So You Want to Build a KMb Unit? / Sinsi, vous voulez bâtir une unité de MdC?

The most common question RIR brokers are asked is, “How can my university join RIR?”  More on that in about four weeks.  The question I frequently am asked is, “How can I build a university based KMb unit?”
Comment mon université peut-elle intégrer le réseau ? », c’est la question la plus fréquente que reçoivent les courtiers du Réseau Impact Recherche – ResearchImpact. Plus sur ce sujet dans 4 semaines… La question que je me fais souvent poser est « Comment puis-je monter une unité de mobilisation des connaissances au sein de mon université? »

Great question.
On February 22, 2011 I shared my KMb toys in a blog that pointed to a paper recently published on how we built and, more importantly, how we operate York’s KMb Unit. I recently revisited that paper and recalled that it ended with four recommendations for getting started on developing an institutional capacity for knowledge mobilization services.
As first printed by Scholarly & Research Communications and posted in York’s institutional repository, these recommendations are:

  1. Find champions: It is important to find a high-level champion (such as a VP Research in a university setting) who will not only provide resources for your KMb Unit but will also help to clear policy barriers and institutional inertia. Identify researchers who are already practising engaged scholarship and seek input from them and their research partners. It is important to ground the work of your KMb Unit in the experiences of researchers and decision-makers. It is important to develop a shared (i.e., community-university) governance or advisory structure comprising internal and external champions.
  1. Collect data: Count everything (see Table 2) and track initiatives longitudinally. We have found that projects we provided with seed funding and brokering service are bearing fruit four years later. The impact of research on non-academic decision-making happens over a number of years. Record data now so you have something to evaluate and some stories to tell in the years to come.
  1. If possible, find grants for seed funding: You will never convince anyone to invest in your KMb Unit if you cannot demonstrate the return on that investment. We built our KMb Unit using external grants before the first hard money salary position was created four and a half years after we began operations.
  1. Hire the right knowledge broker: The broker is at the heart of the KMb Unit and will be responsible for its success or failure. These positions are emerging in a variety of organizations where brokers have a mix of academic/research experience and community experience. Find someone who has stood in both sectors to run the services that will bridge the two.

These four recommendations are the fundamentals of starting your KMb Unit. Implement these four and with a lot of hard work (remember, it takes a lot of time to be an overnight success) and some degree of luck, you too can build and operate your own KMb Unit. And then you’ll be ready to join the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) network of knowledge mobilization universities… but as I said, stay tuned for more on that.