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

Day 2 was a day of connecting and re-connecting.

We first welcomed Bojan Fürst to the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche booth at Congress.  In 2011, Bojan joined the Harris Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador as manager of Knowledge Mobilization. You can read more about Bojan in the Harris Centre’s newsletter The Regional.  In Bojan’s words, “As a manager of knowledge mobilization my job is to connect the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador communities and regions with the expertise that resides at Memorial. I am essentially a matchmaker and my tool of trade is our opportunity, research and expertise online database Yaffle is a true repository of ingenuity in this province. It is an essential component of a network of economic development practitioners, policy makers, experts, students and community champions. Yaffle would not be what it is without its users, so I do encourage all of you to register an account, and make it stronger with your own expertise and innovative ideas added to our collective knowledge.” Yaffle has been featured in a number of stories in Mobilize This! and we are pleased and proud to have a Yaffle banner and a Yaffle expert in the RIR booth.

Welcome Bojan, who fits right in not just as a knowledge broker but as someone who is always laughing and enjoying life.

Reconnecting with colleagues is always a joy of Congress. SSHRC, Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences, Centre for Community Based Research… all great colleagues who are great to reconnect to and are great knowledge mobilization colleagues you need to know to help connect your research with non-academic partners.

Don’t forget to save the dates of June 12-15, 2013, in Corner Brook Newfoundland for the next Community-University Expo.

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 — I’m here to help!


Knowledge Broker Diary: Day 167

The following is a guest blog posting from David Yetman, Manager of Knowledge Mobilization at the Leslie Harris Centre with Memorial University in St. Johns, NL. Visit their web site at

Tiziano's Sísifo

I am a part-time PhD student and a full-time knowledge broker. And today I feel like Sisyphus. You never heard of him, hey? He was the poor Greek son of a… king who took pleasure in killing and was sentenced to a life’s struggle of pushing a boulder up a hill, only to reach the top with the curse of it falling down the hill again. Never (never!) to reach the top. Sounds a bit like positioning academic research to contribute to society. You think the change is happening… and then… before you know it, you are back to the base of the hill.

The graduate student gives me hope. I have no background in pedagogy or theories of learning. I have no need to fulfill tenure requirements. But I do have an inkling that graduate students could be the most important human resource in our modern society.

HoegaardenWhat makes graduate students so very different? Their post-modern view of the world? Their affinity for drinking copious amounts of European beer? (OK, different, but not unique) Not at all. Graduate students are unique human beings because they have a passion for knowledge and they want to share that knowledge for the betterment of the world around them. Is that unique you ask? Everyone carries knowledge and wants to change the world (existentialists exit here). But graduate students do it with a special thrilling insight into how knowledge can change society. And they have special knowledge.

Harris Centre MUNI make no apologies for saying that, in my humble opinion, academic knowledge is the peak of the highest learning mountain. It is the supreme athlete of the learning arena.  The peer-to-peer battle over ideas gives knowledge its strength. Peers beat the pulp out of knowledge for a reason; so it can stand on its own merits. And graduate students take that torch with vigour. They are interested, focused and committed. At Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada this year, there is a record number of graduate students. 2758 full and part-timers. 2758. That’s ten times the amount of people than the small community I grew up in. That’s 250 times the size of the average municipal council in Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s a lot of changing power.

I was reading on old University Affairs article the other day and it said only 51% of graduate students will go on to be academics. The other 49% will work in the public sector, not-for-profits, or start their own businesses. I’m not great at math, but that’s half. Half of all graduate students will choose not to be academics. I was shocked at that statistic, and enthused.

Imagine. Half of graduate students will be future academic researchers, half of them policy-makers. For the knowledge broker (able to leap silos in a single bound) it’s a future match made in Heaven. It is an infiltration of like-minded people who believe in the power of research. Who want to change the evidence-free decision-making culture in our system. 2758 (to infinity) pushing the boulder simultaneously, with a passion to push it over the top.