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What is knowledge mobilization (KMb)?

When we say knowledge mobilization, what do we really mean? Knowledge and evidence can often get lost in a sea of jargon. Is it knowledge exchange, knowledge translation, integrated knowledge translation, knowledge mobilization?


Those terms all get at the same idea: making evidence accessible, understandable and useful for knowledge users. In the field of child and youth mental health, knowledge mobilization is the meaningful use of evidence and expertise to align research, policy and practice in order to improve outcomes for children, youth and families. For example: Let’s say an agency has program evaluation data and wants to share the findings in an interesting way with staff and clients involved in the evaluation process. How can they effectively mobilize this information so it’s meaningful and useful?

Knowledge mobilization is not just about disseminating information. It’s not just about sharing, or publishing, or one-way information flow. It is about engagement, end-user participation and attention to impact. And evidence doesn’t just mean research. It includes practice-based evidence from the real world, from the expertise of practitioners and from the experiences of children, youth and families—what works for them.

So what's the big deal? Why do KMb?

Knowledge grows when it’s used and loses its value when it’s not. Knowledge mobilization (KMb) helps empower people to use information in strategic ways to address real-life problems. Simply put, KMb helps us apply what we know to strengthen mental health care for children, youth and families.

Yes, KMb can help you make the case for support from your funders and donors. But KMb also helps to raise awareness, prompt change, bring people together and put what we know into active use.

KMb raises awareness and prompts change

KMb draws attention to issues that matter. It not only improves the ways in which knowledge is shared, but it also helps bring about more effective and sustainable change.1 KMb can lead to changes in perspectives or behaviour, and can even prompt cultural shifts within an organization or sector.2 It can inform research3 and – most importantly – it can help improve client care and outcomes.4 Simply put, KMb helps prompt change.

KMb brings people together

We value relationships with mutual benefit. KMb empowers people to cooperate, collaborate and share knowledge about an area of common interest. It promotes fruitful conversations between those who create knowledge and those who use knowledge with a shared desire to solve problems.5 KMb can help us better understand each other’s perspectives, experiences, language and needs. It helps bring people together to work as a team.

KMb puts knowledge into action

Learning is important. But communicating what you have learned with those who can act upon it is powerful. When we’re slow to use knowledge, it loses its power. KMb helps ensure that what we do is based on the best evidence available6 by keeping us connected to research and other sources of information. It bridges the gap between what is known or available – and what is done or used.7 Simply put, KMb gets the right information into the hands of those who can use it to improve outcomes.

  • 1. Shaxson, L., Bielak, A., Ahmed, I., Brien, D., Conant, B., Fisher, C., … Phipps, D. (2012). Expanding our understanding of K*(KT, KE, KTT, KMb, KB, KM, etc.): A concept paper emerging from the K* conference held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, April 2012. Hamilton, Ontario: UNU-INWEH.
  • 2. Zarinpoush, Von Sychowski, & Sperling. (2007). Effective knowledge transfer & exchange for nonprofit organizations: A framework. Toronto, Ontario: Imagine Canada.
  • 3. Barwick, M. (2008, 2013). Knowledge Translation Planning Template. Toronto, Ontario: The Hospital for Sick Children. Retrieved from: http://melaniebarwick.com/training.php
  • 4. Reardon, R., Lavis, J., & Gibson, J. (2006). From research to practice: A knowledge transfer planning guide. Toronto, Ontario: Institute for Work & Health. Retrieved from: https://www.iwh.on.ca/tools-and-guides/from-research-to-practice-kte-planning-guide
  • 5. Reibling, S. (2012). Knowledge mobilization 101. Wilfrid Laurier University Office of Research Services. Retrieved from: https://www.slideshare.net/sreibling/kmb-101-19oct12-reibling
  • 6. Levin, B. (2008). Thinking about knowledge mobilization: A discussion paper prepared at the request of the Canadian Council on Learning and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved from: https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/about-au_sujet/publications/KMb_-_LevinDiscussionPaper_-_E.pdf
  • 7. Farkas, M., & Anthony, W. A. (2007). Bridging science to service: Using Rehabilitation Research and Training Center program to ensure that research-based knowledge makes a difference. Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, 44(6).