Diversity / Diversité

David Phipps, RIR-York

I used to think the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) partner institutions were diverse in our knowledge mobilization practices: St. John’s to Victoria, institution and research unit based, French and English… and then I spent three days in Hamilton at the K* (Kstar) conference.

J’avais l’habitude de penser que les partenaires du RéseauImpactRecherche – ResearchImpact (RIR) étaient variés dans leurs pratiques de mobilisation des connaissances :  de St. John’s à Victoria, des institutions et des services de recherche, en français et en anglais…. et puis j’ai passé trois jours à Hamilton la « K* (Kstar) conference »

About sixty knowledge brokers (or innovation brokers, a new name to describe the fact many of us broker beyond just knowledge and work in broader systems of innovation) came to Hamilton, Ontario from 6 continents. I met people from Ghana. Canada. England. Mauritius. Netherlands. Argentina. Scotland. Germany. Australia. United States. France. Nigeria. Vanuatu. Kenya. And there were more. Old. Young. In between. We practice K* in disciplines: communications, health policy, mental health, education, water, climate change, agriculture, health systems, international development, geography, nuclear disposal.Some of us research K*. Some, like me, work in a system of K* serving diverse institutional and community stakeholders. Some of us work in universities. Some work in NGOs. Policy shops. Funding agencies. Think Tanks. Multilateral bodies. Some of us work in linkage and exchange, some in knowledge transfer, some in knowledge mobilization. Our audiences include civil society, government, industry and practitioners as well as the public. We use social media, traditional media and community broadcast systems.

Check some of the talking head videos from the Kstar2012 conference.

What makes a group diverse is, by definition, the unique nature of the participants. Many participants were associated with universities. Some were faculty members or students in research projects. Some were part of university based engaged research projects. Some represented networks of individual researchers from many universities. But as far as I could tell I was the only representative of the University as an Institution supporting a pan-University investment in K* services and RIR was the only national system of Institutions who have made an investment in pan-university K*.

We worked over three days and filtered tons of energy down to three main themes for further development and thinking:

-a global K* network
-assessing impact of K*
-K* in developing countries and the democratizing of different knowledge(s)

Apart from assessing impact, I would not have predicted these foci of K* going into the K* meeting. That’s what diversity can do. It allows the unexpected to happen.

As I reflect on the “diversity” of Canada’s RIR system of knowledge mobilization universities I can put it in perspective and realize that we have a lot in common as a Canadian network. My work on the K* conference allows me to focus on what we share as well as what makes each RIR unit unique. RIR is about to launch plans for expanding Canada’s knowledge mobilization network. As much as possible we will seek to maximize the diversity within our own network so that the unexpected can also happen in Canada.


aha moments from K* – thursday april 26, 2012

By David Phipps (RIR-York)

In the previous two installments of my aha moments from K* you will have seen all the countries that are home to some of the brokers at this conference. What is also impressive is the diversity of disciplines in which we work: communications, health policy, mental health, education, water, climate change, agriculture, health systems, international development, geography, nuclear disposal (yes…really!)

My aha came today in my panel with Glowen and Leandro. We developed a list of common lessons derived from our very different practices. The lessons learned are:

  • Build trust between partners
  • Develop capacity for K* in all partners
  • Use a mix of methodologies
  • Use web 2.0 tools
  • Involve traditional media
  • Peer supports
  • Knowledge is not static and is co-constructed
  • Understand the political, social and economic situations of the partners
  • Build a culture of K* for all participants

Moderator Derek Brien (Executive Director & Co-founder, Pacific Institute of Public Policy, Vanuatu) helped the panelists and the audience dig into this seemingly dichotomous relationship between convergence and divergence. There was general agreement on these common “guidelines” across different contexts but this doesn’t mean that I could hop on a plane and start my own knowledge intermediary practice in Ghana. These guidelines merely serve as a starting point. Knowing them before going into a new setting gives the broker a head start but it doesn’t replace local context and local knowledge. Aha!

But there is also something else starting to crystalize for me. Not so much an aha! as a hmmmmm….

This conference is the closest thing to a K* love-in that I can imagine. We are converging on many issues and many common themes and diverging on some such as the role of K* in advocacy. I am hearing lots of common challenges/opportunities but we’re not moving to solutions/actions. Today someone suggested we need a K* Code of Ethics. That’s a solution to an identified need around differential power in some knowledge relationships. I am hoping through the K* process – which is ongoing beyond these three days – we can identify common challenges/opportunities and move to addressing some common solutions/actions.

And now, off to Niagara!

York’s KMb Unit part of inaugural conference on knowledge mobilization

The following article appeared in York University’s YFile on April 24, 2012 and is reposted with permission.

