Today, I gave a presentation on knowledge translation in a webinar with colleagues who are primarily based in Nigeria (see poster below). Knowledge translation, or knowledge transfer are critically important regardless of our specific disciplines, so I was very grateful for the opportunity to share and connect.
I have shared my slides below with a brief overview of knowledge translation with a specific focus on community engagement. In my opinion they go hand-in-hand, particularly for those of us that conduct community research that are meant to improve health and well-being and also inform policy.
And, while the examples I highlight in the presentation are based on my own research in West and East Africa, the concepts can be applied to other settings and topics. Although, it is important to state that knowledge transfer is particularly important in low-resource settings, particularly in mental health which is one of my key areas of research.
I was asked to give a 25 minute presentation on Knowledge Translation through Community Engagement.
Let's start with a quick overview.
There are many different types of knowledge translation processes, but these steps seem highly relevant across disciplines.
Of course there are barriers too, many of which we can address directly but some that are a bit more challenging.
Here are 2 brief examples that may help to illustrate knowledge translation and its importance.
In terms of applied health research, academic and community partnerships are really key. How can they work? Let me give you a few examples from my own experience and my research with NGOs in east Africa, primarily the Uganda Youth Development Link.
We have done what is traditionally expected of an academic researcher like myself, published journal articles, mentored students and contributed to the discipline. But, together we have also accomplished some significant knowledge transfer and translation with demonstrated community impact. See below for a few examples.
Knowledge transfer through media briefings with journalists. It was a great success for us that we were featured in the Saturday issue of the Daily Monitor in Uganda.
But, knowledge transfer would be so much more streamlined if we engaged with communities earlier and if we built in a path for engagement from the beginning by simply assessing the real community needs and focus our research on those (where applicable).
I have had a very fruitful collaboration with the West Africa Alcohol Policy Alliance (WAAPA). Together we assessed the "readiness" for the prevention of alcohol-related harm in West Africa. You can read the full, open access article here.
But, can we also shift our way to think and see about knowledge creation from the community perspective? And, perhaps also think about community stakeholders as researchers (where applicable), and maybe also co-creating a research agenda to set clear priorities?
We did something very similar, again with WAAPA where we co-developed a research agenda in West Africa for alcohol harm prevention research. This paper is not open access but, you can find the abstract and link here.
This idea of academic and community partnerships is really intriguing and can really be a key strategy. Of course, there is great heterogeneity in community based organizations, their purpose, interest and ability to engage in research. But, it can also be an interesting research question as we need to better understand and leverage community talent and expertise. Many are so used in assuming that all the relevant expertise is housed within the Academy, but that is really not the case.
Given our interest in this area, we also assessed research capacity and needs for alcohol-related harm prevention in West Africa. Again, this was a partnership with our colleagues in WAAPA. This is not an open access paper, but you can find the abstract and a link to the publisher here.
It is clear that knowledge translation is gaining momentum and there are some clear opportunities to engage. See a list for some key areas below.
As we conclude, we need to recognize the importance of knowledge translation, its barriers and potential solutions.
During the webinar today I was asked a very important question. What should researchers do BEFORE they have their research findings. Here are my 10 suggestions and recommendations:
Identify your key stakeholders in the broadest terms (and they will vary based on your discipline and research topics).
Engage with your stakeholders and partners at the beginning of your project (not just at the end).
Listen to your stakeholders to know what they need and what they want to know related to your research. Are there ways you can incorporate and meet their needs?
Consider co-creating a research agenda together with your stakeholders.
Get in touch with a journalist who writes in your area and see how to frame and position your research when the time comes to release your findings.
If you write grants, make sure to set funds aside (if available) for knowledge translation and engagement.
Include an advisory board with stakeholders related to your discipline/field of study. The board members can be champions for your research along the way and also embed knowledge translation as they will be familiar with your work.
Engage with partners and stakeholders during the research process. As an example, we host "lunch and learn" sessions with our stakeholders to share our plans, do research overviews, and facilitate discussion and engagement for our TOPOWA project in Kampala, Uganda.
Follow the 5-step Knowledge Translation process.
Give back to your community and stakeholders and focus on creating a mutually beneficial, trusting and valued partnership.
Let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas, or comments.