Reflections of a knowledge broker at KTKB2010: Part II

The irony of our growing knowledge mobilization profession is that we do not practice what we preach.  But we can have a good time while we figure out what to do about it! This is Part II of a two part series based on our experiences attending and facilitating the workshop.

We recently returned from a wonderful day long workshop about knowledge brokering.  ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RI-RIR) was pleased to be invited by the S&T Liaison Division of Environment Canada to work with the Canadian Water Network to develop the program for the conference.

First off, props to the S&T Liaison Division folks for their tireless work not only on the program but on all the logistics as well.  Nicely done team.

100 people with some connection to knowledge brokering came to share stories.  The majority were from government and because the workshop was a satellite to the Canadian Science Policy Conference the majority of those were from the federal government (with some notable exception such as RI-RIR friends Julia Lalande and Doris McWhorter from Ontario Ministry of Education and Elin Gwyn from OMAFRA).  There were many take away messages and they will all be reported on RI-RIR’s O3 KTKB2010 page but one observation I came away with is that we are all seeking spaces to mobilize knowledge about knowledge mobilization.  This is reminiscent of my charge in Mobilize This! where I charged knowledge brokers to practice what they preach and use evidence to inform their own brokering practice.  There is some thinking of how to move the “profession” forward in that regard but certainly groups like the Ontario KTE Community of Practice go some way to addressing this for Ontario based brokers.

And now I read the following from Amanda Cooper and Ben Levin who have developed the Research Supporting Practice in Education (RSPE) program at OISE, “we have a failure to mobilize knowledge about knowledge mobilization” [Evidence & Policy (2010) 6(3): 351-369].

How true. And yet how disappointing.  But in every gap there is an opportunity.

Amanda and Ben point out where there is good empirical work being conducted in Canada and they illustrate some of the breadth of the theoretical and conceptual work underway.  And they end on an optimistic note, “there are islands of excellence amid the sea of partial and ad hoc activity that dominates the landscape; so, there is potential to learn more and to improve theory and practice”.  Here’s another point of convergence between Amanda, Ben and the KTKB2010 workshop which also ended on a positive note charging the participants to stay network and stay tuned for developments linking local, regional and national Canadian efforts with international efforts moving towards the same goal of improving our KMb practice.

Stay tuned to Mobilize This! as we keep Canada’s KMb community up to date with these efforts.

ps.  Amanda and Ben also slip in this little ditty, “The importance of supporting [KMb] infrastructure is a point that does not always get sufficient attention in the KM literature.”  Amen to that.

Reflections from a knowledge broker at KTKB2010: Part I

York University and ResearchImpact had the chance to be partner with Environment Canada and the Canadian Water Network to host the Knowledge Translation and Brokering Workshop 2010.  This is Part I of a two part series based on our experiences attending and facilitating the workshop. Stay tuned for Part II, to be released shortly. Attending the KTKB 2010 Workshop helped me to discover that KMb theory truly meets KMb practice when brokers get together, share ideas, and have a good time.

This was my first foray into representing York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the ResearchImpact network at an external conference. It was an absolute thrill and an amazing learning opportunity. For me, the most exciting part of the whole workshop was discovering that there is an entire community of knowledge brokers around Canada engaged in similar work. I admired that we were able to come together under one roof, despite referring to our fields by a collection of  ‘K’ acronyms (KT, KB, KMb, KE, and the list goes on…). I had the chance to speak to well over a dozen people at our booth during breaks and at lunch time.

The one word I would use to sum up all the conversations I had would be: enthusiasm. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one who was excited by the opportunities for engagement enabled by this workshop. For many, there was a desire to participate in a community of practice to better share ideas and collaborate on projects with other knowledge brokers. There was also a great deal of interest in signing up for our monthly newsletter and staying up to date on what our network was up to. Virtually every person I spoke to was also very impressed by the scale of ResearchImpact’s partnerships (we engage 6 universities countrywide).

I had the chance to participate in the ‘Effective Written Communication to Targeted Audiences’ session of the workshop which was led by Leah Brannen. My role was to briefly present on an example of knowledge translation (KT) done at York and show how it was similar to KT work done at Environment Canada.Courtney Price, an Environment Canada Science and Technology Liaison Officer, was first to present. She touched on her KT effort to synthesize a 20 year research study that looked at the impact of agricultural activity on Prairie wetlands.

The research I translated was very different from Courtney’s example. My presentation focused on a clear language research summary I developed based on a study by Prof. Isolde Daiski, who is a researcher and faculty member at York’s School of Nursing. Prof. Daiski’s research focused on identifying the health needs and priorities of the homeless through their own eyes. You can see the completed summary here and the accompanying video as well. In our presentations, both Courtney and I touched on the commonalities between our two knowledge translation approaches. It was surprising how two different areas of research (environmental and health) developed in different settings (government and the university) had quite a few things in common. Following our presentations, we engaged the group of participants in their own knowledge translation exercise, discussing results at the end.

I will never forget my experience at the KTKB 2010 workshop; I believe that we all walked away having reflected deeply on both the theory and practice of our work and made lasting friendships with knowledge brokers across Canada. If you would like to see more photos from the workshop, please go here.