Linking knowledge with practice (i.e. mobilising knowledge) can often be incredibly hard work. See my last blog post for some of the other herculean feats you might have to perform! Many of the knowledge mobilisers I’ve come across characterise their work as relationship building. For them (and me), establishing and maintaining relationships and dialogue is the key to successfully linking knowledge and practice and we revel in working with and alongside others. So it might come as a surprise to learn that many of us can end up feeling pretty isolated and lonely.
This isolation doesn’t necessarily come from a lack of relationships and interaction, but instead seems to be a function of our work as knowledge mobilisers. Linking knowledge and practice inevitably means that we work between worlds but belong to neither, which can mean that we find ourselves lacking social support, encouragement and a sense of belonging. See this paper by Roman Kislov for a thoughtful overview of these and other challenges (and some useful references to other papers).
Communities of practice, where knowledge mobilisers can offer and receive support, have been widely suggested as a solution to this isolation.
There are a number of examples around, like the Canadian knowledge translation and exchange community of practice (an online platform supplemented with regional face to face meetings), but these aren’t always easy to connect to (or relevant) for those outside of the host country. It was these observations which led a small group of people to get together at the 2015 UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum to talk about whether there was scope for a global community of practice for knowledge mobilisers. At this stage there wasn’t much clarity over what that might look like, but we really wanted to find a way of continuing to access the support, camaraderie and great ideas we’d found at the Forum when we returned to our ‘day jobs’.
Over the next 18 months lots of online meetings and discussions were held. There was (inevitably) lots of to-ing and fro-ing over the name of this network, what we meant by ‘knowledge’, what the network would achieve and how it would differ and/or complement other networks. At the end of it all we decided that the best thing to do was to take the plunge and organise a launch event where we could introduce the idea of the network, see if there was any interest and find out what people wanted from it.
The first indication we had that this might be something that people really wanted came when all 100 free tickets to the online launch were snapped up within just a few days. Not to mention the 30 or so people on the waiting list! We had a mild panic about how we would manage to interact with so many people during an online event, which was quickly followed by a rehearsal so we could try out the technology under the watchful eye of a few friendly faces. After that there was nothing else for it but to launch the network and see what happened. And so, on the 24th October 2016, the Knowledge into Practice Learning Network was born!
Around 40 people joined us via YouTube to find out about the network and contribute their ideas. You can watch a broadcast of the launch webinar here and read the comments and suggestions people made here. It was a great discussion and there were lots of ideas about what people wanted and how we should connect together. Unsurprisingly one of the main things that came out was that people wanted a way to connect with and gain support from others. As a result we decided that one of the Network’s main platforms should be a LinkedIn group where our members could connect with one another, ask for help and advice and get involved in interesting discussions. So if you’re feeling a little lonely, or in need of help or advice, why not join up today and connect with what looks set to be a truly global community of people who are passionate about linking knowledge and practice.