Practicing New Skills and New Vocabularies: Reflections on Student Training in Knowledge Mobilization: Part 1 / Nouvelles habiletés et nouveaux vocabulaires en pratique : réflexions sur la formation des étudiants en mobilisation des connaissances (1re partie)

Rachel Salt, Brianne Brady, and Anne Bergen, Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship, University of Guelph,

Knowledge mobilization is an emerging field of practice, and there are currently relatively few explicit knowledge mobilization training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. However, this perceived gap is due, in part, to a naming problem – although relatively few students are aware of jargon related to KTT and KMb, students engage in KTT and KMb activities relatively often. At the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph, we are trying to overlay the vocabularies associated with KMb and KTT on student work related to curating, sharing, and exchanging information. In some cases, this takes the form of social media accounts, but this can also relate to logistics surrounding intra-organizational KMb – in this case, our in-house updates to graduate student interns. We present here two reflections on both beginning KMb work and labeling that work as KMb. This week we hear from Rachel Salt and next week we will hear from Brianne Brady.

La mobilisation des connaissances (MdC) est un domaine qui émerge à peine dans le champ universitaire, et il existe à l’heure actuelle assez peu de possibilités de formation destinées aux étudiants des universités qui lui soient explicitement consacrées. Cependant, cette perception d’un manque est attribuable en partie à un problème de dénomination : bien que le jargon de la mobilisation, de la transmission ou de l’application des connaissances ne soit familier qu’à un nombre relativement restreint d’étudiants, ceux-ci mènent pourtant assez souvent des activités qui relèvent de ces domaines. À l’Université de Guelph, l’Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship s’efforce donc de recouper le vocabulaire de la mobilisation et de la transmission des connaissances avec celui de travaux d’étudiants qui portent sur l’organisation, la diffusion et l’échange d’information. Dans certains cas, cela prend la forme de comptes rendus dans les médias sociaux. Mais cela peut concerner également la logistique de la MdC au sein d’une même organisation, et prendre la forme, comme c’est le cas ici, des mises à jour que nous préparons à l’interne pour nos stagiaires des cycles supérieurs. Les deux commentaires que nous présentons abordent à la fois les premières étapes d’un travail de MdC et la reconnaissance de ce travail en tant que mobilisation des connaissances. Nous accueillons cette semaine Rachel Salt, et la semaine prochaine, Brianne Brady.

Social Media and Knowledge Mobilization: A Graduate Student’s Perspective – Rachel Salt

When I was offered a position to manage two professional twitter accounts I was very grateful and excited; but I was also intensely fearful and a bit of a skeptic.  Before I jump into my experience as a Social Media Manager, some background on the programs I tweeted for:

University of GuelphAs a graduate student at the University of Guelph (and former undergraduate student) I wanted to find ways to help give back to the city that had given so much to me, so I began interning at the Research Shop.  The Research Shop acts as a portal between community and university research needs, where interns work with community partners to identify and address problems, which range from sustainable food to transforming social systems.  The Research Shop operates under the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES).  ICES builds capacity for community-engaged scholarship by strengthening faculty and student engagement with local, national and international communities of interest, addressing faculty reward and development, and training faculty and students in knowledge mobilization.

After a year of interning, I was offered a position to manage the accounts for the Research Shop (@Researchshop) and ICES (@ICESGuelph).  I was so excited by the opportunity, but nervous as well.  I had never sent a tweet in my life!  What was the purpose of hashtags?  What did RT and MT mean?  I was also nervous about the position because I was honestly a bit skeptical about Twitter itself – wasn’t that just a place for celebrities to pick fights with one another, or a place for people to broadcast the restaurant they were eating at?

Before I started to write tweets I did some preliminary research.  I quickly discovered how my constricted assumptions about what Twitter is were way off.  There are social media ethics, strategies, proper tone, how often to tweet, what to tweet, and when to tweet.  Twitter is serious business.

twitter birdMy first few tweets took an embarrassingly long amount of time to construct.   I had so much I wanted to say and so little space to say it.  However, the learning curve was not too steep and I soon began to get the hang of it.  My boss and knowledge mobilization guru, Dr. Anne Bergen, set me up on HootSuite a social media management site.  For me, this made tweeting a lot easier.  I liked being able to schedule when my tweets went out, for example, if I found an interesting article on community engaged scholarship Sunday night I could schedule a tweet to go out at a higher traffic time on Monday morning (I learned that the best times to send academic tweets are between 10-11AM and 2-3PM – which happens to coincide with a lot of people’s coffee break!). Using HootSuite I was able to track the mention of relevant hashtags on twitter, such as #KMb, #CES, or #KTT.  I also liked that I could attach pdf’s and word documents.  I stopped thinking about tweets being only 140 characters of information and started thinking of them as 140 character bylines leading readers to find out more.  Before this experience I was unfamiliar with the terms ‘knowledge mobilization’ and ‘knowledge translation’.  Through this experience I have gained a much better grasp of what this is (via ‘following’ professionals in the field and reading the articles they share), and I’ve also realized what an effective knowledge mobilization tool social media can be.

