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.

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.

Mental Health for York and York / La santé mentale à York et York

By David Phipps, RIR-York

On Friday October 7, 2011, York University’s Faculty of Health and Faculty of Education invited researchers and educators to meet with representatives of York Region’s community mental health agencies. It was intended to be a day of priority setting for York U and York Region.  It was a day of knowledge mobilization and ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR)-York was there.

Le 7 octobre 2011, la Faculté de la Santé ainsi que la Faculté d’Éducation de l’Université York ont invité chercheurs et éducateurs à rencontrer les représentants des agences de santé mentale de la région de York. La rencontre se voulait une occasion d’établir les priorités pour l’Université de York et la région de York (York x York = York2). C’était une journée de mobilisation des connaissances et RéseauImpactRecherche-York y était.

There were about 40 of us in the room at the Markham Convergence Centre, slightly more community than university folks.  The university members were almost all faculty with a couple of project staff and knowledge brokers thrown in.  The community members came from across the mental health support spectrum and from across York Region. The goal was to start a conversation about mental health in people 0-25 years old. We started from the position that York University is part of York Region.  Not only do many York U staff, faculty and students live in York Region but many high school students with mental health experiences will move from the school system to York University creating an opportunity to provide a continuum of mental health supports and services.

Pat Bradshaw (Schulich School of Business) was retained to guide the group from introductions to decisions. She started us out in assigned roundtable discussions of 4-8 people per table discussing trends, gaps and opportunities for mental health services in York Region. She then used a nominal group technique to move quickly through group report back allowing each group to build on comments previously provided and avoid duplication. The group then used a dotmocracy technique to prioritize opportunities. The fun continued with two “open spaces” (=unconference) where individuals identified issues they felt relevant to the prioritized opportunities and agreed to host and report back on the outcomes of their sessions.

While the notes are still in development what happened was classic knowledge exchange, a component of knowledge mobilization.  Groups of mental health stakeholders came together to share information, develop trust and create relationships that may lead to campus-community collaborations around research, teaching and the student experience.

The facilitated approach was also reminiscent of a Harvard Business Review blog titled, “Hold Conversations, Not Meetings” posted on February 15, 2011.  This blog made the following recommendations to engage in information exchange, not just passive information transfer that more frequently occurs in meetings. Continue reading

York Region’s Innovation Clubhouse / Le centre de l’innovation de la région de York

By David Phipps, RIR-York

What do you do on a sunny Saturday? If you are an innovator or entrepreneur in York Region you would be playing in your innovation clubhouse, the Markham Convergence Centre. RIR-York was there.

Que faites-vous par un samedi après-midi ensoleillé? Si vous étiez un innovateur ou un entrepreneur de la région de York, vous seriez probablement présent à votre centre de l’innovation, le Markham Convergence Centre. RIR-York y était.

There are 14 Ontario Regional Innovation Centres, part of the Ontario Network of Excellence. York Region is proud to have ventureLAB. All of the Regional Innovation Centres have strong connections to universities, colleges and local businesses. ventureLAB is one of the few who welcome social innovation.

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR), represented by RIR-York, exhibited at the September 24, 2011 Markham Convergence Centre (MCC) Open House. MCC is home to ventureLAB as well as Innovation York, York University’s industry outreach service, and other industry service providers such as the York Technology Alliance (YTA), Markham Small Business Centre and Markham Board of Trade. The Open House featured remarks by Robert Haché (Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University), Jeremy Laurin (CEO, ventureLAB), Bill Fisch (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Regional Municipality of York) and Frank Scarpetti (Mayor, Town of Markham). Mike “Pinball” Clemons was on hand to talk about team work, collaboration and about finding the sweet spot. He observed that the MCC agencies demonstrated that character and education are required for innovation. He also talked about social services and community learning as important outcomes of innovation.

Working as a clubhouse the innovation organizations at the MCC practice knowledge mobilization every day. Through networking events similar to KM in the AM and York’s KMb Expo, both of which we have held at MCC, they broker relationships between industry, government, academic and community sectors so that innovators and entrepreneurs can collaborate and new products and social services.

Michael Johnny and David Phipps staffed the RIR booth at the MCC Open House. They spoke to companies, angel investors, Regional and municipal staff and politicians about York University’s KMb services. It is these KMb services that help produce social innovations like the Green Economy Centre and the PARC Heat Registry.

It was great to hear about York Region technology companies and the services provided to help them grow. It was also great for Pinball Clemons to stretch the concept of innovation to include collaboration and social outcomes. And among all of this energy York continues to put the social in innovation.

2011 York KMb Expo – Putting the Social In Innovation / L’Expo MdC 2011 de York – Mettre le social dans l’innovation

By Michael Johnny (RIR-York)

On June 15, York’s Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit hosted its 5th Annual KMb Expo. Social Innovation was the central theme for the day, linking knowledge mobilization as a process that leads to social innovation.

Le 15 juin, l’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances (MdC) de York a été l’hôte de la 5e édition de l’Expo MdC. L’innovation sociale en était le thème central. On y a en effet expliqué de quelle façon la mobilisation des connaissances, en tant que processus, menait à l’innovation sociale.

For five years York’s KMb Unit has been creating relationships between York University and agencies in York Region and beyond. The outcomes of these relationships are social innovations that create new solutions to persistent social challenges. KMb Expo 2011 focused on these social innovations, which are the outcomes of the knowledge mobilization process. KMb Expo 2011 also looked to create the vision of how we can collaborate on a system of social innovation in York Region.

