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.
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.
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.
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.
Knowledge broker; Knowledge exchange; Knowledge translation; Community of practice; Knowledge network
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