Recently I’ve been thinking and talking about what I call the ‘vehicles’ for knowledge mobilisation and knowledge mobilisation research. As a knowledge mobilisation researcher, I’m aware that I’m working in a niche area which can sometimes be difficult for other people to get their heads around. This often includes the people I am trying to work with! I’ve taken to explaining that my research is about ‘how people share what they know and what they do with each other’ while colleagues talk about things like ‘how ideas and knowledge are shared between people’.
Our problem, of course, is that this all seems rather ‘theoretical’ and people inevitably want to know “what’s the knowledge about?” and “what’s the purpose of sharing it?” So as KM researchers we can often find ourselves talking more and more about the ‘vehicles’ for our research and less about the fundamental topic, or focus of our research.
In my case, I’m currently focusing on knowledge mobilisation in the context of integrated health and social care. This is a very ‘hot’ topic here in the UK at the moment, so people are really interested in this as an idea. I’m often asked questions about the systems and processes for joining up health and social care and the impact that this has on patients, service users and staff. My problem, of course, is that I don’t really know very much about how best to integrate health and social care services. I know a bit, but I’m really not an expert, and I always feel a bit awkward and embarrassed trying to explain that.
But what I can do is try to explain how knowledge mobilisation fits in and why it’s important that people can share knowledge in that context. What I have learned to say is that knowledge sharing is one of the fundamental processes which allows products, policies and services (in this case integrated care) to be developed, redesigned, improved and evaluated. Research has shown that being able to gather, combine, and exchange ideas, experiences, thoughts and perspectives allows groups of people to create new knowledge together. For me, integrated care provides a great vehicle because there’s such a lot for people to work out and there’s simply no ‘best’ way of integrating services or getting groups of professionals to work together.
So that’s how I explain my underlying focus on knowledge mobilisation and try to keep a bit of clear water between that and the ‘vehicles’ that I’m hitching a ride in at different times. Do my experiences and thoughts chime with yours at all? If you’re a knowledge mobiliser/KM researcher, how do you think about and explain the relationship between KM and the topics you are working on? Or perhaps you’ve never thought about it like this before? Either way, I’d love to know what you think and have a discussion about it, so please do add your thoughts and comments below.
Until next month…