12 Introduction to Knowledge Management and Communications | Building a KMb Plan

Questions to Consider

A person thinking and writingNow that we’ve introduced some key terms, definitions and models of knowledge management and communication, we are ready to review the fundamental questions that you should consider as you develop a knowledge management and communication plan for your project. Whether you are planning on an integrated or end-of-grant approach, these questions will help you to develop a strong plan to mobilize your research – this plan can be integrated into grant applications, used to clarify partnership requests, or help to clarify and improve your strategy for mobilizing knowledge.

John Lavis and colleagues propose 5 basic questions that any researcher can consider when developing a KMb plan8. They include:

  • Audience: To whom should research knowledge be transferred?
  • Message: What knowledge should be transferred to decision-makers?
  • Messenger: By whom should the knowledge be transferred?
  • Mechanism: How should the knowledge be transferred?
  • Impact: With what effect should the knowledge be transferred?

Although the questions framed this way are oriented more towards the development of an end-of-grant knowledge mobilization plan, they can also form the basis of an integrated communication plan. Below, we break down various sub-questions and elements to consider.

Audience

A key part of developing a knowledge mobilization plan is clearly identifying the target end user audience(s) for the research.

  • Identification may include identifying target groups of people, specific organizations or even specific individuals within the organization.
  • You may have more than one target audience, and can develop a separate knowledge mobilization plan for each audience.
  • As you identify your audience, also consider why they might be interested in your research. What are the problems that they face that this research might address? What are their goals, mandate and context?
  • Finally, consider how they want to be involved in the project. Will they be simply informed through one-way communication of knowledge, or will they be involved in the project itself – and how?
Tip: You will be asked this question a number of times over the duration of this course. This is because it is an absolutely key element of knowledge management and mobilization – whether you are developing a communications plan, diving into social media, understanding your value proposition for commercialization, or communicating with policy-makers.

Message

As part of developing a knowledge mobilization plan, you will also need to consider the message that should be shared with this audience. Crafting a message includes considering the following questions:

  • What background and context needs to be shared with end users to ensure your message is understood?
  • Conversely, what information can be removed because it is not needed?
  • What language will you use to share this information? Use of clear language is frequently advised.

Messenger

Crafting an effective message also requires a careful choice of messenger. Consider:

  • Who is a trusted source of information? In some cases, academics are not always the most trusted source.
  • When should the messenger deliver the message? In some cases, timing may be an issue (consider busy times for your target audience – for example, planting or harvest season for farmers, political cycles, etc)

Mechanism

A mechanism must be chosen to share results with the end user audience. There are a large variety of possible mechanisms:

  • Print (fact sheets, policy briefs, reports, handbooks, case studies, databases, FAQs, research summaries, etc)
  • Media (video, podcast, media interview, press release, magazine article, etc)
  • Digital (website, app, webinar, social media, blogs, listserv, etc)
  • Personal communications (meetings, workshops, presentations, lunch and learns, phone calls, town halls, field days, communities of practice, ‘champions’, etc).

Many other possible mechanisms are not listed here. Selection of a mechanism should rely on your knowledge of your audience, message and messenger, as well as practical considerations like budget and capacity.

Tip: A few best practices to keep in mind when choosing a knowledge mobilization mechanism include:

  • Where possible, active or interactive strategies may be more effective than passive strategies.
  • Multiple mechanisms, working together, may be more effective than a single mechanism.
  • If possible, develop or test your mechanism with a member of your target audience to gather feedback.

Impact

The final question to consider is, with what impact will the knowledge be transferred. In other words, what is your goal? Do you want to:

  • Generate awareness
  • Change opinions or attitudes
  • Share knowledge, experience or tools
  • Build capacity, relationships or skills
  • Change behaviour
  • Inform policy, practice or investment decisions
  • Influence social, cultural, economic, health or environmental impacts

Will you evaluate your progress towards this impact? If so, how? This evaluation strategy should be built into your project from the beginning.

 

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Learn more about evaluating impact.

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