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Knowledge Brokering

Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) have a wealth of material on their Knowledge brokering site. Knowledge brokering links decision makers and researchers, facilitating their interaction so that they are able to better understand each other's goals and professional cultures, influence each other's work, forge new partnerships, and promote the use of research-based evidence in decision-making. Knowledge brokering activities include finding the right players to influence research use in decision-making, bringing these players together, creating and helping to sustain relationships among them, and helping them to engage in collaborative problem-solving. Knowledge brokering in this context is ultimately about increasing evidence-based decision-making in the organization, management, and delivery of health services. The Foundation now produces Insight and Action: A digest linking those who practice knowledge transfer and exchange with relevant evidence-informed resources. Their documents are written in an accessible format, see, for example, Leveraging Knowledge: Tools & Strategies for Action (2005) Report of the 7th CHSRF Annual Invitational Workshop. The main messages are:
  • 'Evidence-based government is possible. In fact, it is already well-established in some areas of policy.
  • The reality of evidence-based government is that policy is far more than an exercise in implementing research – experience, tacit knowledge, judgment, and the expertise of bureaucrats and ministers combine with the components of politics to shape policy.
  • Using only research evidence is not a quick fix for the complex challenges of decision-making. However, evidence-based organizations help to make well-informed decisions by putting the best-available research at the heart of policy.
  • Habit is the greatest barrier to implementing evidence-based policy-making.
  • Collaboration between the various players who use and create research evidence continues to be at the heart of fostering effective evidence-based organizations and processes.
  • More research is not enough. We need to do a better job with the research that we have – packaging it in a format that can be implemented, ensuring the research is of top quality, bundling results from various projects, and so forth.
  • Building evidence-based organizations requires a culture able to adhere to high standards for finding and using evidence, a culture committed to developing the skills and tools needed to integrate evidence into decision-making.
  • Creating a culture that will embrace the many elements of evidence-based decision-making requires vision, risks, flexibility, diversity, inquiring minds, and commitment.
  • Commitment from health system leaders and senior government officials is essential to ensure the success of evidence-based organizations.
  • Impact and evaluation are fairly new in the world of evidence-based decision-making. Looking ahead, it is important to understand what strategies work or not, the contexts in which they apply, why they are effective, and how to measure impact.' (Report of the 7th CHSRF Annual Invitational Workshop, p. 4).

A CHSRF national consultation resulted in the publication in July 2003 of a Preliminary Report: The Practice of Knowledge brokering in Canada’s Health System. The main messages are:

'The job of a knowledge broker is to bring people — researchers, decision makers, practitioners and policy makers — together and build relationships among them that make knowledge transfer (the movement of knowledge from one place or group of people to another) more effective. Many more people act as brokers than have the job title, so it’s important to focus on the activities and process, not the individual. Much of the brokering going on now is an unrecognized, largely unplanned activity; there needs to be a concerted effort to recognize and formalize the work’s importance in knowledge transfer. The role of the broker depends on the organization, but there is a basic skill set:

  • The ability to bring people together and facilitate their interaction
  • The ability to find academic research and other evidence to shape decisions
  • The ability to assess evidence, interpret it and adapt it to circumstance
  • A knowledge of marketing, communication and Canadian healthcare
  • Ability to identify emerging management and policy issues which research could help to resolve

The tasks of a broker include:

  • Bringing people together, to exchange information and work together
  • Helping groups communicate and understand each other’s needs and abilities
  • Pushing for the use of evidence in planning and delivering healthcare
  • Monitoring and evaluating practices, to identify successes or needed changes
  • Transforming management issues into research questions
People doing knowledge brokering need support; joint activities and a national network will build commitment to brokering and keep crucial energy from being wasted reinventing wheels.' (CHSRF national consultation report, pp 1-2).