Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is an important part of ARNA’s mission. Often defined as the use of evidence and expertise to align research, policy and practice to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families, KMb involves knowledge sharing between research producers (e.g. university researchers) and research users (including practitioners whose work can benefit from research findings), often with the help of third parties or intermediaries (e.g. trainers, consultants, and professional development staff). The concept reflects the view that verified empirical knowledge should be the basis for policies and practices in education, healthcare, community development, social services and a variety of other social sectors. KMb thus fits within concern in the social sciences with bridging gaps between research and practice. KMb also fits with ARNA’s origins, as ARNA emerged through shared recognition among the network’s founders that work was needed to better position action researchers in relation to the use of evidence and expertise in shaping social policies, in particular in education.
Action researchers, then, like researchers in general, have a stake in knowledge mobilization. However, although action research is focused on strengthening practices and improving conditions for larger communities and includes the recognition that this focus involves collection and analysis of data, ARNA also aligns with those who adopt a more critical stance in relation to research-based knowledge production and use and express concerns about disconnects between the interests of knowledge producers and disseminators (the so-called knowledge industry and knowledge economy) and the needs of communities and settings in which data is collected. In other words, ARNA seeks an alignment in which knowledge is decolonized to better serve the marginalized and oppressed and is created in intellectual and social spaces in which knowledge production is horizontal and symmetrical, is based on respect for diverse epistemologies and in which action researchers demonstrate a deep appreciation of the capacity of ordinary people to fashion a socially just, more equitably organized and peaceful world.
ARNA AND KMb: WHERE DO WE STAND?
Four initiatives make up the ARNA KMb focus at present:
- Annual Conferences. Events such as conferences and workshops are well-established ways of mobilizing knowledge. ARNA has held annual conferences since its founding. To date, conferences have been held in San Francisco (2013), Bethlehem, PA (2014), Toronto (2015), and Knoxville (2016). The 2017 Conference, ARNA’s first in South America takes place June 12-16 in Cartagena, Colombia. ARNA’s 2018 Conference will be in San Diego.
- Proceedings. As a part of the conference experience, ARNA established Conference Proceedings beginning in 2014. The Proceedings are published annually on the ARNA website and have proven to be a useful open-access, peer-reviewed resource for action researchers throughout the Americas and around the world. The mix of Spanish and English papers reflects ARNA’s commitment to multi-vocality in all our work, and the inclusion of reports of practitioner research along with the more formal contributions of university researchers represents ARNA’s intention to support a more horizontal perspective on knowledge production and dissemination.
- Oral History and Shared Narratives. ARNA established a video archiving component in 2014. Included in this growing collection are interviews with ARNA leaders and members, taped addresses from ARNA conferences and workshops, and a variety of creative and experimental vignettes exploring aspects of action research. These open-access resources have been used in conjunction with teaching action research, scholarship about action research, and getting ideas for preparing advocacy materials illustrating the value of practitioner research in various contexts.
- Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy. As a part of the planning for the 2017 ARNA Conference in Cartagena, Colombia, ARNA leaders decided to convene the 1st Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy (GAKD). This initiative emerged from dialogue among ARNA members and the Planning Committee for ARNA’s 2017 Conference. The GAKD was announced in print through two related documents. In June 2016 a Brief about the GAKD was published on the ARNA website and distributed by email to members. (Download the June 2016 Brief). Further dialogue led to the August 2016 publication on ARNA’s website of Volume 1, Number 1 of The ARNA KMb Papers, “ARNA Knowledge Mobilization: A Contribution to Democratizing Knowledge Production in the 21st Century.” (Download Volume 1, Number 1)
The GAKD will bring together participants from diverse networks, organizations, and institutions involved with action research and participatory approaches to creating knowledge. The gathering will examine global convergences emerging in relation to knowledge production and dissemination, social progress, respect for epistemological diversity, and alternative globalization. The Global Assembly Co-Chairs are Lonnie Rowell (USA), Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator for ARNA, and Christine Edwards-Groves (AUS), Australian coordinator and international co-leader of the Pedagogy, Education and Praxis network (PEP). GAKD organizers established a website for dialogue and information sharing, which will be in use up to and beyond the June 16, 2017 1st Global Assembly: https://knowledgedemocracy.org/