On Wednesday, June 15, 2011, approximately 100 university researchers, community leaders, community-based researchers, and government policy professionals gathered at the Markham Convergence Centre for networking, speakers, and workshops designed to introduce and inform people about the KMb Unit’s support of a broader social innovation agenda for York Region. There were five main components to the agenda:

  1. Emerging Opportunities for Ontario’s Community Sector: Newmarket Councillor and Co-Chair of York Region’s Human Services Planning Board, John Taylor, introduced York Region’s ‘Making Ends Meet’ report, aimed to introduce residents to the Region’s priority items and blueprint for action to address human service priority issues. Among the notable points was a direct call to York University to partner to leverage its research capacity to help address the priority area of poverty reduction for York Region.
  2. How University-Community Collaboration Produces Social Benefits: Two case studies were presented by community organization leaders, Valerie Ryan, CEO of Nottawasaga Futures, and Janice Chu, Director of Community Investments for the United Way of York Region. Each study highlighted KMb Unit involvement as a catalyst to support action-oriented change within their respective organizations.
  3. Lunch Keynote: Stan Shapson and Daniele Zanotti spoke of the importance of social innovation for York Region and York University. Daniele announced Change Inc. as an incubator to promote and develop social innovation within York Region.
  4. Networking Break: All attendees visited 8 exhibitor booths and had their Passport to Collaboration stamped with a chance to win a fabulous prize. The opportunity to network remains one of the most sought after goals by attendees of our Expos.
  5. Optional Capacity Building Sessions: Attendees could opt in to attend one of the following sessions: Research 101, KMb 101, or Social Media 101. The opportunity to utilize KMb as a platform to build capacity for our community partners to engage in research and knowledge-based collaborations is an emerging priority.

The outcomes from the day were positive, with a high response of satisfaction with the agenda items.  The positive feedback for the Passport to Collabortion as an innovative networking solution was notable, as was the chance for people to hear actual stories of social innovation. Of course, we listen to all feedback and respect the desire people had for more interaction; our Expo is merely an introduction to dialogue on certain issues and topics.

Be sure to continue to follow our blog for news of new activities in the Fall and Winter months as well as for ongoing opportunities to engage with researchers, government, and community leaders on topics and priorities that are important to you. But you’re more than welcome to contact the KMb Unit directly to discuss any research or knowledge-based needs you may have. We’re a very social group here and happy to assist you!

YorkU’s KMb Expo 2011- there’s still time to register!

Join us next week on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011, when York University’s KMb Unit will host their annual KM Expo at the Markham Convergence Centre.

The theme of the YorkU KMb Expo 2011 is “Putting the Social in Innovation for York Region”. The 4th annual York KMb Expo will explore the relationship between knowledge mobilization and social innovation in York Region. The day will feature plenary discussions, networking sessions and optional workshops. Registration is free but space is limited to 80 participants. Attendees can sign up for the whole day or just for one of the afternoon workshops. Register now at

Overview – For four years York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has been creating relationships between York University and agencies in York Region and beyond.  The outcomes of these relationships are social innovations that create new solutions to persistent social challenges. Knowledge Mobilization Expo 2011 will focus on these social innovations that are the outcomes of the knowledge mobilization process. Knowledge Mobilization Expo 2011 will start to create a vision of how we can collaborate on a system of social innovation in York Region.

Date: Wednesday, June 15th

Time: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

Location: Markham Convergence Centre
7271 Warden Avenue, Markham (map below) Continue reading

What determines your health? / Qu’est-ce qui détermine votre santé?

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York)

A KM in the AM on social determinants of health brought consensus on the challenge but fell short of imagining solutions. At ResearchImpact-York we will continue this dialogue to try to nudge the discussion forward. What will you do?

La dernière matinée de mobilisation des connaissances (KM in the AM) portant sur les déterminants sociaux de la santé a permis d’arriver à un consensus concernant les défis, mais n’a pu dégager clairement des pistes de solution partagées. Chez ResearchImpact – York, nous poursuivrons le dialogue afin de faire avancer la discussions. Et vous, qu’allez-vous faire?

Denis Raphael (School of Health Policy and Management, York University has written, “the primary factors that shape the health and well-being of Canadians – the factors that will give us longer, better lives – are to be found in the actual living conditions that Canadians experience on a daily basis.” WHO defines these conditions as social determinants of health (SDOH), “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The SDOH are mostly responsible for health inequities.” On April 12, ResearchImpact-York hosted a KM in the AM on social determinants of health (SDOH). Part of our suite of KMb services, KM in the AM is a monthly breakfast meeting where university researchers and non-academic stakeholders exchange information and sow the seeds of future collaborations.

Mina Singh and Beryl Pilkington from York’s School of Nursing presented along with Carolyn Mooi from the Heart & Stroke Foundation and Nicky Wright from the York Region District School Board. The presentations kicked off a discussion among the 18 attendees from community and municipal agencies and throughout York Region. Discussion (and there was plenty) focused on the health outcomes related to SDOH: immigration, poverty, homelessness, disability, seniors with people experiencing increased health challenges when more than one of these SDOH intersect. Everyone in the room could speak to the challenges but few were moving to solutions. Local solutions like Mississauga’s investment in community fitness program like Pilates were cited as one example. Nicky charged us to go home and help one person that evening illustrating that we all bear responsibly for being part of the solution.  Continue reading