March 25 Talks at York – A Smorgasbord of KMb Activity

Our experiences within research is such that ethics approval on human cloning would be a touchy subject, let alone the technological challenges, so when two interesting talks at York were scheduled for the same date and time, we were pleased to be part of an enthusiastic team that allowed us to split up and cover off presentations with relevance to KMb.

Michael Johnny, York U’s Manager, Knowledge Mobilization, attended a lunchtime panel presentation hosted by the CITY Institute that shared results on two suburbia research projects. Five York Researchers, along with a researcher employed by the City of Vaughn, shared highlights of their research on the topic, “Suburbia in Transition: Infrastructure and Planning in Toronto’s In-Between City

It was encouraging to see a crowd of upwards of 50 people in attendance, diverse in interests. Speakers shared how this innovative concept brings unique needs and challenges to planning and development. The panel presentations did an excellent job framing such concerns for areas that are “anti-residential”, “splintered” in their existing land use, and requiring unique strategies to planning and development, which requires both “more and less” flexibility in certain areas of planning.

The work of York’s KMb Unit within York Region over the past four years made the messages from Prof. Lucia Lo resonate. Prof. Lo was one of the Principal Investigators on an Infrastructure Canada-funded project, ‘Infrastructure in York Region: A GIS Analysis of Human Services‘. The main message conveyed was that ballooning growth within the Region has resulted in a supply of York Region services not aligned to areas of need. And with some community leaders and York Region planners in the audience, the messages met a receptive audience.

And in successful KMb fashion, the time afterward allowed for necessary follow up and informal conversation between the speakers and the audience. Michael was encouraged to see the level of engagement that faculty colleagues demonstrated in connecting their research to their audience(s) and looks forward to ongoing support in this area through the success of a Major Collaborative Research Initiative within the CITY Institute of Global Suburbanization.

While Michael was attending the CITY Institute presentation, Knowledge Mobilization Officer Krista Jensen and KMb Digital Researcher Gary Myers attended “Evidence of Democracy? The Relationship Between Evidence-Based Policy and Democratic Government”. The talk is part of the Osgoode-York Seminar Series in Policy Research. It was an engaging presentation given by York alumnus Shaun Young, now a senior policy associate at U of T’s Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation.

As part of a paper-in-progress to be published by UBC Press (please do not cite without permission from Shaun; Shaun discussed how the jumping-off point for the contemporary view of evidence-based policy is the 1999 Modern Government paper of Tony Blair. Evidence-based policy emerged from evidence-based medicine, but is now often referred to as evidence-awareness, evidence-informed and evidence-influence as part of the evolving debates about what constitutes evidence. Shaun also pointed out that policy-makers continue to identify more with science based research evidence within the hierarchy of a select privileged group.

Shaun states that evidence has become a key element among policy makers, yet the debate continues about what constitutes legitimate evidence. Shaun argues that evidence-based policy is incompatible with democracy given the tensions between beliefs in political equality necessary to stimulate the democratic process and protecting the practice of majority government ruling. Shaun suggests evidence-based policy may often be “up to political whim”, but at least politicians are “forced” to pay attention to evidence.

In further successful KMb fashion, participants shared opinions and asked questions including one by Gary: Given the nature of knowledge mobilization to broker between academic social science and community-based practice to inform evidence, how can this focus of KMb be more incorporated into government democracy?

Sean Young’s reply: “It will require a culture-change.”

Looks like we have our KMb work cut out for us with our Canadian politicians!

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