June 24, 2020
Research matchmakers: Knowledge Engagement team connects campus and community for research partnerships
Newly formed unit in Research Services driven by mission to create positive impact
Imagine a matchmaking service where community-based organizations trying to solve a complex problem can be paired with university researchers whose expertise zeroes in on that very topic. That’s the premise of the Knowledge Engagement (KE) team.
This new unit within Research Services is dedicated to building and maintaining partnerships for research between campus and the greater community, and to providing support services for knowledge mobilization and research communications. In short, the KE team aims to be the front door for those looking to access the campus research community.
- Photo above: Knowledge Engagement team, from left: Alyse Pearce, MacKinley Darlington, Rand Al-Hashmy. Photo by Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary
Working in support of the foundational commitments of the University of Calgary’s Eyes High strategy, the team regularly consults with external and community partners to explore opportunities for partnering on research projects. Core service offerings lie in partnership matchmaking, research collaboration support, knowledge mobilization planning and capacity building.
Currently addressing over 18 matchmaking requests and counting, the KE team has been working with community-based organizations like Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, YouthLink and Inn from the Cold — all with the common goal of finding the right partners for research.
“The KE team plays an important brokering role for UCalgary researchers and our community — supporting strong and reciprocal research partnerships and facilitating research impact,” explains Dr. Penny Pexman, associate vice-president (research).
Successes through COVID-19 shutdown
The COVID-19 pandemic and transition to working remotely initially challenged the team to re-imagine engagement but proved to be an opportunity to expand services to the community in a relevant and expedited manner.
The team has just wrapped up its first series of virtual “KE Conversations,” which focused on COVID-19-related topics of shared significance including exploring grief and loss, serving marginalized communities, evidence-informed mental health considerations, and transitioning services from in person to online. These events saw a diverse range of attendees from the UCalgary community, community-based organizations and representatives from neighbouring municipalities.
For community partners and researchers alike, the benefits of collaborating to build a partnership for research can be tremendous — and the service is free.
“The [Knowledge Engagement] team has been instrumental in developing an outreach partnership for our physical activity promotion research program, which has a strong community engagement component,” says Dr. Lin Yang, PhD, Oncology and Community Health Sciences in the Cumming School of Medicine.
The overarching goal of the KE team is simple: by supporting community collaborations for research, we can address critical societal issues and contribute to the public good.
Championing research storytelling
The team also provides dedicated support around research communication and telling the story of research. Sydney Seidel, UCalgary student and finalist in the national SSHRC Storyteller competition, took advantage of a KE workshop hosted to assist competitors with developing research communication skills.
“It can be challenging to be succinct when explaining research, especially when you want to get a specific message across in a creative way within a short period of time. I think the KE team did a great job in helping us think outside the box with our projects and encouraged us to adapt our research to attract a wide audience,” says Seidel.
Looking forward, the team is planning more workshops for researchers, including upcoming sessions on knowledge mobilization and research communications. Through several committees and working groups, the KE team is actively supporting impact initiatives at UCalgary and working to connect knowledge engagement capacity and expertise on campus through interdisciplinary approaches.
The KE team will be hosting Intro to Knowledge Engagement webinars on June 25 and July 8 to provide detailed information on their service offerings. Whether you are a researcher or community partner, the Knowledge Engagement team is here to help you meet your research goals.