Imagining the Future(s) of Knowledge Mobilization

From the SSHRC website: “SSHRC has partnered with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and its Network of UNESCO Chairs, as well as Research Impact Canada, to examine promising practices in knowledge mobilization, inclusive knowledge dissemination, and knowledge engagement. Thought leadership papers address how knowledge mobilization can help us confront formidable future challenges (PDF, 12.4 MB) and how the active engagement of Canadian research institutions in these practices can support research impact in Canada and the world.”


At Research Impact Canada (RIC) we were pleased to be invited to write about the Futures of Knowledge Mobilization. True to the focus of RIC, the focus of our paper was on the institution and what needs to happen in research institutions to enable knowledge mobilization in the future. You can read it at the link above which provides a summary and link to the full paper. Thanks to Steve MacGregor (PhD student at Queen’s University and RIC’s evaluation ninja) who took the lead on the paper and Cathy Edwards (Carleton), Virginie Portes (UdeMontreal) and Jen Kyffin (UVic) who contributed all the way through.

The summary and the full report are available here.

But I will take some time to describe the other contribution to the futures of knowledge mobilization, namely the seven papers from UNESCO Chairs (six in Canada and one in Germany). There are 28 UNESCO Chairs in Canada and these Chairs have written on diverse aspects of knowledge mobilization such as arts-based methods, co-production, working with the media, community-based research and research with Indigenous communities. Furthermore, the Chairs are working in a variety of disciplines including bicultural diversity, community sustainability, social responsibility in higher education, open education, prison education, Island studies, and global understanding for sustainability. Because of this diversity it is perhaps surprising how cohesive are the conclusions and recommendation of the papers. Quoting the introduction to the report,

“As a collective, the UNESCO Chairs suggest convincingly that:

  • early-stage user engagement should be the default approach for most research;
  • the social sciences and humanities have much to offer in the form of creative KMb techniques such as storytelling and the use of visual art; and
  • research aimed at effective KMb needs to incorporate strategies for overcoming the mental barriers and other hurdles posed by different ways of thinking and knowing.”

The RIC paper is focused on institutions, the UNESCO Chairs are (for the most part) focused on researchers and research projects. Our paper is based on years of knowledge mobilization practice, the UNSECO Chairs, while practicing knowledge mobilization are doing so in the context of research programs. These differences therefore underscore the complementary messages of the papers.

Here’s my suggestion to SSHRC. Now you’ve got eight papers imagining different futures for knowledge mobilization. How about we put our heads together to figure out how to mobilize these great knowledge mobilization resources?