Recommendations for Universities Seeking More Effective Collaborations / Recommandations aux universités en quête de collaborations efficaces

Interaction report coverThe CarnegieUK Trust recently released InterAction, a report that examined how universities and non-profit organizations can collaborate to influence public policy. Much of it reflects what York University is already doing but also points out where we can improve.

Le fonds Carnegie UK Trust vient de publier InterAction, un rapport qui examine les moyens pour les universités et les organisations à but non lucratif de collaborer afin d’influencer les politiques publiques. En grande partie, ce rapport reflète ce qui se fait déjà à l’Université York, mais il indique aussi des pistes à suivre pour nous améliorer.

“The future for influencing public policy involves the co-production of knowledge.”

The report makes nine recommendations for universities, six recommendations for community organizations and four recommendations for funders all designed to enhance community campus collaborations for policy impact.

The nine recommendations are below along with reflections on how York University fulfils or fails on these recommendations:


York University

Provide embedded gateways through which third-sector organisations and other publics can make contact with relevant researchers in what are perceived to be impenetrable and siloed institutions.

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb Unit) uses a systematic approach to respond to requests for knowledge brokering from non-academic organizations (70%) and faculty (30%). The TD Community Engagement Centre (CEC) is located in community to provide access to York expertise and services

Employ specialist knowledge exchange workers to facilitate interaction between the worlds of social science, policy and practice. These will be more effective if accorded recognition, security and career pathways.

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit employs two full time knowledge brokers and the CEC has one full time manager.

Invest in mechanisms to develop and support long-term relationships with selected third-sector partners and networks.

In addition to supporting collaborations between researchers and non-academic partners York University has had a knowledge mobilization partnership with United Way Toronto and York Region since 2006.

Explore innovative ways of providing spaces for intersection of vertical and horizontal knowledge flows.

The KMb Unit, CEC, and EE (see below) are all examples where vertical (within the university) intersects with horizontal (engaging beyond the university) knowledge flows.

Encourage secondment opportunities (both inward and outward) as a means of facilitating knowledge exchange and ‘boundary spanning’.

York does not have formal secondment opportunities.

Develop training and staff development programmes to build the capacity of academics to work with third-sector organisations, to understand their worlds, and to include codes of practice towards mutual benefit.

The KMb Unit has a series of workshops that it delivers to the York community and their non-academic partners on an annual basis. Workshops include KMb planning, KMb evaluation, social media, clear language writing and design. These workshops can be tailored to academic units and to Organized Research Units. York does not have a code of practice but the KMb Unit promotes the use of the Position Statement on Authentic Partnerships from Community Campus Partnerships for Health.

Develop training and staff development programmes to build an understanding amongst staff of policy processes and how to engage with policy worlds. Consideration should be given to involving third sector partners in such programmes.

York does not have specific training on the policy process; however, we could explore partnering with the School of Public Policy and Administration to contribute a policy specific session to our knowledge mobilization workshops.

Embed the use of Project Advisory Groups including policy and practice partners relevant to the research project, as a means of informing the research, promoting impact and developing relationships. Representatives from VCOs should be paid for their contribution and valued for their insight as well as their role in dissemination.

This is an area where we can do better. The KMb Unit had a Joint Advisory Committee with equal representation by faculty and community but it was the faculty who were hard to recruit and retain. The CEC has an Advisory Committee including York and Community members.

Explore further the role which service learning might play in building engagement with the third sector, in addition to its other merits.

York is building a campus wide experiential education (EE) program led by the Assoc. VP Teaching & Learning . In addition the Faculty of Health Agents of Change is a faculty-wide initiative designed to help health students develop the skills and abilities to create a positive impact.

So how are we doing? We are excellent in many places and clearly have room to grow in others. Most promising is the emerging Experiential Education program being led by Assoc. VP Teaching and Learning. This has the potential to transform how we teach and how students learn and, if we do it right, how to create positive impacts on communities.

How does your institution stack up?

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