York University is playing an important role in the first conference of its kind that is dedicated to better mobilizing and brokering knowledge.

The K*2012 conference, which starts today and continues until April 27, provides a forum for an international cohort of delegates to share their ideas and practices in knowledge mobilization. York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and Research Impact are two of the sponsoring organizations involved in the conference.

“York University is a recognized leader in Knowledge Mobilization in Canada and internationally,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president Research & Innovation. “We are pleased to participate in this event. The K*2012 conference provides an opportunity for global experts to share their perspectives on knowledge-brokering practices and its impact on the creation of public policies.”

How to better mobilize knowledge and maximize its usefulness will be the focus of some 60 experts from 20 countries. David Phipps, director of Research Services & Knowledge Exchange at York University, serves on the conference steering committee and is a participant in a panel discussion featuring experts in knowledge mobilization.

“This conference is the first of its kind,” said Phipps. “I will be sharing York’s knowledge mobilization practices with knowledge brokers from knowledge intermediary organizations around the world. I am particularly excited about presenting a panel with a knowledge broker from Argentina and one from Ghana. Despite the very different national contexts we have identified eight shared outcomes from our very different practices.”

As part of the conference proceedings, delegates will lay the foundation for future work, including establishment of a global community of interested parties and mechanisms to sustain it. The conference chair, Alex Bielak, senior Fellow and knowledge broker of the United Nations University’s Hamilton-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), will create a legacy document to capture ideas on reducing the gulf between knowledge and action.

The York University community can join the conference through social media. There will be a daily conference blog available on GDNet providing updates on plenary and panel discussions and interviews with speakers and participants. The blog offers a forum for University community members to ask questions and share their ideas and research about their experiences navigating the knowledge-policy interface. Twitter updates including photos, live updates, participants comments regarding discussions can accessed by following @Connect2GDNet and #Kstar2012.

University community members can also register here to watch full coverage of the plenary and panel sessions, or they can subscribe to receive GDNet blog email alerts and blog newsfeed offering a daily digest of conference news.

aha Moments from K* – Wednesday April 25, 2012

By David Phipps (RIR-York)

France. Nigeria. Vanuatu. Kenya. Home to more of the knowledge brokers I met today. Truly a global experience.

Lots of work on tap today. Today wasn’t just listening to talking heads – huge THANK YOU for that.

First up – provocative opening by Derek Brien who said we need to focus on the process of K* and not the outcomes those processes enable. This was contextualized but mostly echoed by John Lavis (Program in Policy Decision Making). I don’t disagree with the need to focus on the process. This is the message of my paper with Daniele Zanotti that illustrates that campus-community collaborations are a journey not a destination. We are also on record as saying the knowledge mobilization is a process that enables social innovation. So the process is important. But if we don’t also focus on the outcome how can we measure our processes and improve upon them? I think Derek Brien and John Lavis are saying that (depending on your audience) the outcome is often a political decision that you as a knowledge broker have no control over so focus on the process (over which you do have control) and leave the outcome to those who are making the decision regardless of whether or not you agree with the decision.

Second aha moment came when we were discussing the principles of collaboration and our table got heavily into a discussion about knowledge brokering using on line tools. The principles of on line collaboration were:

  • Provide leadership
  • Create incentives
  • Assign dedicated staff
  • Know the trajectory of your collaboration (have an end in mind)
  • Mix formal and informal networking

We reflected that the principles of collaboration are the same on line and in real life. Maybe it’s no surprise that the conditions required for effective on line collaboration are the same as in real life but who knew until you started comparing the two. Likely there are differences. Maybe access and adoption of technology and the fact that trust is earned differently (but is still earned) is different between on line and real life, but these principles are shared.

And after all the rum tasting (yes, we found time to mobilize more than knowledge) one picture summed up the day (thank you Robyn Read from Research Supporting Practice in Education).

Aha moments from K* – Tuesday, April 24, 2012

David Phipps, RIR-York

Glowen Kyei-Mensah

Ghana. Canada. England. Mauritius. Netherlands. Argentina. Scotland. Germany. Australia. United States. And many more. The opening reception of the K* conference brought together many friends of ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche and introduced us to new knowledge intermediary colleagues from around the world.

The start of the K* (“Kstar”) conference saw the 60 or so delegates going through some ice breaking events to get to know each other – which might have been needed in other settings but the energy was high this evening as brokers and policy makers got to chat to researchers and practitioners from around the world.

I am pleased to say that the two delegates with whom I am sharing a panel, Leandro Echt from Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC, Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth), Buenos Ares, Argentia and Glowen Kyei-Mensah from Participatory Development Associates in Accra, Ghana were the finalists in the competition to win a copy of Louise Shaxon’s book.

