Knowledge Mobilization Hub Research Assistant Reflection

Profile Picture 2How does one go about the daunting task of strengthening Canadian communities? They do so by connecting with like-minded people to address an equally formidable question. In the case of the CFICE project, that question is: How can community campus partnerships be designed and implemented to maximize the value created for non-profit, community-based organizations? The CFICE project at its core is a group of people across Canada that seek to connect the academic institution with the surrounding community and encourage partnership that will ultimately enact positive changes.

Looking back at my time spent as a research assistant with the knowledge mobilization hub of the CFICE project, it’s hard to put to words the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve learned. From having the opportunity to speak in front of experts in the field of KM, to dabbling in the logistics of patents and intellectual property, CFICE has provided experiences that I never would have thought available given my current academic and occupational direction. Indeed throughout my time with CFICE I have had the opportunity to help in organizing multi-community and multi-campus conferences, I have been able to attend conferences in differing parts of Canada, I gained valuable experience in dealing with large groups of people (especially time management skills in organizing meetings), and helped in the development of novel a KM tool (the Knowledge Mobilization Game). GameAlong with these invaluable experiences I also was able to see firsthand the difficulties surrounding the implementation of knowledge mobilization both in and out of academia. For example, traditional avenues of knowledge dissemination are usually limited to publishing in relevant journals and perhaps attending a conference. Furthermore, aside from issuing surveys to potential users of knowledge it is difficult to measure the impact knowledge mobilization has on the community. Fortunately the former problem is slowly being addressed through changes in granting policies and the incorporation of KM strategies when attempting to secure funding.

Prior to my university studies at Carleton University, were someone to ask me what knowledge mobilization was and what it entailed I simply would have told them that it was the movement of knowledge. Although not wrong, that assumption would fail to capture the essence as to what knowledge mobilization truly is. Knowledge mobilization is more than getting knowledge from one person to another. Knowledge mobilization is about putting research into action– it is about doing everything possible to ensure that that knowledge gets implemented in order to enact the best possible outcomes for a given situation.

Moving forward I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity continue my studies at the doctoral level. As I pursue further graduate work I do so with a greater understanding and appreciation for knowledge mobilization and what it truly entails. The usual avenues of knowledge dissemination and exchange, although tempting, are becoming insufficient in ensuring that the knowledge generated from research is actually implemented. Knowing this, and using the skills I have learned during my time with CFICE I hope to put my future research into the hands of those who will truly benefit from it and therefore ameliorate both the academic and public communities.

Research Assistant Reflection – Knowledge Mobilization

Christine Ackerley Knowledge MobilizationKnowledge mobilization is a verb, not a noun. It’s an ongoing journey, not the destination. That’s what I learned this year as a research assistant for the CFICE knowledge mobilization hub. I wrote articles and sat on committees. I helped with newsletters and assisted with knowledge mobilization resources. But more than anything else, I learned about the challenges to knowledge mobilization work.

The experience wasn’t what I expected. Academic timelines rarely align with community timelines. The impact of knowledge mobilization is hard to measure, so it’s hard to justify to busy campus and community partners. I found it challenging to identify the target audience for knowledge mobilization products. I also struggled to wrap my head around the complexity and breadth of the CFICE project.

But, I leave CFICE more passionate about the value of knowledge mobilization than when I started. I participated in C2UExpo, and met inspiring people who strive to make research more relevant and useful to those who need it. I researched knowledge mobilization in my undergraduate honours essay, where I studied SSHRC’s annual reports. And, I’m excited to continue learning about knowledge mobilization this fall as I start my master’s in communication at Simon Fraser University.

Each step along the path of knowledge mobilization is challenging. Sometimes even frustrating, slow, or uncertain. But I believe we can harness the power of research to support meaningful social change. And I know knowledge mobilization is a vital journey to take.

Technique of the Week #2: Infographics

What are infographics?

Have you ever found yourself needing to relay a large amount or complex pieces of information in a concise and efficient manner? If so, infographics may be one of the many tools available to do so. As the name may suggest this week’s technique , infographics, employs the use of graphic elements in order to present information to a particular audience.

Although not formally named as such, infographics have been in use for a lengthy period of time, often being used in scientific books and  maps as early as the 1600s. Since then, their utility has expanded from academia and cartography  to include any discipline or area needing to relay knowledge. As an everyday example, newspapers often use infographics to present the weather, show current stock rates, and  analyze the outcome of sport events.

Resources, time, and skill

One of the attractions to using infographics as a way to mobilize knowledge is their ease of use. With little effort, a visually appealing and informative graphic can be made either by hand or using a variety of online tools. For example, here is an infographic I recently made using Piktochart.com that took a relatively short period of time.

Infographics are only limited by the ingenuity of the individual that is creating them.

Key considerations

The utility of infographics lie in their ability to display complex knowledge in a simple way. However, sometimes a particular piece of knowledge needs to remain complex and not be distilled in any way in order to remain  informative. For example, if a novel new technology is being researched, the findings associated with that research are probably best disseminated through lengthy papers as opposed to an infographic. This way the  subtle nuances associated with that research are not lost.

Furthermore, the target audience of the infographic should be taken into consideration before the design. The language used within the infographic should cater to that audience (there’s no sense using jargon that your audience doesn’t understand). Also, the infographic should be memorable in some way. The use of impactful content and visually appealing displays help with this. Finally, the infographic shouldn’t overwhelm the reader. Simple messages are easier to remember and thus are more impactful on the reader.

The take away

Companies and organizations can establish and align their goals through the use of infographics. For example, an infographic could be used to represent a Theory of  Change, detailing the paths of knowledge used in each part of that organization. Furthermore, infographics could be used as a means to disseminate knowledge between groups within an organization. Furthermore, infographics may be used in order to raise awareness on an issue; by first gathering the attention of a reader, then directing them to more detailed sources of information such as a policy brief or a research paper.

The following is an infographic on how to create successful infographics and the things that should be avoided by R Alwis, C Evans, S Karmali, M Maheru, & D Sriram (2014).

Other resources

Why is community-based research and practice so hard?

Professors, we need you!

A divide is growing between university professors and the rest of the world. On one hand, anti-intellectualism is becoming mainstream in that public figures and policy make it increasingly difficult for research to be accepted by the masses. On the other hand, university professors alienate themselves by failing to disseminate their research further than the pages of academic journals and having little interest in community engagement.

What hope do professors have if community engagement means so little?

It’s hard to bridge that divide however, when community engagement fails to operate within the “soft money” model that many schools of public health have adopted. Under these models, the majority of professors’ salaries are funded through grants. Public intellectuals have a hard time finding a place within universities due to the current focus in academia being on the bottom line and not community growth.

Cheap labour. Vulnerable labour. Good business practices.

Over the last few decades, universities have adopted a Wal-Mart business model of hiring in that by not guaranteeing employment, they insure that contract instructors accept lower salaries for more amounts of work. This makes it increasingly difficult for community-based research to gain traction in a system that is reluctant to change. While it should be noted that the tenure process has been slowly changing by placing more emphasis on community engagement, an emphasis on how to engage in community-based research in all stages of academia needs to be put placed. A growing number of knowledge mobilizing tools are now available that can help bridge this growing divide and educate the public.

There’s hope: let’s bring pedagogy into practice.

Drawing on lessons learned from University of Victoria’s hugely successful community-based leadership initiatives, the following book draws upon a host of dialogues, debates, reflections and ideas on issues related to the learning, teaching, and practice of community-based research. Not only does this book explore the practice of community-based research, but it delves into the obstacles and opportunities that may present themselves along the way.