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:
- ARNA Archives. ARNA has assembled a variety of archival materials since its founding in 2012-2013. Many of these materials, including organizing documents, reports, transcripts, photos and other media are shared through arnawebsite.org. ARNA established a video archiving component in 2014. Included in this growing collection are interviews with ARNA leaders and members, recorded 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.
- Annual Conference and knowledge building events such as workshops, trainings, virtual dialogues and the like are well-established ways of mobilizing knowledge. ARNA has held annual conferences since its founding in 2013 and has organized a number of special events.
- Proceedings. As a part of the conference experience, ARNA has published Conference Proceedings annually beginning in 2014. The Proceedings provide a useful open-access, peer-reviewed resource for action researchers throughout the Americas and around the world. The mix of Spanish, English, French and Portuguese papers reflects ARNA’s commitment to multi-vocality in all our work, and the inclusion of reports of practitioner research along with the theoretical contributions of university researchers represents ARNA’s intention to support a more horizontal perspective on knowledge production and dissemination.
- Knowledge Democracy. ARNA established its Knowledge Democracy Initiative in 2017, following the convening of the 1st Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy in Cartagena, Colombia in conjunction with ARNA’s 5th Annual Conference. ARNA’s Strategic Priorities for 2020-2025, established through a 2019 planning process, positioned work on Knowledge Democracy as “Strategic Priority #`1.”