The loneliness of a knowledge mobiliser

23787061672_717200f8b4_oLinking 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.


Photo by Lostintheredwoods via Flickr

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.


6 thoughts on “The loneliness of a knowledge mobiliser

  1. I have heard that knowledge mobilizers feel this loneliness. I think one additional contributing factor is that most KMbers are solo practitioners in their organization. Our field is growing in numbers and diversity but not so much in depth in any one organization. At York University we are privileged to have a Knowledge Mobilization Unit with three people (including me), 2 students working 10 hours/week and we host the KT Manager for NeuroDevNet. At times we can have 6 people in the office all working in knowledge mobilization. We are rarely lonely. But I recognize that most organizations have only one person dedicated to KMb. I think that contributes to the feeling of loneliness and underscores the need for the KIPL Network as described by Vicky above.

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  2. Knowledge mobilizers do not have to be lonely. Communities of Practice (such as the Canadian BC-based BCKT CoP and our local health authority KT CoP) and networks (such as Knowledge 2 Practice and KT Canada) can provide an opportunity to meet, exchange ideas as well as obtain and provide support from our colleagues. Blogs such as this also enable opportunities to discuss shared experiences (including loneliness) and exchange of strategies to address common challenges. My advise: don’t be lonely; be active! Reach out and share your thoughts 🙂 Consider adding your comments to this blog and Tweet – perhaps with “#lonelyKB”


    • Thanks Alison. This is of course one of the things that the KIP network is aiming to achieve – connecting people together so they don’t feel so alone. I’ve so often heard people new to the field saying that they feel completely out of their depth and don’t know if they are doing things ‘right’. The value about joining a community is that it usually helps you to see you’re not the only one feeling like that and sometimes there just aren’t any ‘right’ answers! What do others think?


  3. Thanks, Vicki
    The work can feel isolating from time to time but making the time to engage with colleagues locally, regionally, nationally and now globally is worth the investment of time. And make no mistake, in this world of heightened busyness (which brokers are not immune to) it would be all too easy to just say I’m too busy to network with colleagues. For me, whether it’s ResearchImpact, KTECoP or the Knowledge Mobilizatoon Forum (all in Canada), the time to meet and interact with colleagues gives me important critical reflection space, and simply helps make me better at what I do. I’ll be excited to start connecting globally now through this important work.

    Sincere thanks,


  4. I’ll echo ResearchImpact (David/Michael). I’ve worked in an organization where I’ve been one of four KT Specialists — our jobs were based on creating research guidelines for clinicians with a side mandate of creating KT education materials for the organization — we lived and breathed discussing KT among ourselves all day, problem solving together and putting our heads down and working on translating research into languages that a practicing, but not necessarily academic audience would understand. At my current organization it’s a bit different — there are 3-4 individuals with the title knowledge translation researcher — these individuals are in the business of creating clinical practice guidelines. They engage with research and create outputs for practitioners and in some cases for the client audience who are engaged with those practitioners. They have been looking to me, as someone with explicit KT training to help them further understand how to move those CPGs into other materials for use and to build cross-collaborative partnerships with members of the association and other organizations.
    In my role, my title is content developer. I call myself, though, a knowledge broker. My day to day work is to sift through research, synthesize it and create educational materials (workshops, webinars, e-learning offerings) based on said research for practitioners. A proportion of my job is to do outreach to the members of my organization — to reach out to those who feel that they are not represented and to pull in their knowledge and needs to create pathways so that they’re views are felt and are included in organizational activities and education. The hope is that by pulling these practitioners in, who currently feel marginalized (they aren’t, but they feel that way, so we are addressing it in the professional development that is being offered and how materials are being created and pushed/pulled out and in), more members will take advantage of the professional development and feel engaged within their professional association. Another portion of my job is to create a KT organizational strategy. I am the only one who is currently engaged in this role. It’s lonely work because I’m the one educating others on KT — which I love, but teaching it versus having discussions to offset all of our work feels (is?) two different things. I will say that I love my job — I get to do on a day to day basis the things that I love — a bit of research (yay!), a bit of education creation and outreach, and a bit of organizational planning/learning. It’s just tough sitting in a sole responsibility position having come from an organization with others. I do my best to engage within my work with others — through CoPs of KTers, through twitter, through keeping up to date with the literature coming out on KT, webinars, keeping in touch with friends at other organizations that are KTers etc, but really I am the person within the organization tasked explicitly with KT, even though I’m not the only with the title linked to KT as a job function….

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