A Summer of Clear Language Summaries Ahead! / À venir, un été rempli de résumés de recherche en langage clair

This summer, our writing team at York University has started working on brand new clear language summaries. Look for new, upcoming ResearchSnapshots to be developed around the topic of Poverty Eradication.

Cet été, l’équipe de rédaction de l’Université York a déjà commencé à travailler sur de tout nouveaux résumés de recherche en langage clair. Ne manquez pas les prochains ResearchSnapshot qui porteront sur le thème de l’éradication de la pauvreté.

This summer, the writing team at the KMb Unit at York are back to begin drafting a new set of ResearchSnapshots for our readers!  The theme for us this year is Poverty Eradication.

The initiative stems from York University’s partnership with the United Way of York Region (UWYR) in making KMb a crucial process for community engagement.  Between 2001 and 2006, growing trends have been identified in York Region.  There has been a 55 percent increase of low income earners, while the gap between high and low income earners continues to widen. This includes a 62 percent increase in the number of children living in low income households.

According to the Canadian Make Poverty History Campaign, more than 3.5 million Canadian live in poverty and the numbers are growing for youth, workers, young families, immigrants and people of colour. The world has enough resources, money and technology to end poverty, yet about 1.7 billion people worldwide continue to live in extreme poverty.

A part of the UWYR’s Community Investment Priorities seeks to support peoples’ transition from a life of poverty to possibility. But what exactly is Poverty Eradication?

Poverty is the lack of basic needs, with the experience of low income, education and health.  It also involves the lack of opportunity or capacity to improve one’s life. By analyzing the causes that create these living conditions, poverty eradication seeks to create change and eliminate these underlying causes.

As you will find over the summer, researchers at York and our partner RIR universities have much to offer in the areas of poverty, education, housing and economic vulnerability.  We have two very enthusiastic and dedicated mobilizers in the process of seeking research expertise and developing ResearchSnapshots: Sabah Haque and Paula Elias.

Sabah Haque: Currently, I am a business student at Schulich, and I have dedicated my summer to a cause I really care about. I am pleased to be working with Knowledge Mobilization on the pressing issue of Poverty Eradication. My goal is to provide a wide range of perspectives on how poverty can be alleviated, by making current research accessible to anyone in the community. Research in the areas of social work, business, health and environmental studies (to mention a few) – all play a role in tackling the issues surrounding poverty. This summer, stay tuned to learn about the next steps you can take to put an end to poverty!

Paula Elias: As a writer for York’s KMb Unit since 2010, I have had the pleasure of working with many researchers and becoming a part of our efforts to mobilize knowledge.   As a non-profit worker and educator, mobilizing knowledge has enhanced what I do.   Addressing clear language and supporting accessible knowledge to my students and community partners are so vital, and I look forward to gaining another summer of experience here at York.

The Importance of Knowledge Mobilization in Benefiting Our Region

The following was first published by United Way York Region on June 4, 2012 and is reposted here with permission.

As a concept, Knowledge Mobilization was introduced in Canada in 2001-2002 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) and can be defined as putting available the knowledge gathered through research regarding social issues (poverty, housing, immigration, climate change, security, Aboriginal issues and social determinants of health) into active service to benefit communities.

As Universities are the main producers of new social science research, connecting academic knowledge to non-academic decision-makers about public policy can create significant change in our community and society in general. As such, United Way York Region (UWYR) is working proactively with York University to identify and address community priorities.

Since 2006, York University has employed a knowledge-mobilization unit to foster relationships between university research and non-academic partners. York’s Knowledge Mobilization unit currently houses three full-time knowledge brokers, one of whom works directly with us here at United Way York Region.

While we are continuing with our traditional role of supporting agencies to meet urgent needs, UWYR is also working hard to tackle the root causes of social issues. With the funding that was awarded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to York University and United Way early last summer, projects are underway that will draw on the university’s strong interdisciplinary research to respond to our community needs and systematic social challenges identified by United Way of York Region.

United Way York Region’s Strength Investments is an example of this innovation, providing seed funding to build civic muscle. Strength Investments bring community, faith, business and agencies together to work on simple, collaborative and unique solutions. The funding, which arose through research undertaken by three York University graduate students in the summer of 2010, represents a new way for us to support the rich, informal network of caring and ground-breaking solutions that already exists across the region.

