Reflections on Going Green / Réflexion sur le virage vert

In this blog we reflect on the lessons learned from working with Nottawasaga Futures to help develop the Green Economy Centre in South Simcoe.
Dans ce billet, nous revenons sur les leçons apprises du travail accompli avec Nottawasaga Futures afin d’aider au développement du Centre d’économie verte de South Simcoe.
York’s KMb Unit was pleased to work with Valerie Ryan (Nottawasaga Futures), faculty and students of York University to imagine, develop and launch the Green Economy Centre. The Green Economy Centre provides green business services to businesses in rural South Simcoe.

You can read the full story of the Green Economy Centre from knowledge mobilization to social innovation in the KMb in Action section of the RIR website here.
Working with Val has been a pleasure. Her vision and leadership have had a material impact on rural South Simcoe communities and business. And York’s KMb Unit was pleased to be part of this effort. Our experience with Val, Nottawasaga Futures and the Green Economy Centre illustrates a number of knowledge mobilization “lessons learned”.

  1. Knowledge mobilization (the process) enables social innovations (the outcome): Knowledge mobilization connected Nottawasaga Futures to faculty and graduate students. The work that they undertook together resulted in a vision for a green economy in South Simcoe. The Green Economy Centre was the result. The Green Economy Centre is a social innovation. It found a new way to address a pressing and persistent need.
  2. Impact is measured at the level of the user. When measuring the impact of knowledge mobilization or of research, don’t ask a faculty member to tell you how many papers were published, which is important, but important to them. Instead ask the research user what changed as a result of the relationship formed with the researchers and/or students. In this case a new program was developed and jobs were created. In other instances a policy might have been influenced or a social service might be delivered more effectively.
  3. Impact takes time. The knowledge mobilization process happened fairly quickly, over the summer of 2009. Then the research and planning occurred and the Green Economy Centre launched March 26, 2010. Eighteen months later the Green Economy Centre is producing results. Funders and stakeholders need to give projects enough time to demonstrate results. (In fact, showing results in 18 months is remarkable. Many social innovations measure their impact over years.)
  4. Students are as valuable to knowledge mobilization as faculty. Michael and Susan were the key researchers for Nottawasaga Futures. They had the support of their supervisors Mark and Gerda but it was their research skills and their talent that helped Nottawasaga launch the Green Economy Centre. Knowledge mobilization can also be a way for students to meet potential employers. Eight of York’s Knowledge Mobilization interns, including Susan, have been hired by their placement partners. This is an immediate impact for the student and for the placement partner that has built capacity to engage with university research to inform decision making.

Don’t forget to watch the Green Economy Centre video that is posted in the KMb in Action story to hear Val and Susan Swail, a York KMb graduate student intern now working at the Green Economy Centre, talk about the Green Economy Centre in the own words.