Evaluation of Research Impact Canada’s Institutional Capacity Building for Knowledge Mobilization

Stephen MacGregor & David Phipps. (2020). How a Networked Approach to Building Capacity in Knowledge Mobilization Supports Research Impact. International Journal of Education Policy & Leadership 16(5). URL: http://journals.sfu.ca/ijepl/index.php/ijepl/article/view/949. doi: https://doi.org/10.22230/ijepl.2020v16n6a949

In 2019, Research Impact Canada (RIC) underwent an evaluation of the network’s progress towards their ultimate goal (vision) of being, “A globally leading network which supports researchers, students and their partners to demonstrate the contribution to and impact of research excellence.” To evaluate the network’s progress towards this goal, this first phase of the RIC evaluation gathered initial data on the Governance Committee’s perspectives about the usefulness and use of RIC’s knowledge mobilization (KMb) capacity-building activities.  Two questions framed the survey:

  1. To what extent did target audiences experience RIC’s KMb activities as useful?
  2. To what extent did RIC’s KMb activities increase use of KMb concepts in practice, in terms of increasing collaboration between researchers and research users?

This study explored the perceptions held by 16 leaders of RIC, representing 14 networked universities. The data was collected using a mixed-methods survey design and a summary of the key takeaways can be found below:

  • The primary motivation for members’ engagement with RIC has been the sharing, use, and evaluation of KMb tools, resources, and best practices. However, it appears members are desiring new ways of engaging. Several members felt it could be helpful to explore more focused practice areas in sub-groups that later convene and share. Such an approach may promote alignment with the network’s diverse needs.
  • There is strong evidence that RIC’s capacity-building activities have positively influenced its membership. Furthermore, it appears this influence is related with at least three factors: duration of formal membership with RIC, duration of current institutional role, and the degree to which knowledge broker describes the institutional role. Phase 2 will seek to examine these factors in greater detail.
  • Not including new members whose response was “too soon to tell,” 12 out of 14 members felt the benefits of participation in RIC were equal to or greater than associated costs (e.g., increased institutional time constraints) and 12 out of 13 members agreed that membership with RIC has positively influenced their KMb practice. Furthermore, a precondition to those benefits and positive influences appears to be members actively engaging with the membership.
  • RIC possesses a strong climate of trust and effective leadership, yet several members were struggling with how to manage institutional limitations (e.g., time) and turnover. A suggested remedy was to explore new ways of supporting members to bolster institutional capacity (e.g., campus sub-networks).

As a follow-up to this evaluation, a Phase II evaluation has been completed and is currently in the report writing stage. While Phase I used electronic survey to examine the usefulness of Network activities, Phase II used in depth interviews to examine how these activities were actually used to create benefits for Network members. Stay tuned for these results, the Phase II report will be released in Spring 2021.