This experience taught me so many different things.  I became more aware of events and activities going on in my community and started to hear about conferences, people, and organizations from around the world, which in the past I had not known existed.  Twitter is also an excellent format to share grey literature and update people on how a project is progressing.  In my personal life I find myself using twitter as my first source for news updates.  I’ve even started my own semi-professional personal twitter account, which I use to follow people I admire, look for work, and share information about projects I am involved in.  As a recent graduate and on the hunt for full-time work, I’ve been shocked at how many positions require professional experience in social media.  This speaks volumes about how important an effective social media presence is, and how former skeptics like me can no longer ignore this powerful tool.

Confessions of a tweeter / Confessions d’une twitteuse

Cathy Malcolm Edwards, RIR – Carleton

Cathy Malcolm Edwards, Research Facilitator, Institutional Initiatives at Carleton University and member of RIR, talks about her introduction to social media and the twitterverse. 

Cathy Malcolm Edwards, coordonnatrice de recherches au Service des projets universitaires de la Carleton University et membre du RIR, raconte son initiation aux médias sociaux et au monde du twitter.

Cathy Malcolm Edwards“Hi, my name is Cathy Malcolm Edwards and I am an introvert.” This thought often circles through my mind when I am in group settings or facing a long day of back-to-back meetings. At the start of my journey into the world of knowledge mobilizing (I am a relative newbie, entering the world in May 2013), I thought this truth might be a barrier to being truly effective in this role. Then one day, my colleague, Kyla Reid, introduced me to social media, specifically the twitterverse.

You might be thinking to yourself “Cathy, it is 2013! Where the heck have you been living? Myspace has been around since 2003 and Facebook since 2004?” Well, while the rest of the planet was jumping in to the virtual world of social media, I was proudly in my cocoon rejecting every “You’ve been invited” email that came my way. At the time, I didn’t see the benefits of social media. It was just one more social event – another thing that I would have to get done and keep updated. I was a hipster, too cool to engage in the platforms of popularity. Oh, how wrong I was.

I am not saying I am a full convert per se and I still do have my hipster attitude about a lot of things (including Facebook), but I am also not too proud to admit that I am enjoying my time spent on twitter in particular. I love taking a few minutes each day to read posts and connect with the community. I often come across something that encourages me towards introspection or gives me an “aha!” moment. My introvert is quite satisfied. I can socialize in my own way, on my own time, and in digestible chunks. I have discovered that social media can be my friend, not my enemy. It allows me to connect and converse with the amazing community around me while nurturing my curiosity and quest for knowledge. I invite you to join me on this journey of discovery @mobilizethat.

Does Knowledge Have a Gender? / Le savoir a-t-il un genre?

Guest Blog by Ali Hirji (@abbaspeaks), Community Manager at ORION and a sociologist in training

Knowledge Mobilization turns research into action. This process, however, is not gender neutral. A reflection on our monthly #KMbChat.

La mobilisation des connaissances transforme la recherche en action. Mais ce processus n’est pas neutre, il est sexospécifique. Une réflexion que vous trouverez sur notre forum mensuel #KMbChat.

Our August #KMbChat brought together Twittizens on the topic of barriers to knowledge mobilization.  #KMbChat is a safe space that oscillates between theory and practice. We share our theoretical frameworks and demonstrate how these activate the research and researcher. This monthly forum appeals to a variety of interests. I, as both a moderator of the August chat and a newbie to the world of knowledge mobilization, took advantage of this and asked a politically laden question.

Is gender a barrier to knowledge mobilization?

The “answer” is in the final sections of the chat’s transcript. Yes. No. Maybe so.

I argue that knowledge has a gender. Knowledge is masculine (theory). However, Knowledge Mobilization attempts to unsettle this (practice).

I do not celebrate knowledge as masculine – instead, I have come to realize it as a systemic reality. During my third year of undergraduate study, I engaged extensively with York University Professor Dr. Arun Mukherjee. In her introduction to Sharing Our Experience she advanced the university as a means of propagating and justifying ideologies of racism and that these ideologies are often dignified as science and objective truth. I extend her analysis to gender. From my optic, masculinity augments a strict, reified, “scientific” understanding of the world. It situates us in boxes and refuses change.

