In the first week of July, Amanda Lawrence and I attended the Knowledge Mobilisation Conference (KM2018) in Sydney, hosted by the Sax Institute. It was a packed event, with an audience of about 60 per cent researchers, 20 per cent policy makers, and the rest somewhere in between.
The discussions and workshops were all about ways to bridge the gap between researchers and policy makers. The focus was on health, but the learnings are applicable across all public policy.
My key points from the conference:
Finding, building and sustaining relationships
Researchers are challenged by the situation where people in government adviser roles change frequently, making it difficult to engage, and sustain engagement.
And from the other side, it is hard to ‘find an expert’.
While at the same time it is recognised that relationship building, and ‘deliberative dialogues’, help with knowledge translation.
Speaking the right language, as well as listening the right way
Translation is about making research ‘policy relevant’ and identifying the ‘so what’ of research findings.
Equally important is the receptiveness on the policy side. All three of these elements need to be in place:
- the organisation’s culture to use evidence
- the systems in place to support evidence use
- the level of skills and knowledge to use the evidence appropriately.
‘Too much evidence’, ‘What’s applicable to my context?’ and ‘Am I in a bubble?’
I’ve grouped a few issues under one heading to highlight the various challenges that were mentioned relating to finding evidence:
- There was the comment: ‘there is so much knowledge that it becomes a barrier as it is so overwhelming’.
- And there were many concerns voiced about how to understand which evidence is applicable to a particular policy context.
- And finally, the warning that it is easy to get into a filter bubble which means that you never get to see some vital information.
All of these issues bring us back to the above two points, that of relationships and capability to support knowledge translation.
So, what for APO?
We see ourselves as helping to bridge the gap between researchers and policy advisers.
We assist with:
- making transparent who the experts are on a particular topic
- making knowledge more accessible
- making knowledge more discoverable.
We play that important ‘knowledge management’ role in successful knowledge mobilisation.