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KMbeing Knowledge Mobilization Post With The Most 2010

This is a repost of KMbeing’s most viewed post for the year 2010.

Knowledge Mobilization: Definition & Terminology

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb)

Whenever I mention the work I do in knowledge mobilization, inevitably someone asks me to explain what that means.  Unfortunately, there are a variety of similar terms being used to roughly define the same thing, which has a tendency to “muddy the waters” of explanation.  I engage with other professionals – especially through the Ontario Knowledge Transfer & Exchange Community of Practice (KTE Cop) – and I continue to push for agreement on the use of one, clear term (knowledge mobilization) to describe the work we do. But, it’s not that simple to find agreement as each term has its own history and sometimes very defensive, personal appeal.

First, to define KMb:

Fellow knowledge mobilizer and Director of Knowledge Mobilization Works,  Peter Levesque states that the term originates from the French term mobilisation – making ready for service or action.

KMb consists of a variety of methods in which research and knowledge is transferred, translated, exchanged and co-produced to enhance the practical application of knowledge between researchers and research-users (individuals and community organizations seeking to use research to inform decisions in public policy and professional practice).

Yet KMb is not limited to academic or more formal knowledge. It also includes informal knowledge such as narratives or even Internet blogging/microblogging/wikispaces if it informs and contributes to the greater benefit for society.

However, a multiplicity of terms and concepts are used to describe aspects of KMb including knowledge utilization, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, knowledge management, knowledge translation, diffusion of innovation, research impacts, and research utilization. Three of the most frequently used terms are knowledge transfer, knowledge utilization, and knowledge exchange.


I argue that all of these terms – including knowledge transfer and knowledge transfer & exchange – falls short in stating the multiple influences of the co-production of knowledge. Exchange still suggests a sharing of knowledge within separate fields of application. KMb is a more recent term and is gaining greater use as it focuses more on the multiple contributions and co-production of new knowledge.

KMb emphasizes the multi-directional links or activities among researchers and research-users with greater emphasis on the multiple contributions and co-operation for the creation of knowledge. KMb includes an array of interdisciplinary methodologies and techniques at many levels and directions to mobilize knowledge within a broader framework.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in conjunction with McMaster University’s Health Sciences Department and Health Information Unit (HiRU), along with the Canadian Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools has created a Wikispace intending to help define and compare terms and concepts across a variety of disciplines using KT. CIHR uses KTE, while The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) prefers using knowledge mobilization as a more appropriate term.

With so many terms being used to describe the same thing, perhaps it’s time to agree on using only one term – a more inclusively descriptive term – knowledge mobilization.

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3 responses to “KMbeing Knowledge Mobilization Post With The Most 2010

  1. David Phipps December 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I acknowledge language has power and language is important. I also know we can get so caught up in debating the discourses of K* that we forget why we’re discussing this in the first place. Let the academics engage in the debate and I will happily read their papers. As a KMb pracititoner I’ll (in the words of our NFLD colleagues) “just get ‘er done”. Call me when there’s a resolution to the debate. I’ll be in the field. Brokering.

  2. Erika December 31, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    @eharrisondotorg: Knowledge mobilization conveys so much more than transfer or exchange RT @kmbeing: The Post With The Most For 2010 http://bit.ly/ecUFxj

    To expand on my tweet a bit – After a Master’s degree in Communication and Culture (heavy component in KM & Organizational Communication), plus three years working in health research and communication (aka Knowledge Translation), and then the Cognitive Edge accreditation developed by KM guru David Snowden, I still struggled with how I wanted to define the work I do as a consultant. Nothing quite seemed to fit the combination of scientific, cultural, technological, and emotional intelligence I stand for along with the public outreach and transparency components necessary for knowledge work to be relevant and effective in the 21st century. And so I tend to have flexible titles depending on the sectors and projects I work with.

    I agree with David’s comment that the work of getting it done is important. But if language reflects culture and culture is about shared knowledge, values, and identities, then terminology is also important. Of all the terms I’ve seen used in the past seven years around knowledge work (including all the ones on CIHR’s wiki linked above), ‘mobilization’ best captures the intention I hear from most knowledge workers.
    I’m going to incorporate ‘Knowledge Mobilization’ into my vernacular in 2011. Thanks for the post, Gary and Happy New Year!

    • KMbkteam January 1, 2011 at 2:49 am

      Thank you so much Erika for your comment.

      Your academic and relevant credentials with a Masters degree assists your knowledge base in so much, but I am firmly convinced that knowledge embraces beyond academia when it goes beyond the academic degrees to include your grass roots community and life experience. It sounds like working with KM guru David Snowden and his cognitive edge gave you the foundational understanding of defining knowledge in a consultant capacity. I think David Snowden is an outstanding contributor to our overall knowledge. I think that your flexible public outreach for knowledge mobilization into the future – inclusive of the many sectors that KMb embraces – is vital to mobilizing the knowledge that will benefit society.

      I agree that David’s efforts in wanting to get the “work of knowledge mobilization done” regardless of terminology is important; but as you rightly point out, terminology is also important. Knowledge Mobilization is a more inclusive and encompassing term of the work being done to extend and include knowledge beyond academic research. It is my hope that in the next decade Knowledge Mobilization will be the accepted term used to describe the knowledge work being done for the greater benefit of society.

      Thanks so much for your comment, and Happy New Year to you too!

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