Louise Shaxon (ODI, UK) and colleagues had a pre-launch of their book, Knowledge Policy and Power in Internatioinal Develeopment, A Practical Guide.

Leandro Echt

This book includes a chapter on knowledge intermediaries and how we all, at some point, act as knowledge intermediaries in connecting science and research to policy and practice. The book launch was the first event of the K* program.

I am delighted to be representing York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche network at this international workshop designed to describe a global knowledge intermediary practice. I shall be blogging and tweeting throughout the week. Stay tuned for stories from the floor of the K* conference.

It’s also the closest any of us will come to knowledge mobilization groupies. “I am a huge fan of your work”. “We are using your publications as the basis of our intermediary work.” “Your blog is amazing” are some of the comments that made me smile this evening.

KMb, KT, KTE…it’s almost time for K* / Mobilisation, transfert, échange de connaissances…c’est presque le temps pour K*/ Movilización, traducción e intercambio de conocimiento: es tiempo para los intermediarios de conocimiento (K*)

David Phipps, RIR York

David from Canada is about to share his knowledge mobilization experiences with Leandro from Argentina, Glowen from Ghana and about 50 others from around the world at a conference that is aiming to describe a global knowledge intermediary practice. We are a world apart but share so much in common.

David, du Canada, est sur le point de partager ses expériences de mobilisation des connaissances avec Léandro d’Argentine, Glowen du Ghana et environ 50 autres personnes du monde entier dans une conférence dont le but est de décrire une pratique globale d’intermédiaire de connaissances. Nous  sommes différents, mais avons tant à partager.

David (Canadá) compartirá sus experiencias de movilización  del conocimiento con Leandro (Argentina), Glowen (Ghana) y otras 50 personas de diferentes partes del mundo en una conferencia que busca describir una práctica global de intermediación de conocimiento. Somos mundos distintos, pero tenemos mucho en común.

Way back on May 1, 2009 I wrote about the importance of language and how I will leave that debate to others and just get on with brokering knowledge based relationships.  K* (Kstar) is term introduced at the KTKB workshop at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in 2010 designed to embrace all the K-words (mobilization, management, exchange, translation, transfer, integration, purveyor, curator) associated with knowledge intermediaries and move beyond the paralysis of language enabling us to better describe a global practice.

That energy is about to culminate in an international K* conference that will feature knowledge intermediaries from around the world.

Leandro Echt

Led by the United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment & Health (UNU-INWEH) and sponsored by many agencies including York University and ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche. At the K* conference (April 25-27) I will have the pleasure of working with Leandro Echt from Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC, Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth) in Buenos Aires and Glowen Kyei-Mensah from Participatory Development Associates in Accra, Ghana where she manages the Mwananchi Ghana project. The three of us are presenting a panel on knowledge intermediary work with civil society and community organizations.

Daniele Zanotti (CEO, United Way of York Region) and I have previously written on lessons learned from our knowledge mobilization practice. For the K* Conference, Glowen, Leandro and I have developed our own list of nine lessons learned from our own knowledge intermediary work with civil society and community organizations. Stay tuned to the K* website for reports from the conference for those nine lessons and follow us on twitter (#Kstar2012) but what I will share now is that the three of us share eight of those nine lessons. Across three very different contexts in three very different cultures we find 8/9 things in common.

The nine lessons learned aren’t rocket science but the fact that they are common across these different K* contexts is really

Glowen Kyei-Mensah

interesting and we will use part of our panel to explore why these commonalities transcend cultures and nations.  Leandro has an appointment in Social Science, University of Buenos Aires but his day job is at CIPPPEC a think tank in Argentina where he is interested in the role of think tanks and the links between research and policy. Glowen has been an Adjunct Lecturer at the Regent University of Science and Technology in Accra, Ghana and she has worked extensively in project management that targets deprived communities focusing on trade policy and food security. She is presently the Country Coordinator of ODI’s Mwananchi Ghana Project. I am working in a very large university in the largest urban centre in Canada managing over $65 million in research funding and connecting research to external audiences from the public, private and community sectors. We operate in thee very different contexts. And despite those differences we find we have so much in common. Leandro, Glowen and I have shared e mails and one Skype call and while I don’t (yet) know them I feel I know their K* practice as it shares so much in common with mine.

David Phipps

I am looking forward to meeting Leandro and Glowen and all the other international knowledge intermediaries at the K* conference. As Leandro says, “I have high expectations for K* Conference as I believe that reflecting about this practice will lead me to plan my work with more clarification.” Glowen agrees, “’I am excited about being a part of the K* conference as there are many ways in which I can share the experience back in Ghana. Knowledge is key to improving the lives of the marginalized that I work and interact with in my line of work.”

It’s almost time for K*!