Diversity / Diversité

David Phipps, RIR-York
I used to think the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) partner institutions were diverse in our knowledge mobilization practices: St. John’s to Victoria, institution and research unit based, French and English… and then I spent three days in Hamilton at the K* (Kstar) conference.
J’avais l’habitude de penser que les partenaires du RéseauImpactRecherche – ResearchImpact (RIR) étaient variés dans leurs pratiques de mobilisation des connaissances :  de St. John’s à Victoria, des institutions et des services de recherche, en français et en anglais…. et puis j’ai passé trois jours à Hamilton la « K* (Kstar) conference »
About sixty knowledge brokers (or innovation brokers, a new name to describe the fact many of us broker beyond just knowledge and work in broader systems of innovation) came to Hamilton, Ontario from 6 continents. I met people from Ghana. Canada. England. Mauritius. Netherlands. Argentina. Scotland. Germany. Australia. United States. France. Nigeria. Vanuatu. Kenya. And there were more. Old. Young. In between. We practice K* in disciplines: communications, health policy, mental health, education, water, climate change, agriculture, health systems, international development, geography, nuclear disposal.Some of us research K*. Some, like me, work in a system of K* serving diverse institutional and community stakeholders. Some of us work in universities. Some work in NGOs. Policy shops. Funding agencies. Think Tanks. Multilateral bodies. Some of us work in linkage and exchange, some in knowledge transfer, some in knowledge mobilization. Our audiences include civil society, government, industry and practitioners as well as the public. We use social media, traditional media and community broadcast systems.
Check some of the talking head videos from the Kstar2012 conference.
What makes a group diverse is, by definition, the unique nature of the participants. Many participants were associated with universities. Some were faculty members or students in research projects. Some were part of university based engaged research projects. Some represented networks of individual researchers from many universities. But as far as I could tell I was the only representative of the University as an Institution supporting a pan-University investment in K* services and RIR was the only national system of Institutions who have made an investment in pan-university K*.
We worked over three days and filtered tons of energy down to three main themes for further development and thinking:
-a global K* network
-assessing impact of K*
-K* in developing countries and the democratizing of different knowledge(s)
Apart from assessing impact, I would not have predicted these foci of K* going into the K* meeting. That’s what diversity can do. It allows the unexpected to happen.
As I reflect on the “diversity” of Canada’s RIR system of knowledge mobilization universities I can put it in perspective and realize that we have a lot in common as a Canadian network. My work on the K* conference allows me to focus on what we share as well as what makes each RIR unit unique. RIR is about to launch plans for expanding Canada’s knowledge mobilization network. As much as possible we will seek to maximize the diversity within our own network so that the unexpected can also happen in Canada.