The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (CKMF) took place online (like all conferences of 2020) from November 24-26. The theme this year — ‘Welcoming new talent, skills, and perspectives’— ties in closely with the original mission presented in the Forum’s foundational gathering in 2012, which was to “support a growing international community in knowledge mobilization” (KMb for short). Co-hosted by Research Impact Canada and Institute for Knowledge Mobilization, the CKMF gathered academics, practitioners, students and engaged community members streaming in from all over Canada and internationally. The workshops, poster presentations, lightning and plenary talks, networking events and coffee chats covered the whole range of practices referenced by the asterisk in K* (Knowledge: translation, transfer, exchange, brokering, mobilization, management etc.). The speakers and participants tackled wide-ranging issues like wicked problems, creating and maintaining partnerships and engagement, as well as the development and implementation of a variety of frameworks and models.
Two students working on the STOREE project took part in the CKMF in different roles and share their perspectives on the conference, and then offer their takeaway on both the conference and KMb as a whole.
Ciara Farmer: on presenting on KMb work
Our team, comprised of Dr. Heather O’Brien, and Kristina McDavid, and myself presented “The evolving roles of information intermediaries: Preliminary findings,” in which we reported on our preliminary findings from ongoing research on the evolving roles of people working in various K* roles. To undertake this research, we interviewed KMb professionals–including librarians and archivists –working in a variety of settings, and with a wide range of communities to get a better sense of their professional experiences with Knowledge Exchange (KE) work. Although data analysis is still underway, we took some of our preliminary findings to the CKMF. Leading up to the CKMF, our team sorted through our interview data to find key examples of the three roles occupied by KE professionals, as identified by Shaxton et. al in their paper on the K* Spectrum (2012). These three key roles are knowledge translators, who facilitate access to information; knowledge brokers, who support the ability of people to understand and use information; and innovation brokers, who bring about changes that have systemic impacts. Something that has consistently struck me about our interviews with KMb professionals working across these three key roles, is their engagement with their communities and the relationships that underpin and motivate their work. Many of the KMb professionals interviewed cited community as a significant and valuable part of their work, but felt it wasn’t appropriate to evaluate that work using traditional measures given the slow and personal nature of relationship building.
Andrea Kampen: on attending the CKMF conference
The key to K* in practice are the people and relationships, as well as the use of functional and equitable frameworks, models, tools and platforms.
In their talk SPARKing Change through Knowledge Translation: Thoughtfully engaging Actors and Agents of Change, Alexa Bol discussed the Innovation to Implementation (I2I) framework used by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. They shared their experience of identifying ‘agents of change’ —people they describe as those who motivate actors and stakeholders to adopt new behaviours or actions. They emphasized that in order to cultivate what they call “authentic engagement,” researchers should consider barriers (including tokenism, call outs that don’t appeal to audiences, not being flexible, stigma, lack of confidence, and consultation fatigue). Identifying agents of change in new settings can be challenging and also potentially harmful. The presenters suggested starting with who you know and to ask questions.
Forming relationships and assessing outcomes (a complex and potentially fraught process), can be facilitated by the use of a variety of frameworks, models, tools, and platforms. In her presentation How do we know if KMb makes a difference?, Dr. Sarah Morton, co-founder of Matter of Focus, took on “the challenge of understanding our [KMb] unique contribution”. Morton emphasized that knowledge interacts with a variety of factors (internal and external). She discussed OutNav, a company that created a software tool that aims to support the process of using data and evidence effectively (including organizing according to plot pathways, assessing risk and assumptions etc.). Dr. Morton suggested that there should be more sharing of failed impact stories to inform success criteria. She encouraged participants to ask: How else can we learn about the way people interact with knowledge from their own perspective, experience and context?
Both academia and other K* professions are laden with existing power dynamics that often leads to a power disbalance between the researcher and the researched. This imbalance is incongruent with the fact that the knowledge that research subjects have is what researchers seek for extrapolative use, while simultaneously disregarding the significance of the knowledge and intellect of those we research. The antidote to this is to treat research, and other K* activities, as a reciprocal act and a way of relating to one another. KMb is, in its ideal form, a reciprocal act. Tied into the understanding of KMb activities as reciprocal in their ideal form is the need for changing the metrics of which success is determined in the assessment of KMb outcomes. Assessments should account for the experimental and relational nature of reciprocal KMb and include room for failure as well as the valuing of less quantitative measures. These takeaways are in line with the theme of the forum which stresses the welcoming of new practitioners–and novel ideas–and to consider long term continued support of one another via community and continued professional development.
Ciara Farmer is a second year Master’s student at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning and an intern at the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants. Her research interests include grassroots community development, community-led programing, knowledge democratization, and equitable food systems. She is a Research Assistant for Dr. Heather O’Brien and Kristina McDavid on the Knowledge Exchange Project.
Andrea Kampen is a second-year doctoral student at the UBC iSchool under the supervision of Dr. Heather O’Brien. Her research interests involve User Engagement, Arts-based and Visual Research methods, and Human-Computer Interaction. Andres is focused on facilitating the connection between people and the information they are seeking and on empowering individuals to interpret and apply what they learn in ways that are meaningful to them. She’s excited to work with the STOREE team furthering the work done in a scoping review.