Allow me to illustrate this two fold approach. I hope this invites more advanced scholarship.

From what I have been told, KM literature is surprisingly mute on my question. In his book Masculinities without Men, York University Professor Dr. Bobby Noble advances that the construction of gender today is in a state of crisis (a good crisis, if ever you could call a crisis so).

Take a look at this logo:

ResearchImpact logo

The illustration on the letter “i” is of a male body.  Given that this letter is also hoisted on the word research, is it suggesting that research and the translation of knowledge is the domain of a masculine subject?

No. It is, instead, highlighting a history of knowledge and seeking to change it through knowledge mobilization.

David Phipps noted that when we scan the floor of Knowledge Mobilization professionals, we calculate more females. The letter “i” and the broker model  speak to Professor Noble’s crisis.

Historically, the female body and identity have been relegated to arenas where it is instructed and controlled. Knowledge, as power, remained socially constructed and rooted in the hands of men. Knowledge mobilization disrupts this system by facilitating a co-production of knowledge that brings previously inaccessible individuals/groups to partner with one another. In essence, gender is a striking metaphor on deconstructing our previously narrow production and application of knowledge.

The title, I posit, invites us to re-search the “i” – who is the body at the heart of knowledge production and transfer? Surely, not just the masculine body.

Yet is the battle for equality in knowledge settled with the introduction of the knowledge mobilizer? No. The knowledge mobilizer must remain alert and active to where mobilization work is needed most.

Perhaps in Canada this battle may not be as apparent. Shawna Reibling argued that gender is a neatly hidden barrier for us and Cathy Bogaart invited discussion on how gender influences subject matter choice and relationships. Knowledge Mobilization, like any industry, is impacted by gender. Knowledge Mobilization turns research into action. This process, however, is not gender neutral.

We still, however, operate within a relatively equal landscape. Or so I think when I consider knowledge and knowledge mobilization issues internationally.

When Malala Yousafzai addressed the UN, she emphatically stated that the pen was mightier than the sword. Malala, I believe, had a message for our North American Knowledge Mobilization. Not only was she inviting partnerships to be formed international, she was encouraging our brokers to work and collaborate with researchers who are consistently impeded by institutional and structural barriers.  The Envisioning Global LGBTQ rights is one powerful example of how knowledge mobilization can continue to address gender and issues surrounding it.

Knowledge Mobilization, friends, is always a work in progress.

Fall 2013 York KMb Learning Events / Les activités d’apprentissage offertes par York MdC en automne 2013

York KMb is offering sessions for researchers, staff and graduate students to help make their research relevant to professional practice and policy development.

York MdC offre des séances de formation à l’attention des professeurs, du personnel et des étudiants gradués afin de les aider à accroître la pertinence de leurs recherches sur le plan de la pratique professionnelle et du développement de politiques.

For Fall 2013, the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York will be offering the following learning sessions:

Social Media

Social Media for Research 101 – This lunch hour session will provide an overview of social media tools and their relevance to collaborative research projects. September 9 noon-1:00; November 12 noon-1:00 Register now!

Social Media for Research 201 – This session will provide more detailed information on the strategies and tools for social media tools and their relevance to collaborative research projects, such as analytics and partnering strategies. October 9 9:30-noon Register now!

Social Media Strategy Building  – Want to start using social media tools but don’t want to fall victim to “shiny object syndrome”? This hands on session will focus on getting a plan together and planning steps to implement it. September 16 9:30-noon; November 18 9:30-noon Register now!

Facebook – Join us for this hands on session and learn how to set up a facebook page for your KMb efforts, and keep it separate from your personal account. October 3 1:30-4:00 Register now!

Twitter – A 2.5 hour hands-on session where Twitter is introduced within a research context. Participants can set up an account and learn about practical applications for their research. October 30 1:30-4:00 Register now!

O3 – O3 is an online collaborative tool for available free to researchers, which can facilitate effective and efficient collaboration (without flooding your email inbox!) November 27 9:30-noon Register now!

WordPress – Blogging is emerging as a popular medium to share information and express ideas. Researchers are finding interesting uses for blogs to complement their scholarship. Join us and learn what blogging can do to enhance your KMb efforts. September 24 1:30-4:00 Register now!

Knowledge Mobilization

Effective Community Engagement – What are successful practices in engaging community around research? What needs to be considered to effectively engage, build relationships and strong partnerships outside of the university? This 2.5 hour workshop will introduce values, examples of good practices and allow for dialogue to enhance your engagement efforts. September 19 1:30-4:00 Register now!

