Knowledge Mobilization Simulation / Une simulation de mobilisation des connaissances

David Phipps, RIR-York
Simulation can help understand the barriers and enablers for implementing research evidence into policy and practice. A knowledge mobilization simulation sponsored by Children & Youth in Challenging Contexts illustrates that context is important when simulating knowledge mobilization. And it draws into question the role of knowledge mobilization tools.
La simulation peut permettre de comprendre les contraintes et les facilitants relatifs à l’emploi de données de recherche dans la pratique et la politique. Une simulation de mobilisation des connaissances commanditée par Children & Youth in Challenging Contexts illustre l’importance du contexte dans la mobilisation des connaissances. Elle mène également à s’interroger sur le rôle des outils de la mobilisation des connaissances.
[sim-yuh-ley-shuhn] noun
1. Imitation or enactment, as of something anticipated or in testing.
What is a knowledge mobilization simulation?

  • Participants in the knowledge mobilization simulation will work through different knowledge mobilization scenarios and see how knowledge moves across different sectors.

Why hold a knowledge mobilization simulation?

  • A knowledge mobilization simulation will help identify the barriers to disseminating evidence and as a group, participants will problem solve and come up with innovative strategies

CYCC logo

That was the goal of Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts (CYCC), a Network of Centres of Excellence Knowledge Mobilization initiative focused on child and youth mental health. As an NCE-KM they “feature collaborations between academia, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations across many sectors, with a specialized focus on the transfer and application of new knowledge that brings social, health and/or economic benefits to Canadians”. After completing three co-created knowledge syntheses on: 1) youth exposed to violence; 2) technology; and, 3) youth engagement, CYCC wanted to understand how best to get the evidence from the knowledge syntheses into policy, practice and programs of agencies working in child and youth mental health.

Angie Hart
Angie Hart

By planning simulations over two days on March 11-12, 2013 at the Atlantica Hotel & Marina Oak Island, Nova Scotia, 60 of us equally split among researchers, service providers, policy makers and youth sought to maximize the dissemination.  My wonderful knowledge mobilization friend and colleague Angie Hart (Community University Partnership Program at the University of Brighton) and I were asked to wrap up after the two days. My wrap up went something like this:
What is the problem to which simulation is the solution?
I asked this question after seeing a common thread linking some seemingly unconnected content.
Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services: the PARIHS framework. This framework outlines that getting evidence implemented into practice is dependent on three elements: 1) the evidence; 2) the context; and 3) facilitation. The evidence for the knowledge mobilization simulation was the three knowledge syntheses. The evidence didn’t change in the different simulations; therefore, evidence was not the problem to which simulation was the solution.
Both context and facilitation could be modeled through simulation. But which one is (better) addressed by simulation?
Then I reflected on a recent knowledge mobilization journal club on complexity science. Complexity science looks at the whole system of research use. It does not take a reductionist approach and examine only one component. Because two complex systems are never the same the context is always different. The same tactics (ie facilitation) to enhance knowledge mobilization and implementation of evidence won’t work in different contexts. We can agree on principles but not necessarily on the same tools and facilitation.
So if it isn’t evidence and it isn’t facilitation then perhaps context is the problem to which simulation is the solution.
The final piece I wove into this thinking was my experience at the K* (Kstar) conference where I joined colleagues from Vanuatu, Ghana and Argentina to present on the building blocks of knowledge mobilization with civil society. See my blog from our presentation.  Our conclusion was that despite vastly different contexts we were able to identify building blocks of knowledge mobilization. While we implement (i.e. facilitate and use tools) differently, we share six basic principles.
Context is the problem to which simulation is the solution.
This is similar thinking to design labs and design thinking. Knowledge mobilization simulation can help CYCC and other knowledge mobilizers understand local contexts to inform their plans for formatting and disseminating their evidence derived from their co-produced simulations.
What did I learn from this knowledge mobilization experiment?

  1. Don’t hold a meeting at a family friendly resort with lots of children’s programming on March break. Little feet make a lot of noise running up and down hallways at 1030 pm.
  2. Context matters. Simulation is likely to be more effective in local settings with smaller groups. Large, heterogenous groups will be able to agree on basic principles of knowledge mobilization but implementing those principles will vary depending on local opportunities and constraints.
  3. Relationships and credibility are key to local context. This was a common thread that connected many of the conversations on March 11-12. Whether on line or in person, stakeholders (researchers, practitioners, policy makers and youth) want trusted connections through which they will obtain their evidence. When considering context consider the role of the trusted leader as enabler of effective knowledge mobilization (yet wise readers will note that trusted leadership is a determinant of evidence uptake and trust is a determinant of facilitation so these three are not so easily disentangled!).
  4. Experiment with knowledge mobilization. The simulation was an important experiment, new to my experience. It created a space where we learned by doing.

And one closing thought that will come back in a future post….Context is important because it enables agreement on principles but precludes implementation of those principles across disparate contexts. Why then do we spend so much time developing and disseminating “tools”? So many of us, including York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, produce, format and disseminate our knowledge mobilization tools. But if context is important then my tools that work in my context are not necessarily going to work in yours.
What role then for knowledge mobilization tools?

Tool box