(Re)imagining research for public good: understanding knowledge mobilization in academia and beyond

May 30, 2023
Kimberly Duong

by Kimberly Duong, Criminology Honours Major, 4th year at York University

The ability to acquire knowledge, to preserve, and to pass it on to the next individual, is powerful. Knowledge does not always come with power – it is a state of understanding or awareness and learning of particular information about something, and it is often gained through experience or education. The moment we are reading, absorbing, or speaking is considered knowledge. That is to say, the knowledge we have now is due to the experiences we have encountered.  

Knowledge is the production of everything; it is the basis of everything – how systems and institutions function, how policies work, and how laws are created and implemented. While knowledge is essential to acquire, it has been and continues to be held in a few institutions and accessed by a few individuals. However, knowledge mobilization, perhaps, can amend this gap.  

Knowledge mobilization is the bridging together and the building of intuitional support to connect academic research or creative works and organization, individuals, and government to improve programming and inform policy change. Knowledge mobilization combines research, policies, and innovation; it promotes and facilitates research among individuals to help them make informed decisions about policies, practices, and programs.  

When it comes to research, the processes and act of researching are imbued with barriers like paywalls and jargon that prevent inclusive access. The very act of acquiring knowledge tends to be held by few individuals – e.g., stakeholders, policymakers, practitioners, and scholars, among others – but knowledge mobilization flips the narrative: it involves academics and community members to mobilize change. 

Reach Impact Canada (RIC) uses knowledge mobilization, turning research into action, to help universities and organizations in Canada maximize research’s impact on communities.  

RIC is a national leader in creating meaningful impact from knowledge. Its focus is on academic and non-academic stakeholders, working with groups and individuals across stakeholder groups on various projects dedicated to skills development without limitations or restrictions.  

RIC helps build institutional and organizational capacity in multiple ways – including:  

  • Facilitating conversations and learning by engaging in national community practice with members who have opportunities to contribute to unique content – e.g., institutional strategy, rural and remote community engagement, local community partnerships, and certification programs – to RIC members.  
  • Creating and sharing tools and resources to develop impactful and meaningful engagement and research. 
  • Delivering training in key knowledge mobilization areas – e.g., impact planning, communications, data visualization, effective stakeholder engagement, and impact evaluation.  
  • Bringing together stakeholders across Canada who work in knowledge mobilization, research, planning, and evaluation.  

Research Impact Canada’s vision is about enabling researchers and their partners to contribute to and have an impact on mobilizing knowledge and research excellence in a meaningful way.  

To (re)imagine change, to envision a new reckoning, and to contend with new lessons we must embed the practices of knowledge mobilization across our various practices. To take on change and strive for a world with greater social equity, we need to be creative in the ways we work collectively and work together to mobilize research into action. 

Knowledge mobilization is one avenue that we can (re)imagine the world we wish to seek.  

For more information on Reach Impact Canada and knowledge mobilization, click here.