Five Steps to Research Impact / Cinq étapes pour que la recherche ait un impact

Knowledge brokering, the formation and support of community campus collaborations, is a key knowledge mobilization method that helps to maximize the social and economic impacts of research. A recent article from York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit breaks that method down into five steps.

Le courtage de connaissances, c’est-à-dire la formation et le renforcement de collaborations entre le campus et la collectivité, est une méthode de mobilisation des connaissances essentielle qui aide à maximiser l’impact social et économique de la recherche. Dans un article récent, l’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances de l’Université York décrit les cinq étapes de cette méthode.

At York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit we feel it is important to not only develop effective knowledge mobilization methods but to document those methods so that other knowledge mobilizers can adopt and adapt them to their own contexts. While we present these methods on our SlideShare and YouTube accounts and on our blog, we also feel it is important to document these in the peer reviewed literature for two reasons: 1) peer review is the gold standard in an academic context like ours; and 2) peer review provides an independent validation of the method.

We published our “recipe book” in Scholarly & Research Communications in 2011. This paper presented our seven institutional knowledge mobilization services. We also published our clear language writing in Scholarly & Research Communications in 2012. We published on graduate student interns in Education & Training in 2011 and on social media in a book chapter in 2012.

We then spent 2013 and 2014 writing about community campus collaborations and social innovation. In 2015 we are pleased to have published on our knowledge brokering process, the core of our business. “An institutional process for brokering community-campus research collaborations” was published in the first edition of a new journal called the Engaged Scholar Journal housed at our ResearchImpact partner University of Saskatchewan. This paper was co-authored with Jane Wedlock from United Way York Region so was itself a community campus collaboration. We walk the talk of co-production and as often as possible to co-author with non-academic authors.

The paper presents the five step process we have developed to broker collaborations between community and campus stakeholders. The process is illustrated in the figure and consists of:

  1. Opportunity received and in progress (assessment, seek match, contact match, introduction)
  2. No match
  3. Match and no activity
  4. Match and activity (shared activity such as panelist or speaker at an event but falling short of collaborative project)
  5. Match results in a collaborative research project potentially with impact on the non-academic partner (=5a)

Brokering Flow Chart

Each stage is described in detail in the paper. During development of our method we had a failure (=stage 2) rate of 37%. We queried project partners in that 37% to understand some of the barriers. We made some adjustments to our process in response to feedback and are currently running an 18% failure rate, which we feel is just fine. Many of those 18% are ones that are withdrawn voluntarily because they are not ready for partnering.

We illustrate the brokering process with two stories: Mobilizing Minds and the York Region Food Network. And most importantly we describe the impact on our knowledge brokering process when we introduced Jane Wedlock as a community based knowledge broker. To our knowledge having a knowledge mobilization officer embedded in community and brokering into the university to complement the campus based brokering out to community is a unique model and has provided benefits to both partners:

  1. Greater outreach in the community increased the quality of knowledge mobilization opportunities
  2. Having a community-based knowledge broker provided more time for YorkU knowledge brokers to work on campus and resulted in the launch of on campus workshops which raised the capacity for researchers, students and research staff to engage in knowledge mobilization.
  3. Tracking and data sharing was refined as brokers from YorkU and United Way York Region were engaged in similar opportunities and needed to share data.
  4. With almost 2/3 of opportunities originating outside the university placing additional resources outside the university allowed for greater and more meaningful engagement with community leaders and organizations.

This paper also allowed us to explore issues related to power and to the formation of democratic partnerships. By creating collaborations that respond to the needs of community, building capacity for authentic participation in research and acknowledging the value of academic and community/practice based expertise the campus and community based knowledge brokers diffuse power and help collaborators to create new knowledge that is relevant to both community and academic partners.

Thanks so much to Jane Wedlock for her incredible role in our knowledge mobilization practice.

You can read all our peer reviewed publications posted in York’s institutional repository. And stay tuned to that space for our latest forthcoming article:

Phipps, D. J., Cummings, J. Pepler, D., Craig, W. and Cardinal, S. (2015). The co-produced pathway to impact describes knowledge mobilization processes. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, In press.


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