RIR Connects You – Online and In Real Life / RIR vous met en connexion – en ligne et en personne

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York)
A recent blog about community engagement for social innovation allows RIR-York to engage in some self reflection.  We’re doing okay but we have room to grow by better using our online spaces for KMb while reinforcing our commitment to collaboration in real life.
Un récent billet portant sur l’engagement pour l’innovation sociale offre au RIR-York une occasion de se questionner sur ses pratiques. Les choses vont bien pour nous, mais il y a place à l’amélioration en faisant un meilleur usage des espaces en ligne, tout en renforçant notre engagement à collaborer en personne.
“Community engagement and civic participation are key elements of effective social innovation.” That’s how this blog by Tim Glynn Burke starts out.  The blog was written for the Project on Social Innovation at the Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School, Harvard (thanks @powerofsocinnov).  The blogreviews a report by Diana Scearce (who previously wrote a wonderful article about social media and social innovation in the Stanford Social Innovation Review – very highly recommend it) so you are reading a blog about a blog about a report… but that’s how good news spreads.

The authors point out five common behaviours of social innovators.  They are reproduced along with a score card measuring the KMb Unit at York University.

Actively listening to online conversations and openly asking for advice York listens actively online mostly via twitter but also in comments on Mobilize This!. We routinely approach our community and other partners to listen for advice on needs and services. We could do better by listening to our communities online, but few are there. A-
Creating environments, in person and online, where helpful connections can from The raison d’être of York’s KMb Unit is to create connections. We do this very well in person.  We are exploring this online but few of our community partners are there. In person: A+
Online: C-
Deliberately connecting people with different perspectives The best solutions come from diverse perspectives but solutions derived from diverse perspectives take longer. KM in the AM usually has 10-15 community, municipal and academic voices around the table. A
Helping people directly help each other The raison d’être of connections made by York’s KMb Unit is to support the co-creation of solutions. An example of this is the collaboration between the binning community and UVic. Not all of our efforts result in collaborations but all of them result in connections. B+
Giving enough direction for individuals to take effective and coordinated action York’s KMb Unit is a resource to collaborations formed with our faculty and students.  We make the connections.  We foster the collaborations. We do not usually get involved in the projects themselves.  We are available for advice and input from our KMb collaborations upon request but don’t presume to give direction unless asked. Should we be more prescriptive in our direction? You let us know. B+

This is self scored. It is not peer reviewed, so take the scoring with a grain (okay, a pillar) of salt.
It appears that we are on track to deliver services that support the co-production of social innovations but we have space to improve in transacting these services online.  York’s KMb Unit is online and we are exploring these tools. When our community and municipal/Regional partners get online, we will be there to meet them.
Imagining the future, Scearce sees more interconnectedness, more decentralization and more transparency – all of which are enabled by social media. She also warns about making the community too tight knit and resistant to outside perspectives. Especially as we experiment with social media mediated KMb we need to re-commit our efforts to KMb in person, on the ground and in the community. We cannot let the privilege of social media marginalize those living a real life. Indeed, those engaging via social media are skilled at connecting.  Those who aren’t have an even more urgent need for KMb.
The report ends with some advice for those who are supporting community engagement for social innovation:
–  Let go of your expert mindset and embrace the openness of network

  • Translated for RIR: faculty aren’t the only experts

–  Expand your existing networks beyond the usual suspects and attract fresh perspectives

  • Translated for RIR: new perspectives = new solutions = new scholarship

–  Create spaces where others can connect and collaborate

  • Translated for RIR: it’s what we do.  We eat, sleep and breathe collaboration.

–  Measure your work based both on progress on a particular issue area as well as the health of the network itself, which “can be an end in itself.”

  • Translated for RIR: measure more than your scholarly outputs. What changed for your partner (new policy, program, service, market) because of your collaboration?

RIR-York and the broader RIR network create places for community (and municipal/Regional/provincial government, labour and private sector) engagement.  We do this online and in real life. See you there.