Moving social innovation research into real world impact

Learn how and why to incorporate a knowledge mobilization strategy into your social innovation research using the mnemonic P.R.O.B.L.E.M.

“Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.” In Paulo Coelho’s quote, the expression of imagination becomes the tool to change the world. Knowledge mobilization is the bridge between discovery and impact, or, as in Coelho’s lexicon, it is the method of expression researchers can use to influence positive social innovation.  

Social innovation is the process of developing effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress. Social innovation researchers must determine how to most effectively mobilize the knowledge that is being generated, to see change. For some researchers, publishing findings to a broad audience is usually the final component of the research process and extent of mobilizing knowledge. However, social innovation and knowledge mobilization principles showcase the importance (and resulting impact!) when we create and execute a knowledge mobilization strategy throughout the research project, not just at the end.   

To create a knowledge mobilization strategy for research in social innovation, it’s important to first develop a clear and concise definition of the problem being addressed, and then add details to better understand the problem, the people who are affected, and related socio-economic characteristics. To help with this, the New Brunswick Social Innovation Research Fund (NBSIRF) developed P.R.O.B.L.E.M., a mnemonic to help social innovation researchers create a knowledge mobilization strategy.   

The P.R.O.B.L.E.M. mnemonic is available as a downloadable PDF here.

he New Brunswick Social Innovation Research Fund (NBSIRF) is writing a report that supports researchers to further develop the landscape of social innovation in New Brunswick through knowledge co-generation, translation, and mobilization. Their report discussed a clear and innovative approach to get knowledge in the hands of the users, by using creative thought to see real world change. The link to the report will be available here once it is published.  

Knowledge mobilization within this field is at-times complicated by the relatively vague definition and understanding of the practice and study thereof. What is great about the two step process and the mnemonic P.R.O.B.L.E.M is that it clearly discusses how social innovation researchers can more fully understand and develop a knowledge mobilization strategy. With careful consideration of these elements, researchers can clearly determine who should be engaged, when they should be engaged, and how—in terms of both structure and content—they should be engaged in your social innovation research process. Coelho is also famous for writing “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” That may be true, but it also helps to have a good knowledge mobilization strategy. 

What is the NBSIRF? 

NBSIRF was jointly developed by the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network (NBSPRN) and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) for the purpose of catalyzing applied research which addresses notable social and ecological problems within, or of material interest, to New Brunswick and related stakeholders. 

The NBSIRF program that this report was written for was designed to provide research funding to university- and college-affiliated researchers to further research and develop the landscape of social innovation in New Brunswick through knowledge co-generation, translation, and mobilization.  This project is aiming to strengthen skills development across the stakeholder groups responsible for addressing the most complex socio-economic challenges through education and improved collaboration among key partners. This report is useful for any individual or organization seeking to strengthen their knowledge on incorporating a KMb strategy within a social innovation landscape.  

This project was funded by The Conference Board of Canada through the Government of Canada‘s Future Skills Centre. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Future Skills Centre, its funder, or its partners.