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!


How I Became a Knowledge Mobilizer / Comment je suis devenu une mobilisatrice de connaissances

Shawna Reibling, RIR – Guelph

Shawna Reibling, Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator at the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES) at the University of Guelph, describes her journey to becoming a knowledge mobilizer.

Shawna Reibling, Coordonnatrice de la mobilisation des connaissances à l’Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES) de l’Université de Guelph, décrit le cheminement qui l’a menée à devenir mobilisatrice de connaissances.

I discovered to the field of knowledge mobilization by way of biology. In my Grade 11 year of high school I was a naturalist assistant in Neys Provincial Park. In this position I discovered that sharing hands-on knowledge about lichen, garter snakes and lamprey, was something that park visitors could appreciate. The ability to share the information about the wonders of the park, to transfer knowledge, was my passion. Recently, when I was writing a clear language summary of Dr. Hanner’s work entitled “Genetic calibration of species diversity among North America’s freshwater fishes”, he mentioned lamprey and I was immediately engaged – there is still so much to learn about fresh water ecosystems. This is one of the drivers of a knowledge mobilizer – the desire to spread information and allow people to wonder with you.  Engaging knowledge translation and exchange may lead to co-creation of knowledge. Did some of those kids who held the garter snake go on to be biologists, working with park rangers?

First panel shows a person looking at a flower questioningly and reads "Step One: Wonder at Something...". Second panel shows many people looking at the same flower and reads "Step Two: Invite Others to Wonder with You..."

I rediscovered knowledge mobilization in graduate school. My work at the School of Communication  at Simon Fraser University focused on technology policy and analysis. I was assigned was to write a mock SSHRC grant to fund my thesis proposal and convince a Committee that my thesis was fundable. The classic “So what? For whom?” questions of knowledge mobilization were made clear to me in my first steps as a researcher. I believe that it is never too early to embed knowledge mobilization in education!

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