It’s time to Discover Social Innovation

Janice Chu (United Way of York Region), Jeremy Laurin (ventureLAB), David Phipps (RIR-York)

York University, United Way of York Region and ventureLAB are collaborating to support social innovation and social enterprises in York Region. On May 15 they will speak about the assets they bring to bear to help address persistent social challenges.

Picture this: Metro Toronto Convention Centre. May 15. Over 2,600 attendees listening to a multi-sectoral panel on social innovation.

That’s what we’re doing at Discovery 2012, Ontario’s premier technology and innovation showcase. Hosted by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Discovery is Ontario’s annual conference bringing together university, college and industry based researchers, students, entrepreneurs and innovators. Traditionally focused on technology sectors such as green tech, health tech and ICTs, this year Discovery is going social and exploring the role of social innovation and social enterprises in Ontario’s innovation landscape. Mobilize This! has previously written about efforts to introduce social innovation into the federal innovation agenda and on May 15, in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, over 2,600 delegates (well, those that attend the panel at least) will hear this message. York Region’s innovation sector will speak about how we are sowing the seeds of social innovation in York Region and how we are starting to build relationships to support innovators and entrepreneurs seeking to address persistent social, environmental and cultural challenges.

This panel at Discovery represents early conversations with York Region’s vibrant entrepreneurial sector (represented by Lahav Gil of the Kangaroo Group), a regional hospital network (represented by Pat Clifford of Southlake Regional Health Centre) and the three primary supports for innovation in York Region: ventureLAB (York Region’s Regional Innovation Centre represented by CEO, Jeremy Laurin), York University (represented by Vice-President Research & Innovation, Robert Haché) and the United Way of York Region (represented by Janice Chu, Director Community Investments). For the first time in the history of Discovery the community sector will be represented. We will also be joined by Allyson Hewitt, Advisor, Social Innovation and Director, Social Entrepreneurship MaRS, who will reflect on York Region’s assets and efforts and place them in a provincial context.

ventureLAB, York U and UWYR are actively discussing how best to support an emerging cohort of social entrepreneurs. UWYR has a Strength Investments program (itself a social innovation) that has already invested $300,000 in 11 community based innovations to address local opportunities. ventureLAB has an established Build program and Entrepreneurs in Residence that can be made available to social entrepreneurs. York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit will actively broker collaborations between social entrepreneurs and researchers/students so that social innovations are grounded in the latest research. The Innovation York accelerator space at the Markham Convergence Centre, co-located with ventureLAB and other York Region innovation acceleration services such as the York Technology Alliance, will be available to social entrepreneurs seeking a space to grow their businesses.

Stay tuned for details on how we will weave these assets into a coherent value proposition but we have progressed beyond recognizing the need and moved into the “how to” stages. This energy will build on the primary message of the recent Public Policy Forum reportthat spoke of the value of collaboration as a key component of innovation and singled out York Region as a region that was making strides to supporting multi-sectoral collaboration.

Discovery 2013. That’s when we will share the emerging York Region story – still separate silos beginning the dialogue on and action to support social innovation and social entrepreneurship so we can make a difference in the lives of York Region’s diverse citizens. Come with us as we discover social innovation.

Toward a Culture of KMb? / Vers une culture de mobilisation des connaissances

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

Staff within York’s KMb Unit are not the only people talking about KMb at York.  Based on our recent experience, there are many faculty and students who are engaged in KMb activity. 

Les employés de l’unité de Mobilisation des Connaissances (MdC) de York ne sont pas les seuls à parler de MdC à York. À la lumière de nos récentes expériences, beaucoup de professeurs et  d’étudiants sont engagés dans des activités de MdC.

One of the early strategic objectives for our work at York University in Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) was to help build a research culture; this was one of the university’s priority areas.  And while priorities may change, no one will argue this does not remain important.  However, what about building a culture of knowledge mobilization?  While I allow you a moment to reflect on that suggestion, I would like to share with you a brief summary from four distinct events which took place March 19 and 20, 2012.

Sustainability Energy Initiative – Monday, March 19, 2012 – Seminar Series – New Research in Sustainable Energy  – The Faculty of Environmental Studies, Sustainable Energy Initiative has been established to build and strengthen the teaching, research and partnerships needed to create new green energy economies in Canada and around the world.  The connection to KMb was made explicit by Prof. Jose Etcheverry in his introductory comments, stating SEI is “trying to mobilize knowledge, taking a quantum lead toward sustainable energy”.  The approximate 50 people present represented research, community and advocacy interests and had probing questions for Prof. Mark Winfield and the three recent MES graduates who spoke on their research in areas of sustainable energy.  Prof. Etcheverry, in his role as facilitator, did a masterful job in seeking connections from research to areas of public policy and professional practice.

