KT: The Heart of the Innovation Journey / Le coeur du parcours de l’innovation

Bonnie Zink

Bonnie Zink, Corporate Writer, Researcher & Editor­­
In this guest post, Bonnie Zink writes about her experience at the recent Health Research Transfer Network of Alberta conference. From rock, paper, scissors to smart neural prostheses it sounds like this conference covered a lot of ground. Thanks Bonnie for telling us about the conference.
Dans ce billet, la blogueuse invitée Bonnie Zink relate sa participation à la récente conférence du Health Research Transfer Network of Alberta. De roche, papier, ciseaux aux prothèses neuronales intelligentes, il semble que cette conférence ait couvert bien du terrain. Merci Bonnie pour cet aperçu de la conférence.
In today’s increasingly digital and networked world, continual learning is an important part of our work. As knowledge workers, we look to connect with professionals in our field, collect a diversity of perspectives about the work that we do, and seek learning opportunities that allow us to share our experiences with and learn from each other. Conferences provide these very opportunities, but there are precious few knowledge translation (KT) specific conferences in Canada.
Nestled in the heart of Alberta, there is an annual knowledge translation specific conference, hosted by the Health Research Transfer Network of Alberta (RTNA), that helps us connect, share, and learn. Since 2002, this annual gathering of  KT professionals has provided those of us working in the KT field the opportunity to sharpen our skills, discuss advances and challenges in moving knowledge into action, maximize knowledge exchange by connecting with others in our field, and add new practices to our KT toolkits.
Day One:
The 2012 organizers define knowledge translation as a “deliberate, two-way, iterative process of using evidence to help inform decisions” and challenged participants to discover the “key ingredients for doing this successfully.” In other words, what knowledge, skills, and tools do we need to make knowledge translation effective?
Over the course of three days, we soon discovered that improving the way research is done and how results are disseminated (“Translation of Medical Evidence into Practice: Failures and Improvements” by John Ioannidis, Professor, Stanford School of Medicine) could ensure that quality evidence makes it to publication and informs the process of what should  be studied.
Susan Nall Bales, President of the Frameworks Institute, talked about “Changing the Conversation – Effectively translating Research for the Public?”  The necessity of having better information and a better grasp of research helps us make better decisions for ourselves and the communities we live in and making messages easier for people to understand will help us reach our KT goals.
Day One wrapped up with Dr. Judy Birdsell guiding us through an overview of the RTNA, currently celebrating its ten-year anniversary, its roots, and its future.  A celebratory dinner brought Doug Walker, Trigger Communications and founder of the international Rock, Paper, Scissors Society, to encourage us to think about whether an idea is valid to consider “What if [that] Idea Wasn’t Stupid?” It may be that no idea is so “stupid” that it would not succeed if promoted and executed well.
Day Two:
Rena Sorenson & Doug Walker at the Rock, Paper, Scissors Competition, RTNA KT conference 2012

Day Two was all about celebrating successful KT methods and considering solutions to the challenges many of us face while moving research into the hands of those who can use it to effectively promote positive social change.  Grouped by theme, concurrent rounds of abstract presentations addressed implementing effective KT strategies,  strategic planning methods to enable a successful KT plan, innovative approaches to KT, the role of the KT professional, and fostering collaborative partnerships between researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
Each year the best of the best receive recognition and this year’s winners were:

  • Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Abstract: Ryan McCarthy, former Director of KT at Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), for his evaluation of KT at CIHR
  • Best Poster Award: Mandy Bellows, Clinical Nurse Specialist with Alberta Health Services, for her poster on “Creating a Patient Engagement Resource Kit”
  • Best Oral Presentation Award: Heather Scarlett-Ferguson, Addiction and Mental Health with Alberta Health Services, for her innovative and creative analogy of KT being similar to map folding, “Found in Translation – Fostering Collaboration between Researchers, Practitioners, and Policy Makers.”

Lunch with the Experts is a great opportunity is a great way to connect with leading experts in a number of fields. Participants were able to connect with best practices about using video effectively, communities of practice, ethics for community-based research and evaluation, using Wikis, navigating the policy world, and facilitating conversations.
Day Two wrapped up with Dave Walker and Doug Walker encouraging us to resist the temptation to focus on the tools and technology involved in social media and to focus on discovering the why of what we are doing when it comes to social media. The “Social Media Cafe” introduced us to proven processes that leading organizations use to understand their unique social media opportunities and develop meaningful strategies that deliver results.  Both presenters reminded us that social is people and not technology – it is all about building relationships and making the  connections that matter.
Day Three:

John Lavis

The conference wrapped up with Dr. John Lavis, Professor and Director at McMaster Health Forum, providing a brief overview of the state of research and its role in supporting evidence- informed policymaking.  Dr. Vivian Mushahwar, Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, followed with a tale of innovation and lessons learned as the Smart Neural Prostheses interdisciplinary team navigated the KT journey as they brought Smart-e Pants from discovery to product launch.
One way to accomplish our learning objectives is to attend quality conferences, which allow us to make the connections that matter, learn new skills, and discover best practices in order to improve our own practice.