Step by Step Knowledge Brokering / Le courtage des connaissances pas à pas

For eight years York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has been connecting university researchers to public and non-profit sector organizations in order to support research collaborations. In this blog post they describe the process they undertake to broker these relationships.
Depuis huit années, l’unité de mobilisation des connaissances de York met en lien des chercheurs universitaires avec des organisations publiques et sans but lucratif afin de soutenir les collaborations de recherche. Dans ce billet, ils décrivent le processus qu’ils mettent en place pour orchestrer ces relations.
Since we opened for business in February 2006 York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has responded to 334 requests for knowledge brokering opportunities. A KMb opportunity starts when someone gets in touch with the KMb Unit and asks for service to connect to a university or non-academic partner. Approximately 70% of these opportunities are from external organizations with the remainder coming from (usually) a faculty member seeking a partner on a research project. Of those 70% approximately 75% are from the community/non-profit sector with the remainder being from government (municipal, regional, provincial).
That’s when the fun begins. Michael Johnny, Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, answers the phone (or e mail) and logs the opportunity. This starts the process of knowledge brokering with the objective being to seek a match between a university researcher (could be a student or student group) and a non-academic partner that results in some form of collaborative activity.
The activity may be a project (in the diagram Step 5: Meeting ® project) such as the collaboration between Faculty of Education graduate student Naomi Nichols and the Youth Emergency Shelter of Peterborough (YES). Watch the video of how their collaboration produced a new Life Skills Mentoring Program that had an impact because it helped reduce the length of stay of kids in crisis and also helped to create a new revenue stream for YES (in the diagram Step 5a: project ® impact).
Sometimes the activity is a Lunch and Learn speaker, a seminar or a KM in the AM. In these cases the activities do not result in a collaborative project but the needs of the party requesting the opportunity are nonetheless met.
Michael is able to find a match (in the diagram Step 1: In progress – introduction) for the requesting party 93% of the time; however, in 37% of these matches no activity occurs. This may because the requesting party withdraws the opportunity (too premature, not ready for partnering) or because of a lack of resources. If after 3 attempts to find a match there is no interest in undertaking the desired activity then Michael abandons the opportunity.
Knowledge Brokering Flowchart
Here’s an important point and why there’s a dotted line after #4 in the diagram. We don’t become involved in the project. The work of brokering is completed when some activity ensues from a match we have facilitated. We stay in touch with the project. We help tell the stories of success and impact. But we are not part of the activity or project that generated the impact.
Each of these steps has indicators and we track and report on the progress of opportunities from initiation to activity. These indicators (both qualitative and quantitative) will be the subject of a future post.
David Phipps, RIR-York