May 9, 2013 by Yuko Sorano
Where did we start?
When CERIS was first launched in 1996 as a part of the Metropolis project, they said it couldn’t be done. A policy- relevant research partnership between academics, government and community organizations … Who had heard of such a thing? Why would we even want this?
Academics wouldn’t necessarily be interested in discussing how research findings might help to inform decision making regarding policy, programme planning or practice. Their priorities and the demands on their attention were elsewhere. Moreover, the very expectations of their institutions and reward structures within academe itself were not conducive to such a venture. A few even worried that such partnership with community and with government would somehow compromise the scientific integrity and dilute the scholarly quality of the research undertaken.
Community Members and Community Service Providers wondered how exactly this would work. Would it not take time and scarce resources away from more pressing priorities and immediate resettlement and integration needs of our immigrants, refugees and migrants? Would it be an equitable and true partnership that recognizes and engages different knowledge-bases, expertise and skill sets? How would it benefit them in pursing their own mandates and responsibilities?
Policy researchers, analysts, and decision makers, as Federal Government Partners and funders, were mostly preoccupied with figuring out where the expertise lay, how best to access it, and how to facilitate broader sharing and interaction. How do you determine the relevance of a piece of research for programme planning? Who needs to be part of the discussion? How exactly can research findings be used to inform decision-making regarding policy and programming? And perhaps most of all, is this initiative going to actually work and prove a worthwhile endeavour?
And yet enough of a critical mass of dedicated and committed individuals in academe, government and the community believed, and were in fact convinced that a policy research partnership among key stakeholders not only could be done, but that it would contribute to more evidence-informed decision making that would yield better immigration, resettlement and integration outcomes.
Where have we been?
Over these past two decades, CERIS created a ‘space’ – in fact multiple spaces in which individuals and organizations with different mandates, knowledge bases, resources, and skills sets come together to discuss, share, learn, decide, and implement.
As a community, CERIS undertook joint research projects and launched innovative dissemination outputs, including Working Papers, Policy Matters, and e-based research summaries. We also organized and jointly participated in umpteen seminar presentations, research retreats, policy symposia, as well as both National and International Metropolis Conferences. We wrote papers, reports, and policy briefs, responded to requests for expert consultations, and disseminated research findings via the media as well as using social media. Our work transformed the landscape of immigration research in Ontario and helped launch a Masters Programme in Immigration Studies and Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement at Ryerson University.
In so doing we systematically built an extensive, integrated knowledge network. More importantly, we piloted together a new way of doing, a new way of working, and contributed to the development of a new way of thinking about creating, sharing, and using evidence-based and practice-informed knowledge.
And it is this that is CERIS/Metropolis’ greatest accomplishment.
The Metropolis initiative as a whole has been widely recognized, studied and copied as a model of ‘best practice’ for Knowledge Transfer and Exchange (KTE). For Academics, such ‘creative professional activity’ has increasingly become recognized in such things as hiring, promotion and curriculum development. Knowledge Transfer, as an important dissemination output, has become an integral component of almost every research grant proposal to which we now apply, and KTE partnerships among community, academe, and government, very much the norm. Using research findings and practice-based knowledge to inform decision-making has now become the expectation rather than the exception.
What is next? Where are we going?
Not only have we have collectively gained additional knowledge bases and acquired, practiced and honed important skills sets, we have actually changed the very way we think about knowledge creation, development, sharing, and use. In short, we have profoundly changed the way we think, the way that we do our work, and what we do with research findings. Knowledge transfer and exchange is integrally embedded in our research, our teaching, our practices, as in our decision making around programming and policy development. It is no longer only a practice; it is an entire mindset.
We – CERIS – are now stepping up to an increased focus on actual knowledge mobilization at a time when the “spaces” – and one might even suggest the ‘receptivity’ – for such knowledge uptake have both expanded and multiplied. The key audiences that now matter most – where most impact and uptake can in fact be achieved to truly better the lives of our new immigrants, refugees, and migrants, the diverse communities and our larger society as a whole – have shifted. And that lies in the realm of public knowledge, awareness, opinion, and influence. It is here that the expertise CERIS has accumulated in knowledge mobilization and use of multiple media can now play a critical role, spreading the right information in the right format at the right time for optimal impact.
The future beckons brightly… so let’s mobilize forward together!
About the blog author.
Dr. Joanna Anneke Rummens is a Health Systems Research Scientist with the Learning Institute, and Project Investigator in Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Research Institute, at The Hospital for Sick Children. She is Senior Scholar and former Director of CERIS – The Ontario Metropolis Centre.
Dr. Rummens is a multilingual anthropologist/sociologist whose research explores the links between diverse child/youth identities, health/wellbeing and life outcomes, with special focus on vulnerable, marginalized populations, immigrant/refugee/migrant communities, cross-culturally competent health service delivery, and international comparisons. Her work reflects a strong commitment to policy-and-practice-relevant research, collaborative research partnerships bridging academia, government and communities, as well as effective knowledge transfer, exchange and implementation uptake across a wide range of key stakeholders across local, national and international levels. She serves in an advisory capacity in the areas of identity, diversity, citizenship, integration, and health, to various governmental committees and ministries both in Canada and abroad.