Knowledge Brokering and Intermediary concepts e-discussion analysis
This paper is an analysis of an international cross-sectoral e-discussion about knowledge brokers and intermediary actors that took place through the Knowledge Brokers’ Forum. The full paper is available here (pdf).
Broadly defined, knowledge brokers and intermediaries are concerned about sharing knowledge for decision making and change.This discussion sought to explore the different terms that are used in relation to these actors and understand more about their roles and functions.In its examination of terms, this discussion pointed to a nested set of roles which expand in scope and the extent to which they are directly engaged in change processes.
Each of these can be associated with a set of functions:
- Information intermediaries or infomediaries: concerned with enabling access to information from multiple sources and engaged in informing, aggregating, compiling and signaling information
- Knowledge intermediaries or knowledge translators: concerned with helping people make sense of and apply information and engaged in disseminating, translating and communicating knowledge and ideas
- Knowledge brokers: concerned with improving knowledge use in decision making and engaged in bridging, matching, connecting, convening, linking, boundary spanning, networking and facilitating people
- Innovation brokers: concerned with changing contexts to enable innovation and engaged in negotiating, building, collaborating and managing relationships and processes
This discussion was interesting as it drew on experiences of brokering from multiple sectors, in particular the rich experience and work undertaken in the agriculture sector in both developed and developing country contexts and the huge body of work on knowledge brokering in the Canadian Health System. Cross-sectoral discussion revealed interesting differences in the way that knowledge brokering and intermediary work is understood and undertaken that provide a basis for new ideas and approaches. The discussion identified characteristics of Knowledge Brokers many of which, such as their hybrid nature and the relative invisibility of their role, make them hard to pin down and describe so contributing to the relative lack of understanding about them.
Issues identified that merit further discussion and action include:
- Demonstrating the value of a role that is caught up in processes of how other people know learn and act
- Balancing the need to be neutral and the desire to bring about change
- Understanding the complex sets of capabilities required to play the role effectively
- Linking theory and practice in knowledge brokering
- Exploring further the functions and values of different types of broker particularly the insights generated from cross-sectoral comparison
To view the e-discussion summary please go to: http://bit.ly/pQA0iz (pdf)