Meet Caroline Duvieusart-Déry: Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator

One of Research Impact Canada’s members, University of Guelph, published a blog post on Wednesday, October 19th, 2022, to feature Caroline Duvieusart-Déry’s experience as the Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator at the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI). Haleakala Angus and Caroline Duvieusart-Dery wrote the blog post to provide readers an insights on the benefits of building strong community-campus partnerships, the significance of building capacity in others, the ways in which Caroline works to create and measure impact, and how Caroline seeks to enable meaningful social change. To access the original blog post, please visit the CESI website.

What are the key components of your job?

My role at CESI and the University is dedicated to increasing the capacity of faculty, staff, and students to conduct relevant, applicable, and impactful research. A lot of what I do consists of capacity building and training. I co-host a workshop series on knowledge mobilization and am the academic coordinator of the Certificate in Knowledge Mobilization. I also help to run the CESI Intensive in Critical Community Engaged Scholarship. Additionally, I work alongside faculty members as they develop and implement knowledge mobilization strategies for their own research projects. I review grant applications and research impact plans; I also support larger collaborative projects by providing ongoing advice and guidance. This helps researchers build effective partnerships with diverse groups and implement strategies to increase the reach of their work. A final component of my job is to lead CESI’s knowledge mobilization efforts to ensure that our own research and partnerships are as impactful as they can be.

What principles guide your work?

I see CESI’s work as bringing researchers and practitioners together to create the change they want to see in the world. It is about having a desire to learn with and from others, and valuing diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences, and what they can bring to the co-creation process. Our work builds on values of collaboration and reciprocity and is about being humble and honest when engaging with others. Ultimately, it is also about impact, having a clear sense of what we’re trying to achieve, and finding meaningful ways for our research and our (collective) knowledge to contribute to it.

What kind of opportunities for students have you created through this role?

One of the main ways I interact with students is by offering training opportunities. I host workshops, events, and communities of practice that reach hundreds of students every year. For the most part, these aim to increase the capacity of students to engage in effective knowledge mobilization. They focus on developing tangible and transferrable skills that are essential to the pursuit of collaborative and impactful research, but will also be useful across jobs and sectors, like strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, clear communication, or partnership building.

I also hope that my work with students helps them develop a broader understanding of impact, one that allows them to see the value of their work and research. I want to help them understand how they can contribute to meaningful change in their own communities by engaging in knowledge mobilization and collaborative research. As a student, it is easy to get caught up in focusing on your thesis, dissertation, or course work and become discouraged by how disconnected it may seem from real-world needs. My hope is that students become more aware of the community of knowledge users and partners who are keen on hearing about their research, learning from it, and using it to create meaningful change. This would allow students to better understand how they fit into the bigger picture and how they can make a difference in their communities.

What kind of opportunities for community have you created through this role?

I work with community partners to build capacity for evidence informed decision-making. In other words, I seek to help organizations navigate the world of academic research and enhance their understanding of how to access research evidence, use it, and apply it to their own contexts. By offering workshops or collaborating on specific projects, I hope to build their research literacy to ensure that they can make the most out of the evidence they have access to and use it to guide the important work they are doing.

When informing the creation of knowledge mobilization strategies for researchers, I also seek to create new opportunities for community campus collaboration. I really believe that there is incredible value in integrating community priorities and perspectives into the research design and the mobilization of knowledge, and I am committed to raising awareness of the benefits of engaged research on campus. I hope that this will open up opportunities for more engagement with community partners.

Tell me about the benefits of your job. What parts are your favourite?

One of the amazing benefits of my job is having the opportunity to support meaningful projects across a wide range of sectors and disciplines. I am a generalist, and I am interested in and keen on learning about (almost!) everything. My job allows me to collaborate with a diverse group of partners and researchers and has given me insight into a variety of projects, which feeds into my endless curiosity.

My favourite part of the job is when I get to witness the tangible impact of collaboration. I engage in this work because I believe that it can make a difference. So, when I see researchers incorporating the expertise and priorities of practitioners into decisions around what and how research will be conducted; when I see practitioners using research evidence to inform programming and take action, when I see partners working together to reach a far more rich and nuanced understanding of the issues at hand and how to address them collaboratively – this is everything I can ask for. This increased engagement and meaningful outcomes is the whole package for me and make me feel really privileged to be in this role.

What have you been working on lately?

At any given time, I am working on various projects and the description of any one project will not reflect the scope of my work. However, one project that I support is a large-scale, engaged research initiative led by a faculty member here on campus. The project is a growing partnership that involves academics, government, not-for-profit organizations, and school boards. It examines the barriers and enablers that Ontario students encounter as they transition into post-secondary education and the labour market and aims to identify effective strategies to support them in their pathways. In this project, the lead research team did not have much experience conducting engaged research, so I work closely alongside them to offer guidance, share best practices, and help them build a successful partnership. It’s been a fun learning experience, and a good example of how I am brought in to help existing projects achieve their objectives.

A different example of a project I lead is the “A Circle of Care” exhibit which myself and a student recently launched. This is a CESI-based knowledge mobilization initiative in which we designed posters featuring 10 of our key community partners and the incredible work that they do to create meaningful social change locally. This exhibit is a way to celebrate the leadership of those 10 organizations while also trying to encourage viewers to take action to make Guelph and Wellington a more just, inclusive, and caring community. The posters will be displayed around the region over the next year; currently, they are displayed at the Guelph Civic Museum.