A Baskin Robbins of Knowledge Brokers / Un éventail coloré de courtiers en connaissances

Coming back from the UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum David Phipps saw university and community and government knowledge brokers. Just like ordering ice cream at Baskin Robbins, the 31 flavours of ice cream illustrates there’s a broker for every type of knowledge use.
David Phipps est de retour du Forum sur la mobilisation des connaissances du Royaume-Uni, où il a croisé des courtiers de connaissances des milieux universitaires, communautaires et gouvernementaux. Comme au comptoir de crème glacée, les nombreux parfums montrent qu’il y a un courtier pour chaque type de besoin en connaissances.
BRThe knowledge mobilization functions at the 11 ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche universities take many organizational forms including: community based research, extension, community service learning, public engagement and research services. Each model responds to local opportunities and constraints and works well in its own context.  This is the same situation in the UK where I saw many different forms of knowledge brokers

And these were just some of the brokers with whom I connected.
This diversity is a strength in that other organizations have many models to examine as a starting point for their own knowledge mobilization activities. This diversity is also a weakness as it challenges drawing conclusions about effective knowledge mobilization practice. Reflecting on some work I did with colleagues from Argentina, Ghana and Vanuatu in 2012 we can’t draw conclusions about implementing specific practices because effective knowledge mobilization practice will be context dependent. However, we can identify principles common across different contexts including:

  • Build trust
  • Build capacity
  • Understand the social and economic contexts of your partners
  • Enable knowledge to be co-constructed
  • Use a mix of knowledge mobilization methodologies
  • Use peer supports

Although these principles make sense across different contexts (community based research, public engagement, extension, community service learning etc) they are implemented in a context specific fashion. For example, all our practices are built on trust but how we develop that trust will vary depending on the local context. I might spend lots of time serving on a community agency committee to build trust. I might also provide a robust literature review to a provincial policy maker to build trust in my expertise. Building trust is a principle that transcends contexts. How we build trust is a practice and is context dependent.
There may be 31-derful flavours of ice cream at Baskin Robbins but they are all ice cream. Similarly although practice details vary there are common principles for knowledge brokering across different contexts and employed across different organizational structures. This diversity is equally apparent in Canada and the UK and that itself is evidence of common principles applying across diverse knowledge mobilization practices. However, principles notwithstanding, if we can’t make conclusions about effective practice across different settings then how do we build capacity for knowledge mobilization?