“To know and not to do is not to know”
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve heard about Knowledge Mobilization (KMb), and know about all of the various terms used to describe elements of KMb, such as Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Exchange or Knowledge Utilization. (For more information about terminology, please see my previous blog).
If not, here’s a little history lesson…
When considering a (very very) brief history and highlights of Knowledge Mobilization in Canada there are many individuals, institutions and agencies that have greatly contributed to developing KMb in Canada. This blog points out only a few of these that I consider knowledge beacons shining their bright lights on the still-emerging pavement of the KMb highway. This is not to exclude all of the many great practitioners and contributors who have also been influential in the development and process of KMb in Canada. My purpose is only to present a brief outline.
A good place to start for an historical background is with a paper written by nursing scholar and researcher Carole Estabrooks. She has written a very thorough and excellent literature review exploring the early links and development in the field. In a longtitudinal analysis paper, Estabrooks and colleagues have traced the historical development of the knowledge transfer field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles.
In 2000, the foundational passage of The CIHR Act by the Canadian Federal Government enshrined knowledge translation as a research mandate to create and translate knowledge in Canada.
Over the past decade, the evolving understanding of the multi-directional links, activities or influences among researchers and research-users in the multi-production of new knowledge makes the more limiting (and linear-thinking) term knowledge translation now seem outdated.
Knowledge Mobilization is becoming more of an accepted umbrella term to describe knowledge transfer or exchange. Along with CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) there are two other Federal government granting councils; SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) – who prefers the term knowledge mobilization – and NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) who, although they have used knowledge mobilization in some of their documents, does not necessarily use the term officially.
The seminal year for KMb in Canada is 2003, with two men sharing the same initials – J.L. Sounding more like a law firm (but working independently), Lavis and Lomas are two key Canadian KMb developers.
John Lavis published his article Measuring The Impact of Health Research in the Journal of Health Research Services & Policy developing the idea of knowledge push-pull &exchange.
John Lomas helped develop the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF). He worked in the emerging KMb profession as a knowledge broker and contributed to the 2003 report The Theory and Practice of Knowledge Brokering in Canada’s Health System. Lomas also wrote the influential paper, The in-between world of knowledge brokering, published in the British Medical Journal in 2007.
While it may appear that the research focus has been primarily in health, KMb has two major knowledge streams – health and education. Another key Canadian leader in studying and understanding KMb in education is Ben Levin. Levin is former Ontario Deputy Minister of Education and current Professor and Canada Research Chair in Education Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Levin’s experience in both education and government has given knowledge mobilizers insight into working with government for knowledge mobilization (for a look at Levin’s take on the political obstacles to Knowledge Mobilization click here). Levin has recently set up Research Supporting Practice in Education (RSPE), a knowledge mobilization program in and from education.
KMb is about participatory connecting, informing and being informed by a variety of knowledge contributors. Knowledge Mobilization is about fluid knowledge – the flow of knowledge as it is constantly transforming and being transformed for greater good in society.
The KMb process includes a diverse range of knowledge contributors from the Community/Voluntary Sector – including “everyday” individuals given a voice to tell their own stories and experiences; Academic Institutions; the Private Sector, and Government – all working with each other and contributing to overall knowledge for the greater benefit of society.
The history of KMb in Canada includes such leaders, individuals, organizations, academics, practitioners, business, and government agencies working together from all of these sectors (to name only a few):
From the Community/Voluntary Sector, The United Way of York Region is a great example of Canadian KMb contributions at the grass-roots level (see Mobilize This! blog for many examples of their KMb collaboration). Community-based projects like Mind your Mind provide services (many of them interactive web based) for young adults exploring mental health support services. Health charities like the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, along with the Canadian Cancer Society take research and use it to inform policy and practice, while also listening to and sharing the stories of individuals affected to inform further research.
Connecting across sectors is the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning involving students, educators and communities in community service as an educational experience. There is also Community-Based Research being done at Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) and places like the Wellesley Institute that contribute to research that are inherently change-oriented from and for the community.
From Academic Institutions, the development of the KMb Unit at York University has brokered many projects between all sectors, and helped create ResearchImpact – Canada’s knowledge mobilization network, which now includes Memorial University, UQAM, University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Victoria.
Also, the Harris Centre at Memorial University has contributed to knowledge mobilization for regional economic development for Newfoundland and Labrador. Their project yaffle has helped moved KMb into an online and accessible space.
From the Private Sector/Business, KMb between university and industry has primarily taken the form of technology transfer; however, broader concepts of knowledge transfer involving service learning, co-op placements and research contracts are emerging as principle methods of university/industry liaison.
One of the Canadian leaders within the Private Sector for KMb consulting, presenting and training is Knowledge Mobilization Works. I have had the privilege of recently been invited to work with founder and Director, Peter Levesque. He is a KMb leader in Canada, helping others learn and use knowledge to solve complex and current issues across many sectors.
From the area of Government, the development of Canada’s Networks Of Centres Of Excellence (NCE) are federally funded national research and translation organizations working on particular research topics. NCEs like The Canadian Water Network, The Canadian Arthritis Network, and PrevNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence), as well as organizations like Canadian Partnership Against Cancer,the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada all link research to practice. These government groups are focused on research knowledge and it’s translation into policies, products, processes or practices for everyone.
Of course assisting research through government funding are also the Granting Councils as mentioned above – CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council), and NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council).
Finally, an important part of Knowledge Mobilization in Canada is the development of the Ontario Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice (KTE CoP). KTE CoP is a group of diverse practitioners, researchers and individuals who share practices, experience and knowledge while building peer relationships for information exchange and support. The group was established in 2005, and appears to be the only such community of practice of this kind (so far) in Canada. It’s hoped other such CoPs will be established in other parts of the country…perhaps they might change the name to KMb CoP?
Regardless of the terms used to describe Knowledge Mobilization, Canada can be seen as an international leader in contributing to the development of KMb – and the greater benefit of our world. It’s a history to be proud of, filled with many knowledge contributors and knowledge mobilizers. As we embark on the next decade of knowledge mobilization, I’m sure there will be many others from all sectors who will be able to shine their own lights on the future KMb highway.