Good Practices in KMb – Learn from examples at York U and across Canada. What practices seem to work effectively? How can we determine effectiveness? How can I connect need to practice? This 2.5 hour workshop will engage participants in the context of their own research projects. November 20 1:30-4:00 Register now!

KMb and Communications – What are the intersections and where do these two diverge? This 2.5 hour session will introduce you to knowledge mobilization; explore the relationships between the two and share examples on how they can complement one another and how they are unique. October 8 9:30-noon; November 28 9:30-noon Register now!

KMb Strategy Building – Granting councils are asking more and more for research teams to identify their KMb strategy. In this hands on session, learn about strategic elements, create a draft strategy for your project, and tips on how to present your strategy. September 10 9:30-noon; October 10 1:30-4:00 Register now!

Clear Language Writing and Design – Sessions designed to introduce the principles and practical tips on writing for the reader, including diverse audiences. October 25 9:00-noon Register now!

To register for any of the sessions, please visit or contact Krista Jensen, KMb Officer, at or 416-736-2100 ext 88847

Slowing Down for Speed Bumps: Reflecting on a Knowledge Mobilization Metaphor / Ralentir à cause des dos d’âne : réflexion sur une métaphore de la mobilisation des connaissances

Anne Bergen, RIR – University of Guelph

This post is a reflection on the metaphor of “speed bumps” in knowledge mobilization, and was the product of several over-lappng KMb networks. That is, I wrote the post immediately after the June 2013 Knowledge Mobilization Forum, as part of my participation in the KMb Hub of the Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) project. This post originally appeared on the “CFICE To Say” blog.

Ce billet est une réflexion sur la métaphore des dos d’âne dans la mobilisation des connaissances. Il est le produit du chevauchement de plusieurs réseaux de MdC. Je l’ai écrit tout juste après le Forum 2013 sur la mobilisation des connaissances comme une contribution au regroupement pour la MdC du projet Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE). Ce billet a été publié originalement sur le blogue “CFICE To Say“.

Sign saying Speed Bump AheadIt’s conference season, which means that it’s time to learn new practices and reflect on old practices. After one day meeting with the @ResearchImpact collaboration ( and two days thinking about knowledge mobilization at the 2013 Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (#ckf13;, I’m still going through an internal process of synthesizing and contextualizing the things I’ve learned.

One of the most salient themes that I’ve taken away from these three days of learning is that barriers to effective knowledge mobilization can often be better conceptualized as speed bumps[1]. Thinking through this metaphor, speed bumps force you to slow down, but speed bumps are necessary for improved practice (i.e., safe driving/effective knowledge mobilization). That is, “speed bumps” on the way to institutional and organizational culture change, building new relationships, and finding better ways to share and act upon knowledge promote mindful and intentional action: if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to get a surprise. Speed bumps give you a jolt – and force you to change your behaviour. In the field of knowledge mobilization, we need to create new pathways and strengthen old pathways between and within networks.

At the same time, we must remain mindful of the capacity of the neighbourhood for new traffic. Building four lanes of information into the heart of a community is not a helpful form of knowledge dissemination and exchange. Rather, we must think about the needs of end users (and co-creaters) of knowledge, and proceed carefully to minimize the impact of speed bumps.

To push the metaphor further, speed bumps are easier to navigate if we have a co-pilot. We shouldn’t be trying to solve knowledge mobilization problems by ourselves, because knowledge mobilization problems are not individual difficulties. Working within multiple interlinked networks, building trusting relationships, and learning to work with multiple and diverse stakeholders helps us map the road ahead so we can start to predict speed bumps, slow down, and glide over what could have been a barrier.

[1] Thanks for this wording to Kelly Warmington, Knowledge Translation Specialist at The Hospital for Sick Children & Sacha Geer,  Knowledge Translation Specialist for the Partnerships in Dementia Care Alliance

Knowledge Mobilization and Communications / La mobilisation des connaissances et la communication

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

There is a relationship between knowledge mobilization and communications but it is unclear and is highly contextual.  Within the last month there has been much discussion on this.

Il y a un lien entre la mobilisation des connaissances et la communication, mais il n’est pas clair et hautement influencé par le contexte. Au cours du dernier mois, il y a eu beaucoup de discussion à ce sujet.

Picture of message bubblesApril 16, 2013.  For me, it was one of the most nerve-wracking presentations I have ever given.  I was speaking to a room full of communications professionals at York University about the intersections of Knowledge Mobilization and Communications.  There are two reasons why I was feeling nervous: first, it is awkward to talk to professionals about their work when you’re not intimately familiar with it, and second, I had some very direct and constructive criticism for both our offices.  The talk opened up new opportunities for collaboration and engagement and was the spark of new interesting developments around two interesting professionals and concepts.

