You May Not Know It But You Are a Knowledge Mobilizer

Ali Hirji
Ali Hirji, ORION Community Development Manager

#KMbChat is the Twitter hashtag around which knowledge mobilizers from across the globe congregate monthly to discuss a topic within their field. This June, I moderated a chat on why undergraduate students are seemingly excluded from the process of knowledge mobilization.

What I discovered will surprise you – we are all knowledge mobilizers. That is right, you may not know it but you are a knowledge mobilizer. In fact, I have yet to meet someone who is not.

Before I elaborate on this universal brand, what is Knowledge Mobilization ( KM )?

According to the knowledge mobilization unit at the University of Victoria, KM is the process through which an institution’s range of research talent is made to collaborate with industry, government and community-based organizations. In essence, it is a two way exchange of ideas where researchers are continuously encouraged to consider and measure the impact of their academic work.

KM is thus a process through which academe connects with community stakeholders and supports the needs and growth of the community.

Research units across Canada have dedicated staff who act as Knowledge Mobilizers. I do not discount their highly specialized role as it requires that the mobilizer be connected with a variety of community stakeholders, manage numerous portfolios and have an acute sense of policy. We certainly need specialists in this field.

KM is done through a variety of methods. Shawna Reibling, a leading KM practitioner at Wilfrid Laurier University has a number of presentations on the communicative techniques and methodologies that are used to mobilize knowledge. Research Impact, one of Canada’s leading KM units, offers a rich repository of information on KM activities. In an article on the value of sharing and mobilizing research, knowledge mobilizer Krista Jensen explains that KM units do not do the research itself but effectively match the research and translate it beyond the walls of academe.

However, the essential functions of a knowledge mobilizer are inherent within us all. Don’t we all, at some point or other, utilize a knowledge set that we have to produce communal effect? From making your partner that cup of coffee to setting up an online collaboration community, we are each utilizing our knowledge to match with a group’s needs.

From the above definition alone it is fair to say that academe does not infringe on one’s right to practice KM outside of it : why then is the increasing focus of KM units on the post graduate level only?

Max Zhu and Samanatha McKay, our ORION summer interns and regular bloggers on ORIONXchange, are undergraduate students at Canadian universities. According to them, they are expecting to write major research papers in their final years. They could certainly benefit from their local KM units attention. Perhaps this may also ease their transition into the workforce or better equip them for graduate study.

Until I began working within ORION’S O3 collaboration platform, I was oblivious to my own role as a knowledge mobilizer – heck, the term itself was not in my vocabulary and I only bumped into it when I began supporting researchers and educators on our platform. But the more I consider the merits of the process, I realize that we are all engaged in it in some form.

When we are constantly met with complaints from undergraduates , specifically those in the humanities and social sciences, about the economic vitality of their degree, we often engage in the blame game.

Perhaps this vitality rests in effective Knowledge Mobilization?

Thank you for reading. Here is a summary of the TweetChat with links to key topics and questions.