Barriers and Facilitators of Networks / Réseaux bloqués, réseaux fluides

At the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (CKF), fifteen attendees sat in a circle and discussed their experiences with in person and online networks. The wisdom in the room brought forward lots of ways to enhance participation both online and in real life.

À l’occasion du Forum canadien sur la mobilisation des connaissances, quinze intervenants ont formé, littéralement, un cercle de discussion sur leur expérience de réseautage en ligne et en personne. La sagesse de ce groupe a permis de mettre au jour de nombreux moyens d’activer la participation, en ligne et en vrai.

CKF is not your usual conference. OK, there isn’t the drumming and singing of C2UExpo (and why not???) but the Forum is not dominated by talking heads where three “experts” speak “to” an audience (who often know as much or more about the topic) often elevated on a stage to reflect their status as expert and always separated from the audience by a table.

At CKF there are far more interactive sessions including hands on workshops, artistic presentations and roundtable discussions. The latter was the format we employed to draw the wisdom from participants who were active in networks (that’s almost everyone, by the way). The roundtable (we sat in a circle to encourage equal participation and discourage anyone being perceived as an “expert”) was co-facilitated by Travis Steinhart (Gambling Research Exchange Ontario), Vicky Ward (Leeds University, UK and the international Knowledge into Practice Learning Network), Oludurotimi Adetunji (Brown University, USA and the National Alliance for Broader Impacts) and me representing Research Impact Canada. We had provincial, national, national US and international networks represented with Research Impact Canada being the oldest (+11 years) and KIPL Network the youngest (<1 year); however, it was the contributions of the participants that helped us populate the chart with barriers and facilitators of networks. Networks barriers enablers CKF17

You can read the suggestions in the picture, but it is interesting that the group spent the most time on facilitators of online networks almost to the exclusion of in person networks and barriers to online networks. This suggests that while many of us claim to struggle with participation in online networks we have also devised many strategies to facilitate our participation. A couple of comments on the suggestions:

• RCT: Randomised Coffee Trial. Members of an online network get randomly assigned to pairs of people who don’t know each other and you schedule a 20 minute skype call over coffee. I had a delightful 20 minute chat with a broker from a UK based international NGO and we found many common threads.

• Paid Supports: everyone agreed that having a dedicated, paid person to support the online group was a great facilitator. As keen as volunteers are it often falls to the edge of the desk.

1-9-90: draws from the observation that in many online spaces 90% of the members are actively consuming content but are invisible whereas 9% are commenting and only 1% are creating content. The barrier is that one cannot determine network participation when the 90% consuming are invisible to the network.

• Bloody Minded: another term for persistent. Don’t give up either in person or online.

• British (as a barrier): This was the view of one British participant who viewed Canada as a far more enabling environment for knowledge mobilization.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this session. If you are a member of a network look through this list and pick out something to try if you are feeling that you want to enhance your network activity. Try the Randomised Coffee Trial in your network. It’s easy and as you will see from the KIPL Linked In group we all enjoyed our conversations and only invested 20 minutes over coffee.

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