations is evident.

We invite poster submissions that have a link to the University of Guelph and have a strong partner, industry or community focus, identify strategies in partnership skills, structure and processes, and will provide clear understanding of the management and outcomes of their work. I hope that many people will submit posters by January 22nd, however please email me if you need an extension:

As an extra bonus to allow people who maybe have not submitted a poster before, assistance will be available to selected submissions to produce the final poster. The full call for proposals is available at

Hosts and Sponsors

This event is hosted by the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES), the Business Development Office (BDO) and Co-operators Centre for Business and Social Entrepreneurship (CBASE) at the University of Guelph. It is supported by the Agri-Food and Rural Link KTT program, funded under the OMAFRA-U of G Partnership.

Q. What sits at the intersection of political participation and community engagement? A. Knowledge Mobilization

Hernando Rojas, H. and Puig-i-Abril, E. (2009) Mobilizers Mobilized: Information, Expression, Mobilization and Participation in the Digital Age. J. Computer-Mediated Communication, 14: 902–927.

“We contend that through these mobilization efforts the mobilizer is ultimately mobilized.”

Not even I could use the word mobilize or derivatives thereof that many times in a sentence. “We contend that through these mobilization efforts the mobilizer is ultimately mobilized” is one of the conclusions of Rojas and Puig-i-Abril from University Wisconsin-Madison in their study on the role of social media and portable media in political participation in Columbia. The essence of their findings is that access to social media and cell phones enhances political participation but in so doing it has spill over effects into the individuals offline worlds resulting in civic engagement and the concomitant mobilizing efforts of self and others.

Through efforts to mobilize politically online, the mobilized becomes mobilized offline.

So what does this have to do with knowledge mobilization and the two way engagement of researchers and decision makers to move research into action?

Reading the paper I was struck by the similarities of the processes of political engagement and knowledge mobilization.

1- interpersonal networks of political discussion… result in increased community integration and civic participation

  • similarly interpersonal networks of researchers and decision makers result in integration of research and capacity building at the community level

2- Communication practices can have direct effects on participatory behaviors

  • As Wenger points out in his dissertation found at, knowledge brokers sit at the periphery and intersections of communities of practice. Participation in such communities is sustained through transparency (see post from August 25, 2009) that is mediated through effective communication

3- Use of online media supplements interpersonal relations

  • Nothing beats a face to face meeting; knowledge mobilization in the AM wouldn’t work using skype.

4- Use of online media is correlated with increased social capital

  • Social capital equates to trust which is essential if knowledge mobilization is to successfully broker relationships between researchers and decision makers.

5- Political activity is correlated with community/civic engagement with the community, not the elected office, being the locus of political mobilization and action

  • This conclusion was really interesting and makes us realize that the real locus of knowledge mobilization engagement is in the community, not at the privileged university. Impact of knowledge mobilization is measured by changes in the decision maker organization not by tenure and promotion through the professoriate, although this does happen and has a positive impact on the scholar’s career as well.

One concern I had with the paper is their model of mobilizing (albeit political).


This model is too linear for KM and possibly even for political participation. The authors might consider creating a feedback loop so that participation in political action resulted in more information which reinforces (or sometimes changes) expression, resulting in different mobilization, influencing further participation, etc.

And this brings us back to the wonderful sentence, “we contend that through these mobilization efforts the mobilizer is ultimately mobilized”. What this is saying is that there is a positive feedback loop whether in political action, civic engagement or knowledge mobilization. Successful knowledge mobilization breeds more knowledge mobilization. As trust from both faculty and decision maker develops for the honest knowledge broker, knowledge mobilization become increasingly in demand. We have seen this in an increase in demand for brokering service and in our hits on our web site where hits grew from 215,873 in 2007 to 439,961 in 2008 to 1,256,870 in 2009!

And like digital democracy, ResearchImpact is employing social networking and new communication technologies to supplement, not replace, the human touch of knowledge brokering.

♫Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Grow♫

ResearchImpact announces growth in research summaries, community access, outreach and new web tools.

Three recent stories speak to the continued development of KM services at York:

Research Summaries and Community Collaboration Stations

As reported in YFile on December 4, 2009, York announced the release of 40 additional ResearchSnapshot research summaries. This effectively doubles the number of research summaries available to inform decisions by York’s current and prospective research collaborators. See for a searchable database of ResearchSnapshots. YFile also reported on the opening of 2 Community Collaboration Stations. The KM Unit on the 2nd floor of the York Research Tower opened 2 work stations including York computers linked into the York Libraries. These two work stations will allow York research collaborators access to York research infrastructure. To reserve time on one of York’s Community Collaboration Station, please email .

Social Media tools for Knowledge Mobilization

ResearchImpact previously wrote about its involvement in the launch of ORION’s social media platform, O3. On December 1, 2009 ORION’s newsletter featured an interview with ResearchImpact’s David Phipps discussing the role social media can play to enhance KM services.

New Web Stories: KM in Action

We have also made some changes to the ResearchImpact web site. New content has been added throughout the site but we have launched a new section called KM in Action. This sections features stories of successful KM outcomes or research and research use that was enabled by KM services at ResearchImpact institutions including stories on KM interns (Free the Children, Toronto Wildlife Centre), York’s KM Expo and UVic’s CUExpo in 2008 plus others. Stay tuned for more videos and stories of KM in Action to come.

KM at Queen’s University

The Queen’s University Office of Research Services hosted David Phipps to speak about the road to an institutional KM Unit. David was joined by Yolande Chan, Monieson Centre, Queen’s School of Business, who is a holder of a Knowledge Impact and Society grant and has established a KM capacity focused on economic development in Eastern Ontario. David and Yolande jointly presented on their respective KM activities and began the start of a conversation to explore inter-institutional KM collaboration. Look for Yolande and her team on twitter @RuralKnowledge.

ResearchSnapshots, Community Collaboration Stations, increased utilization of social media, KM outreach and stories of KM in Action are testament to our commitment to excellence in knowledge mobilization by our faculty, graduate students and their research collaborators.

Watch us grow, Watch us grow, Watch us grow