York School of Social Work – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – World Social Work Day – York faculty within the School of Social Work participated in an international conversation around social work engagement which was facilitated by a Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar.  Faculty and students within the School of Social Work have a logical and extensive engagement piece associated to their scholarship, and the web cast, “Channeling Change – Making Collective Impact Work” provided some interesting conversation points for the approximate 20 people including community members of the TD Centre for Community Engagement who assembled in the Kinsmen Building to participate.  York’s David Phipps led a conversation for the faculty, graduate students and community leaders who were present.  Knowledge Mobilization practices and processes were central to the conversation, and it was a provocative question to pass to the group, “Does York need to break silos and speak on issues with one voice around engaged scholarship?”.

Faculty of Education – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – Research Support Series – Three York faculty spoke to a small but engaged group about Knowledge Co-creation and Knowledge Mobilization.  Profs. Jennifer Hyndman, Rick Bello and Steve Gaetz spoke about their experiences with engaged scholarship.  Having faculty share their experiences around this is significant given the commitment the university had made in this area as evident by the recent Provostial White Paper  “Towards a more engaged university”.

United Way York Region – Tuesday, March 20, 2012 – Meeting House – Part of an ongoing series of community engagement around issues relating to social infrastructure in York Region, United Way York Region (and partner in the delivery of KMb) hosted a meeting for residents in Vaughan.  These meetings (there are two more planned in Markham and Richmond Hill, and two had already taken place in East Gwillimbury and Newmarket) are helping inform a regional summit on social infrastructure in Fall 2012, and York Research and KMb plan to participate.  Such consultation and capacity building is an important first step to engage in KMb.

This two day window of time reflects the extent to which KMb has become a significant part of research culture.  It is worth noting that this reflects three faculties at York seeking to engage the broader York community around issues of KMb.  The KMb Unit has never, nor will it ever, hold proprietary ownership over processes of KMb and we are pleased that we were only audience members contributing to and celebrating KMb success without having to own it.  In these three York events, similar to the event hosted by our community partner, we serve as a resource to support and help amplify the work in KMb which is ongoing throughout the university.

A culture of KMb?  Safe to say we’re well on our way to achieving this! Stay tuned as we develop a regular series profiling engaged scholarship and KMb at York University.

Meet Jane Wedlock, Knowledge Mobilization Officer at United Way York Region

The following blog story was first published in the United Way of York Region’s blog on November 29, 2011. It is reposted here with permission.

Meet Jane Wedlock – a Knowledge Mobilization Officer who was hired to work for us as part of our partnership with York University to develop research initiatives that will examine how living conditions (the social determinants of health) affect health.

The goal of this initiative, according to Jane, is to support the advancement of UWYR’s Community Impact agenda: “helping youth grow up strong, healthy, caring and responsible; enabling individuals and families to achieve economic independence; and improving the well being of individuals and communities to enhance overall quality of life through this additional partnership with York University’s Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit.”

Jane’s position provides community based knowledge mobilization services, which means building relationships and brokering partnerships between community organizations and faculty/students; enhancing access to academic research to support community policy development and program activities through various media; and creating training and capacity building opportunities in conjunction with Community Leadership Resources staff at UWYR.

All of those involved have the same focus on the Social Determinants of Health – the factors that really shape our health and wellbeing. This includes issues related to poverty and economic independence, housing and homelessness, immigration, education, and food security.

Jane has a good working relationship with the university staff at the KMb Knowledge Mobilization Unit where this work has been going on for the past five years. Having worked with them closely on various projects, Jane adds that with York University, United Way will be hosting a series of five Meeting Houses, entitled, “…more than roads, sewers, stores and schools” (which you can read, here) that will offer opportunities for resident conversations in areas of significant future growth in York Region.

“We will be exploring how research/learning opportunities can support these conversations and the subsequent development of social infrastructure in these communities,” explains Jane.

This one year project is funded through a grant from The Canadian Institute for Health Research and will provide an opportunity to expand the impact of research on the development and implementation of effective community health policy as well as the delivery of services.

The Most Influential Knowledge Broker in Canada

The following blog story was first published on the United Way York Region blog on November 22, 2011. It is reposted here with permission.

