The mobilization of knowledge.


A few days ago, I got the chance to participate in the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum held this year in Edinburgh, in the stunning building of the Royal College of Physicians. This event allowed me to get accustomed to the terms of “knowledge mobilization” (KMb), that I had already come across in the literature of course, but without the awareness that it was a specific concept in itself (leading to concrete actions). So far, I was more familiar with the concepts of “knowledge sharing” or “knowledge transfer”. With it came the discovery of the expression “knowledge brokers” that I must admit, I was hearing for the first time. I knew about “information brokers” or “knowledge managers”, but had never heard about “knowledge brokers” and that of course, caught my attention and certainly did stir up my intellectual curiosity. (A few years out of the KM field are apparently enough to miss quite a few new significant changes in this area in constant evolution).

According to what I’ve understood so far, KMb’s purpose is to bridge the gap between university researchers and those who are meant to use the outcomes of the research in their practice. This concept which has apparently been defined within the social sciences field, and apparently in Northern America, is similar to the concepts of “knowledge translation” in the health sector and “knowledge management” in the business one. KMb does use well-known KM practices like “knowledge sharing” or “knowledge exchange”, but what differs here is the perspective from where knowledge is perceived and used. As clearly defined on a document published by the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship :

“Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is a broad and encompassing term that includes the products, processes and relationships among knowledge creators, users, and mediators (individuals or intermediary organizations that support knowledge brokering).”

Indeed, unlike the terms “knowledge transfer”, KMb emphasizes the essential role of the interconnections needed between knowledge users, producers and the knowledge itself which indeed needs to be mobilised if any sharing (and therefore learning) has to occur. This is where the role of “knowledge brokers” becomes obvious: the need of knowledge mediators is indeed needed to make the link between the users and the producers of knowledge, translating it, sharing it, or validating it. (Interestingly enough, these processes are well-known to the information specialists who have precisely learned theses competences during their training and professional experience).

To mobilize knowledge means to put knowledge into action, to make it “move”. I actually find this idea of “movement” very inspiring, and would like to end this post with a philosophical touch. If one considers that the entire universe is in movement, and movement occurs in existence only when there is life….then it is quite probable that in the absence of movement, we are facing something that is far deep asleep, unconscious, if not dead. To mobilize knowledge is therefore a way to make us aware on how much knowledge is alive, without mentioning the people who produce it and use it…

I’m therefore very thankful that I could enrich my own knowledge by attending such an alive event, full of wonderful professionals, all dedicated to the importance mobilizing knowledge in the most suitable and creative ways possible.

Knowledge? What knowledge?

So, my research is about knowledge, right? Right. Now, go and define it. No really, I mean it. Let’s define knowledge. Isn’t it a great challenge? Have you ever been asked to define knowledge? Because by the way, that’s what I’m expected to do right now – let me show off a bit 😉 Actually I’m not showing off at all, I’m on the contrary humbled (and excited) to find out everything that has been discovered and analysed so far about this concept that is much more concrete (yet very complex) than one could imagine, and that we all need as it is part of ourselves, our world, and our life.

Seriously. To study knowledge “per se” is amazing. Because it can be analysed in so many different ways, viewed and understood from so many different perspectives, that it keeps on opening new horizons of… (inner) knowledge. I would have never imagined that one day, I would have the pleasure and honour to read or (re)discover Plato, Aristotle and some more contemporary philosophers within the context of my work or studies. Each one of them has defined what knowledge is, with its own insights, its own words and experience, and contributed to the overall general and cultural “knowledge” from which we can all benefit from today.

As always, when I try to deepen my understanding of a topic, I start by defining what it is not. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve spent quite some time recently to describe what is information (often mistaken for knowledge and vice versa), and what data is. But it goes way further than that. Indeed, in the knowledge management field, there has been plenty of discussions around these concepts, the way they are related to/differ from each other, their value, their use, and how eventually they get transformed. One of the models that has been widely analysed, valued and criticized, is the DIKW hierarchy (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom), attributed to Ackoff in 1989, illustrated by the famous diagram below:

Featured image

I won’t discuss it any further, as there is so much to be said about it, and will rather stick to the concept of knowledge itself for now, that is broad enough, to say the least. To cut the story short 😉 Knowledge can be, and actually is interpreted in several fields such as information science, cognitive psychology, management, pedagogy, management, social computing and philosophy. All these are needed to grasp this huge, complex nebulous topic that somehow, define ourselves…

More on this topic next time. But any comments or questions are of course, more than welcomed.