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Knowledge brokers in a knowledge network: the case of Seniors Health Research Transfer Network knowledge brokers

James Conklin12*, Elizabeth Lusk345, Megan Harris356 and Paul Stolee78

Author Affiliations

1 Care of the Elderly Research Program, Bruyère Research Institute, 43 Bruyère Street, K1N 5C8, Ottawa, ON, Canada

2 Department of Applied Human Sciences, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, H3G 1M8, Montréal, QC, Canada

3 Gestalt Collective, 79 Dewar Court, L9T 5N8, Milton, ON, Canada

4 School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Western University, N6A 5B9, London, ON, Canada

5 Canadian Dementia Resource and Knowledge Exchange, Windsor, Canada

6 Alzheimer’s Knowledge Exchange, 20 Eglinton Avenue West, Suite 1600, M4R 1K8, Toronto, ON, Canada

7 School of Public Health and Health Systems, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave, West, N2L 3G1, Waterloo, ON, Canada

8 Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, 325 Max Becker Drive, Suite 202, N2E 4H5, Kitchener, ON, Canada

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Implementation Science 2013, 8:7  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-7

Published: 9 January 2013

Abstract

Background

The purpose of this paper is to describe and reflect on the role of knowledge brokers (KBs) in the Seniors Health Research Transfer Network (SHRTN). The paper reviews the relevant literature on knowledge brokering, and then describes the evolving role of knowledge brokering in this knowledge network.

Methods

The description of knowledge brokering provided here is based on a developmental evaluation program and on the experiences of the authors. Data were gathered through qualitative and quantitative methods, analyzed by the evaluators, and interpreted by network members who participated in sensemaking forums. The results were fed back to the network each year in the form of formal written reports that were widely distributed to network members, as well as through presentations to the network’s members.

Results

The SHRTN evaluation and our experiences as evaluators and KBs suggest that a SHRTN KB facilitates processes of learning whereby people are connected with tacit or explicit knowledge sources that will help them to resolve work-related challenges. To make this happen, KBs engage in a set of relational, technical, and analytical activities that help communities of practice (CoPs) to develop and operate, facilitate exchanges among people with similar concerns and interests, and help groups and individuals to create, explore, and apply knowledge in their practice. We also suggest that the role is difficult to define, emergent, abstract, episodic, and not fully understood.

Conclusions

The KB role within this knowledge network has developed and matured over time. The KB adapts to the social and technical affordances of each situation, and fashions a unique and relevant process to create relationships and promote learning and change. The ability to work with teams and to develop relevant models and feasible approaches are critical KB skills. The KB is a leader who wields influence rather than power, and who is prepared to adopt whatever roles and approaches are needed to bring about a valuable result.

Keywords:
Knowledge broker; Knowledge exchange; Knowledge translation; Community of practice; Knowledge network