What is knowledge mobilization and why does it matter?
If the point of social research is to provide solutions to social problems, then it is necessary to share your research with people and communities who can help implement the solutions you propose. What good is your research if you don’t share what you’ve learned? The term knowledge mobilization refers to the practice of sharing research findings with the people and communities who will benefit the most. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), a public funding agency, defines knowledge mobilization as:
“The reciprocal and complementary flow and uptake of research knowledge between researchers, knowledge brokers and knowledge users—both within and beyond academia—in such a way that may benefit users and create positive impacts within Canada and/or internationally, and, ultimately, has the potential to enhance the profile, reach and impact of social sciences and humanities research.”Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
If we break this definition down, knowledge mobilization:
- is reciprocal, meaning it involves the exchange of knowledge between the researcher and research subjects or communities
- is complementary, meaning knowledge is shared in a way that benefits both the researcher and the research subjects or communities
- involves communicating with people and communities both within and outside of academia
- strives to make a positive impact locally and/globally
are people who can use or apply research findings.
are the individuals and organizations who connect knowledge users and knowledge producers.
Doing knowledge mobilization requires answering the following questions:
- Who benefits from my research?
- Who is the audience for my research?
- How can I communicate my research effectively to these audiences?
- How will I involve the knowledge users in the research process and/or in the process of knowledge mobilization?
- Ask a professor if they know which annual conferences are well-attended by leaders in your field
- Ask a professor or peer if they know which journals or books are important in your field
- Search online to find conferences in your field
When researchers share their knowledge beyond academia, they have the potential to shape public debate, change policies, improve services for particular communities, and influence practices in the business, government, media, or activist sectors. Some forms of knowledge mobilization outside of academia include:
- Traditional Platforms:
- research reports
- policy papers
- community gatherings
- street and interactive theatre
- public exhibitions
- Virtual Platforms:
- digital storytelling
Knowledge mobilization does not have to wait until you have completed your research. Rather, effective knowledge mobilization takes place at all stages of the research process. At the beginning of your project, you can share your research question with knowledge users, who can then share their ideas about what else you need to know, and how you can go about your research project. Engaging users from the beginning of your research is actually one way of ensuring the usefulness of the final product to them. Engaging users at the end of the project is essentially translating knowledge into action.
The form your knowledge mobilization takes depends on your audience. You must ask yourself: who is (are) my audience(s)? What is the best way to communicate with my audience(s)? Who your audience is will determine the form your communication takes. If you are trying to reach policymakers, a presentation or report might be the most effective format. If you want to reach members of a local community, perhaps you want to host a meeting, but if you want to reach a much bigger community, perhaps you will share information on social media. Both the audience as well as the subject matter need to be considered. For instance, presenting sensitive issues (family tensions, domestic violence, etc.) to a youth or rural population might go better with street or interactive theater.
Effective Knowledge Mobilization
Next, you will study three examples of effective knowledge mobilization. You should study each of these examples and answer the following set of questions:
- Who is the intended audience for this content?
- Who benefits from this research? (Who are the knowledge users?)
- How are the knowledge users incorporated into the research?
- What strategies do the researchers use to present the research in a clear and accessible manner?
- How does this research contribute to social change?
Study these example and while reading each example, answer the provided questions above.
- Integration of African Immigrants in Alberta
This is a series of infographics on the integration of African immigrants in Alberta, produced by Dr. Phil and her research team. These infographics present the results of research into the challenges African migrants face when transitioning into life in Canada.
- Moving into New Frontiers
Here you will find a number of examples of knowledge mobilization produced for Black History Month in Canada. Begin with the editorial about Black History Month by read the accompanying editorial by Dr. Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika. Next, watch the “snapshots of Blackness” videos.
- Resilience of Culture in a New Homeland
This photography exhibition features images demonstrating the resilience of African migrants.
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada websites has a set of Guidelines for Effective Knowledge Mobilization. You can refer this as you work on your own knowledge mobilization plan.