A couple of months ago I blogged about different approaches knowledge mobilisers could use to prompt knowledge sharing. I promised that I’d be back with more, so here it is!
Over the past week or so I’ve been lucky enough to be visiting different groups of knowledge mobilisers across Ontario, Canada. As part of my trip I visited the Toronto chapter of the Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice to talk with them about some of my latest work.
I didn’t want the session to be all about me, so decided to turn part of the session over to creating a space for us to do some thinking together about knowledge mobilisation. To do this, I chose a philosophical dialogue approach which draws on the principles and practices of community philosophy and aims to develop thinking communities and deepen understanding.
Having done a fairly standard presentation on my framework for knowledge mobilisers (just published!) the first thing we needed to do was to rearrange the room. I could sense some trepidation as people helped to move tables out of the way and arrange the chairs in a circle – I guess it can be a bit daunting for a researcher from the UK to come in and suggest that you are going to ‘philosophise’!
I then put some pictures down in the middle of the circle. These were all images I’d found by doing a quick Google search on ‘knowledge broker’ and were designed to stimulate thinking. I invited everyone to look at the pictures, and to write down 3 words that came to mind before turning to their neighbour for a quick discussion about their words. The discussion took off right away and it seemed a shame to stop it – but this was only the first part!
Next I asked people to get into groups of 3 and talk again about their words, but this time with the aim of coming up with a ‘philosophical’ question that we could explore together. I didn’t give too much in the way of guidance, but just said it should be something to really get our teeth into. Between 18 people, 6 questions were generated which covered things like the role of ‘love’ and ‘likeability’ in knowledge mobilisation, power and conflict and whether is possible to share knowledge without a common language. A lot of the questions shared common themes, and so in the end we decided to go with a question that would bring them together:
Should we (as knowledge brokers/mobilisers) be trying to promote harmony/shared language?
I set a few ground rules – if someone wanted to speak, they needed to hold their hand out in front of them, palm up; each speaker needed to directly respond, or build on the point made by the previous person (i.e. there was to be no going back to what someone said 5 minutes ago!); each speaker would be chosen by the person who had just finished speaking. And then we were off. Our first point was about the potential role of disharmony as a way of promoting learning and we played around with the idea of conflict and collisions and what that really meant. We segued into a discussion about the importance of diversity in creating and sharing knowledge, leading us to question the difference between diversity and disharmony and whether a diversity of knowledge and perspectives is always a good thing. After the meeting Hilary Edelstein (@hledelstein) helpfully incorporated some of our key insights into this tweet:
#KMb is sparks of light from collaborative but diverse voices to create harmony and trust in a contentious process bridging gaps
Before we knew it, our time was unfortunately up (I think we could have kept going all night!) We didn’t come to a consensus or even come close to any answers to the question we had chosen, but that’s not really the point of this approach. Instead, we all felt that it had helped us to deepen our thoughts and insights on something we don’t spend too much time thinking about and most of the group said they had found it useful as a way of thinking differently about their own practices. So it looks like a little bit of philosophising every now and then might be a great thing for knowledge mobilisers to do!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the method (or get some training if you’re in the UK) check out the SAPERE website. I’d also love to be able to support other groups to think together – it’s what knowledge mobilisation is all about – so do get in touch if I can help.