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Knowledge Mobilization With A Conscience

I recently read two short but thought-provoking pieces: 75+ Ways To Do Good With Social Media by Mashabel Assistant Features Editor Zachary Sniderman (on Twitter @zsniderman),

and a Twitter post and blog by Erika Harrison @eharrisondotorg: The Intellectual Value of Caring from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Each reminded me (one through the power of social media; the other through intellectual caring) that the best efforts to combat social problems always include both thinking and action in doing something good for others. Knowledge Mobilization is a combination of both thinking and action.

Knowledge without a heart is empty and useless knowledge.

Knowledge Mobilization without a conscience is worthless and not effective.

Peter Levesque, Founder and Director of Knowledge Mobilization Works (on Twitter @peterlevesque) considers knowledge mobilization – at its deepest level – “an act of love”. This is far from being some pie-in-the-sky ideal. The most fundamental reason for sharing and being open to other knowledge and experience really stems from an openness to love. Now, I’m not saying everyone should participate in some big love-in, but Peter makes an important point.

On a more basic level, whenever I discuss Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) as a participatory and inclusive way of knowledge collaboration between researchers and research users, I often make the rather limited assumption that Knowledge Mobilization is automatically useful to everyone. Sadly, it is not. In our new knowledge economy, there are plenty of people who are still in need of the basic economic necessities of shelter, food, or clean water. Knowledge Mobilization would seem of little use to them. Fortunately, it is useful if knowledge is effectively mobilized.

Although those struggling may not concern themselves about or even know of KMb, Knowledge Mobilization is an effective means of informing policy makers – which in turn can help combat homelessness, hunger, and poor sanitation (even if those being helped may not actually be aware that the process of KMb is what helped them). So, KMb may not automatically be useful to everyone, but it is a way of bringing together researchers examining social problems with community agencies dealing directly with such issues in order to create effective social policies to overcome these issues.

When researchers inform and are open to being informed by multi-directional communication and knowledge that includes those living in poverty, social workers dealing with them, government agencies and policy makers assisting them, advocates lobbying for them, community agencies supporting them, as well as other university or community-based researchers studying them, the channels of knowledge mobilization are effectively opened and can contribute to greater value for all in society.

I believe everyone should have a voice in knowledge mobilization; but not every voice will have something helpful to say. Never the less, only when each voice has an opportunity to be heard and can contribute to the process of solving these social problems will such problems be eliminated. KMb is about creating value – not just for some, but for everyone.

When Knowledge Mobilization has a conscience everyone benefits.

2 responses to “Knowledge Mobilization With A Conscience

  1. researchimpact December 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Knowledge mobilization with a conscience – yes – and when knowledge is co-produced with community and policy makers to address some of society’s wicked problems that you cite as examples I would move that into Community Based Research, an element of KMb (see our recent blog on this at But even with a conscience how might you ascribe value to this act of love? Is there greater value in brokering a collaboration between university and community to address homelessness or in brokering a collaboration between university and the Ministry of Labour to address white collar crime? Value isn’t the same as conscience but both are socially constructed and we know from the Wenger Community of Practice literature that knowledge is learned and applied in a social context. Consider this a request for some KMbeing musings on the relative values of knowledge.

  2. KMbkteam December 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Inherent in knowledge mobilization is the value of knowledge for knowledge sake to further the greater benefit of society. The persistent wicked problems are a constant challenge but always worth the efforts of knowledge mobilization in attempts to co-produce a solution (a “wicked problem” is a phrase originally used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems).

    Although some may argue certain research is “more valuable” than others, my benchmark for value is always the broader reaching worth for everyone. And, although knowledge can be considered socially constructed, the ability to inform while also open to being informed by other “socially constructed” knowledge contributes to the further creation of new knowledge.

    There may be values of knowledge, but I think the underlying value is how it improves human life for everyone.

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