In a recent bulletin from York University, David Phipps, who is the director of York University’s Research Services and Knowledge Exchange, was named the most influential knowledge broker in Canada. We’re lucky enough to be able to work with David as part of our partnership with York University.

David received his Ph.D. in Immunology from Queen’s University and has built a career managing academic research at the University of Toronto Innovations Foundation, Canadian Arthritis Network and Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2001, he completed his MBA from the Rotman School of Management at U of T. In his current role at York, David manages all research grants and contracts, including knowledge and technology transfer.

David is also leading York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit that provides services to researchers, community organizations and government agencies who want to use policy and practice related research to inform public policy.

Working in partnership with United Way of York Region provides community credibility to the brokering efforts of York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit.

Both partners act as mutual knowledge brokers to bridge the academic and community sectors to support knowledge translation (KT) activities so that university research and expertise can inform community level health related policies and practices. Through this collaboration, York Region residents and vulnerable populations can receive health and human services that are informed by academic research.

The partnership also includes the hiring of a Knowledge Mobilization Officer, who was recently employed to work on site at United Way to develop research initiatives that will examine how living conditions (the social determinants of health) affect health. Jane Wedlock is currently working in this role, which will certainly enhance the partnership’s overall goal to inform and support the public across the region.

Of the partnership, David notes that UWYR provides a valuable community perspective to the research and knowledge mobilization activities of York University. “In order to be relevant to York Region we need to ground our work in the experience of York Region. UWYR is the principle community convener in York Region. Our partnership with UWYR is invaluable in our efforts to be York Region’s research university.”

Doing something that matters is what David says brings him the greatest satisfaction from his involvement with United Way. “Research is important but isn’t valuable unless it’s engaged with people and organizations who can take that research and apply it to more effective social programs and more responsive public and community policies,” he adds. “Our partnership with UWYR helps make York University’s research matter.”

Knowledge Mobilization Officer Position Opening

We are excited to share the following opening for the position of Knowledge Mobilization Officer, Knowledge Brokering for Health and Wellness with the United Way of York Region and York University. Here is a summary of the position:

Knowledge Mobilization Officer, Knowledge Brokering for Health & Wellness, York University & United Way of York Region

Position Type
Contract – one year, with a possibility of renewal

Start Date
September 2011

8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday

Commensurate with experience

Closing Date for Applications
July 29, 2011

Job Purpose
Based in the United Way of York Region (UWYR) head office in Markham and working in partnership with York University’s Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit, the Knowledge Mobilization Officer will be responsible for the development and delivery of community-based KMb services in York Region to maximize the impact of university research on public policy and professional practice, specifically in the area of social determinants of health. The Knowledge Mobilization Officer will have active liaison with York Region human service agencies and municipalities, community leaders, social entrepreneurs, York University (York U) faculty, students and staff within York U’s KMb Unit.  The position will be guided by the successful Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant – “Community-Based Knowledge Brokering to Affect Social Determinants of Health in York Region”.

Knowledge Mobilization Officer will report to the Director, Community Investment, UWYR and involve regular communication and interface with the Director, Research Services and Knowledge Exchange, York U, Co-Lead of this York U and UWYR partnership as well as with the Manager, Knowledge Mobilization for York University. Continue reading

Stand Up for United Way / Prenez position pour Centraide

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York)

An inspiring speech by United Way of York Region calls on all knowledge brokers and social innovators in York Region to stand up for change. Join York University and stand up for knowledge mobilization and social innovation at your university and local communities.

Un discours inspirant du United Way (Centraide) de la région de York appelle les courtiers de connaissances et les innovateurs sociaux de la région prendre position pour le changement. Rejoignez l’Université York et prenez position pour la mobilisation des connaissances et l’innovation sociale dans votre université et les communautés locales.

At 7:30 am on a Tuesday morning in the old Aurora Cultural Centre in the heart of York Region, Daniele Zanotti, CEO of United Way of York Region (UWYR) asked everyone to stand up for change.  It was the 35th Annual General Meeting of UWYR and the room was filled with volunteers, board members, companies, municipal and Regional employees and UWYR staff s well as partner organizations like ResearchImpact – York.  We were all there to approve the business of UWYR but we were also there to celebrate our collective success.