Rewind the calendar a few days.  It was on April 12 that our office hosted one of our traditional KM in the AM events with the topic of discussion being The Role of Knowledge Brokers.  It was a great event, well represented from members of the KTECoP.  An interesting question was raised from the audience, “what are the differences between knowledge mobilization and communications”.  Well, the conversation was suddenly co-opted by a spirited debate on the two terms and the two roles.  York’s David Phipps took to LinkedIn to continue and fuel the conversation and it has remained a lively one.  So lively, (24 responses to date), that we’re going to host a dedicated KM in the AM on this topic later this spring or summer (date TBD).

The impetus for the April 16 presentation was to solicit feedback on a presentation I would like to make to York faculty around the two terms, as there is some confusion on roles and activity.  Melanie Barwick, Research Scientist from Hospital for Sick Kids provided an explanation on the LinkedIn conversation which I quite like. She explains, and I agree, that the two terms are both misunderstood and have points of convergence, but some divergence as well.  The presentation I am looking to refine is part of a York Learning Series which we’re offering to York researchers to help build capacity in KMb across campus.

In closing, taking an honest and respectful approach to let colleagues – many whom I have never met – know that the work we are doing has had some limitations went well.  And the reason for that is I offered to be part of the solution.  When KMb and Communications offices can align their services and co-exist, both can flourish!  Shawna Reibling, Knowledge Mobilization Officer at Wilfrid Laurier University would know this though.  She is a broker with a background (actually, an MA) in communications.  She walks the talk.  I would like to hear what you think about the relationship between KMb and Communications… based on the engagement around this I am confident you have an opinion!

KMbuddies for Life / Des amis mobilisés pour la vie

Michael Johnny, RIR YorkU

Michael Johnny reflects on his seven year working relationship in knowledge mobilization with Joaquin Trapero from University of Victoria.

Michael Johnny témoigne de sept années de travail en mobilisation des connaissances en collaboration avec Joaquin Trapero de l’Université de Victoria.

I had to look back to see, but the first communication was an email on February 16, 2006.  It was an introductory email from Joaquin Trapero, the new Knowledge Transfer Specialist at the University of Victoria.  So it makes his career in KMb span over seven years.  And now because of the formal launch of the Research Partnership and Knowledge Mobilization (RPKM) office at the University of Victoria, Dr. Joaquin Trapero no longer has KMb within his portfolio of responsibility.  It has been a few years since he has worked as a KT Specialist, moving on to manage the Institutional Portfolio program.  Now this is his full-time responsibility.

Picture of prairie dogs at the University of Saskatchewan

I had wanted to write this blog for almost four days now, and even now while I write, I am staring at the screen looking for words to capture my feelings.  I remember very clearly the early days of this journey and our work together where we’d meet four times a year– twice here in Toronto and twice in Victoria.  Our Intellectual Property Mobilization grant supported this initial ‘experiment’ of institutional knowledge mobilization services.  Capably led by Dr. Richard Keeler (former AVP Research, University of Victoria) and Dr. David Phipps (Executive Director, Research Services and Knowledge Exchange, York University), Joaquin and I were exploring what it meant to be knowledge brokers and helping lead the development of a national network.

So many memories poured back over the past few days while reflecting back on seven years:  our first Congress at University of Saskatchewan back in 2007 (which was the source of infamous beer, pizza and KMb planning talks); one of Joaquin’s first trips to Toronto to visit with us (where we naively planned a day-long event which began with a breakfast at 7:30 am EST… that’s 4:30 PST… oops); a decision to leave the KTS portfolio to take on UVic’s Institutional Portfolio (but fortunately allowed him to retain working responsibilities in KMb); and the success of KMb within our institutions which has helped enable the growth of ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche.

Congress this year is going to be held in Victoria.  How fitting!  While Joaquin will not be involved in the RIR booth at the book fair, David Phipps and I are going to make sure we meet up for one last beer, pizza and KMb planning talks!  And with that to look forward to, I am happy to share how I am feeling now and that is grateful.  What I have learned from Joaquin over these seven years?  Sharing a commitment to develop strong KMb programs and support RIR, attention to detail and planning, shared values around processes for successful KMb, and having fun along the way!

Joaquin, my friend, I appreciate all you’ve done to make this work in KMb a success and a pleasure.   I wish you success and happiness!  Thanks for a great seven years!

Picture of Joaquin Trapero, David Phipps and Michael Johnny

Joaquin Trapero, David Phipps and Michael Johnny