Collaborate Collaborate Collaborate

Collaboration has emerged as a key feature of many research programs. ORION’s O3 system and York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit are a perfect combination to support research collaborations to maximize the impact of research on society.

It used to be location location location for real estate. Then content was king. I have heard Peter Levesque (@KMbW_Updates) say that sharing is the new selfish….I think he means that sharing has replaced selfish (“knowledge is power”) as a new paradigm for work and life.

We recently published a knowledge synthesis exploring how to leverage investments in higher education research & development. Our paper titled Knowledge Mobilization and Social Innovation are Integral Components of Innovation Strategies to Leverage Investments in Higher Education concluded that “central to each section of this report is the pressing need for improved collaboration among Canada’s higher education institutions, governments, industry and community organizations.” Building on Peter’s sharing is the new selfish, the key to turning research into action for economic, social and environmental benefits is to collaborate.

Collaborate Collaborate Collaborate.

That is the message behind the Governor General’s Community Campus Collaboration (CCC) Initiative. In his opening address to Congress 2012 he said that the Community-Campus Collaborations Initiative “is quite simply a superb initiative. It will help us ensure that social innovation is a key component of Canada’s innovation landscape. This initiative also provides us with a catalytic vehicle to apply knowledge and develop experiential learning”. It is the message behind York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit that provides a suite of services to support collaboration between researchers/students and their research partners from the (mainly) public and community sectors.

Collaboration is why York University uses ORION’s O3 system as their on line collaboration tool. There has been a recent discussion on the Canadian Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice list about collaboration platforms. Basecamp. Sharepoint. Drupal. Drop box etc. etc. etc. and we promoted O3. We use O3 as an intranet to manage the business of York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit as well as the operations of ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR), Canada’s knowledge mobilization network. With the introduction of 4 new RIR universities a couple of years ago we are already in the position of needing to go in and reorganize/rationalize our naming conventions and file/folder structures. That’s what happens when more and more people start to use a system that evolved more than it was planned.

TIP #1: Be conscious about your plan to use collaboration software but be open to modifying that plan as more users come on board.

We have spun out about a dozen of our knowledge mobilization supported collaborations onto O3. Some like Reimagining Long Term Care are a smashing success.  Many more are not.  Without having done a formal study I think the key to success is strong leadership. If O3 is the only tool that the project leadership uses then it will be used by the project. So long as you revert to e mail for those who don’t get onto the system it will never be fully utilized.

TIP #2: Be an O3 hard ass. Make them use it. Then they will wonder how they got along without it.

We train for O3. Krista Jensen, Knowledge Mobilization Officer, prepared short videos on how to use a variety of O3 features.  She holds training sessions for O3 to help research collaborations move into this on line collaboration space. On line collaboration is a new way of working. It is not just more e mail. It doesn’t come naturally to some people.

TIP #3: On line collaboration is like learning to swim. You can’t do it by reading a book. You need to get into the pool. But you need lessons, a life guard and a buddy to swim with.

We also use O3 as an extra net. Parts of the ResearchImpact O3 community are publicly accessible. Our blog, Mobilize This! is pulled into O3 via an RSS feed. Our gallery, ResearchSnapshot clear language research summaries and a synopsis of KMb tools are all open to the public. We also publish a Knowledge Mobilization Journal Club which presents a knowledge broker’s interpretation of relevant literature. The 11 posts have been viewed over 7500 times and the public side of our O3 community has been visited by 86 countries in the last year.

This combined use of intra and extra net is a unique feature of how ResearchImpact uses O3 and complements our traditional website as well as our social media channels including twitter, blog, slide share, you tube and LinkedIn sites. We don’t use facebook.

TIP #4:Be creative with how you use on line collaboration tools but use them to complement not to duplicate other tools.

Using these sites, O3 and a lot of knowledge brokering in real life we have supported over 250 collaborations from which more than 75 projects have arisen. We have helped our community partners raise over $1M for their programs and services and attracted over $1M in contract research funding to York. As part of the grant support team for all large scale engaged scholarship grants York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has helped bring in more than $20M in collaborative research funding for researchers, students and their partners.

Collaborate Collaborate Collaborate.

Oh yeah. Do you know why it’s called O3? Because there are three Os in “collaboration”. O3 is not only designed to support research and educational collaborations it embodies collaboration in its name.


ORION’s O3 Collaboration is an expanding platform of collaborative tools developed by and for Ontario’s Research and Education community. Licensed out of IGLOO, O3 supports  R & E communities entirely on the cloud.