UWYR Region is a key institutional partner in York University’s knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategy. Together we created Strength Investments that have invested $150,000 in 6 community-citizen projects such as Building Sustainable Capacities amongst Afro-Canadian Caribbean Youth in York Region and South Asian Family Empowerment Project.  A list of all the projects is available. Together we launched Change Inc. in October and announced an investment of $150,000 in Change Inc at York’s KMb Expo on June 15. Tammy Lowe, one of ResearchImpact – York’s KMb Interns now works at UWYR as a Campaign Manager, a career choice she links back to her internship.  We have co-authored an article, a meeting grant and a knowledge mobilization grant linking university and community strengths in knowledge mobilization.  Outcomes of knowledge mobilization such as Strength Investments are social innovations.

You can read Daniele’s speech and while you’re reading it, stand up for community-university collaborations that producer tangible change for communities and citizens.

Small steps towards a big problem: Addressing the social determinants of health at the community level

David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York) wrote the following guest blog post for “Health Policiesabout a new initiative with UWYR that is focused on community solutions for community health challenges arising from the social determinants of health.

Health isn’t a problem.  Not being healthy is a wicked problem.  Wicked problems are persistent social problems characterized (among other things) by:

  • Lack of clarity on all stakeholders associated with the problem
  • Lack of clarity on the causes of the problems
  • Lack of clarity on end points and outcomes
  • Interventions change the nature of the wicked problem challenging evaluation

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are wicked problems.

There is an increasing amount of attention paid to SDOH at the international, national and local levels:

  • International: The World Health Organization recently released the technical paper for the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health to be held in Rio de Janeiro in October 2011.
  • National: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) is one of six NCCs funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). In 2010 it released an environmental scan of the role of public health agencies in supporting policy responses to social determinants of health in Canada.
  • Local: On June 22 York Region’s Human Services Planning Board release their report, Making Ends Meet which identifies poverty and income insecurity as the single human service priority for York Region.  Health indicators and outcomes are included in the planning.

But how do you tackle such large, wicked problems.  According to WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, all you need to do is:

  1. Improve living conditions
  2. Tackle inequitable distribution of power, money and resources
  3. Measure and understand the problem and assess the impact of action.

I’ll get right on that. I’ll also get right on solving the upstream political issues underlying SDOH that were pointed out in a previous Healthy Policies blog.

NOT (and therein lies the problem – where do you start with a wicked problem like SDOH?) Continue reading

If a picture is worth a thousand words….

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? Recent videos show that this format is useful for telling our stories and beginning discussions.

David Phipps of ResearchImpact-York has been featured in a number of video presentations recently. These videos each illustrate different issues or opportunities for KMb practice in Canada and demonstrate that short videos are a useful means of disseminating knowledge. And since these are all posted on You Tube, the videos become social media because you can “like” a video, “share” a video, or comment on a video this turning the one way dissemination into a two (or more) way dialogue.

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RI-RIR) now has 23 uploads on its ResearchImpact You Tube channel plus an additional three that are posted as favourites (which means another group has produced and posted them but we can link our channel to them). Of those we have posted (including videos produced by RI-RIR universities York, MUN, UQAM and USask), we also have videos produced by Rogers TV (posted and reproduced with permission, thank you), ORION and the Canadian Science Policy Centre.

Video #1: David Phipps and Janice Chu (United Way of York Region) talk on Rogers TV show “Daytime” which aired on October 7, 2010. Janice spoke about UWYR Strength Investments which is a new investment strategy for UWYR allowing it to invest in community strengths while still maintaining support for traditional community agencies. David spoke about Change Inc., which we have previously written about in Mobilize This!. Change Inc. is a social innovation incubator led by York U and UWYR to seed and foster new social innovations and social innovators in York Region.

Video #2: David Phipps talks to ORION about the social networking platform, O3. York’s KMb Unit uses O3 to support KMb activities and to support an RI-RIR loosely led KMb community of practice. You can read previous blogs about our use of O3 and other social media by clicking on the “social media” tag in the tag cloud on Mobilize This!.

Video #3: David Phipps speaks at the KTKB Workshop associated with the Canadian Science Policy Conference. David speaks about how RI-RIR universities are providing professional knowledge brokers to support relationships between researchers and their research partners. He also discusses recent thinking about our limited ability to evaluate the impact of systems of KMb.

Videos are worth more than a thousand words (I’ve used 424 words just to talk about them here). Video might have killed the radio star (thank you The Buggles) but it is helping RI-RIR spread the word about institutional KMb services.

Click on the pic below for a blast from the past…