I’ve been attending this annual event since I started my PhD researching health and care knowledge and library specialists’ role in knowledge mobilisation within and beyond their organisations. Unlike most of the conferences and training sessions that we attend as library professionals, the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum isn’t primarily targeted at librarians or indeed any particular professional group; it is aimed at anyone “with a passion for ensuring that knowledge makes a positive difference to society”. Our very own Susan Smith from the JET Library at Mid Cheshire Hospitals is on the organising committee though, so the profession is represented at the highest level! Typical attendees include students, practitioners, researchers, academics, policy makers and civil servants. It is always a very interactive event, providing a space for sharing knowledge, experiences and methods through such things as a knowledge fayre, storytelling, an ideas jam and interactive poster plenaries.

This year’s event took place at the Discovery Point in Dundee over two days in May. The research keynote presentation was given by Dr Marc Geddes, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, who explored how parliaments use knowledge and in what contexts, and indeed what ‘knowledge’ and ‘evidence’ mean to a body that is crucial in supporting democratic governments.

The practice keynote was given by Stephanie Barnes, a knowledge management consultant based in Berlin who takes a creative approach to what she calls Radical Knowledge Management, because it goes back to the roots of how we learn: playfully, and creatively. She contends that creativity, in the form of arts-based activities, allows the space to reflect, iterate, experiment, and discover new connections in knowledge management processes. And it is creativity that distinguishes us, as humans, from AI; tapping into our creativity allows us to bring our whole self to our work and helps us build our own and others’ leadership skills. What we actually did during the session was: a guided visualization, a group scribble drawing, and I drew a horse!! (This was a HUGE achievement). We all had great fun and reflected on how the activities made us feel, and how they could be applied to our work and our thinking more generally – more information here if you want to learn more.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good story so I chose to go to the storytelling sessions where I could. Presenters had 20 minutes to tell a short story about their voyage through the ocean of knowledge mobilisation research, practice or training. The two stories that resonated most with me were Alison Clarke’s account of her ‘squiggly’ career path bouncing from translation to an art history PhD, to ending up in her current role at Insights North East, and how each step of the way feeds into what she’s done next; and Sarah Lester who used her reflective journal from her PhD fieldwork to recapture and relive key moments of shame, despair, and admiration from the humbling and at times, thoroughly awkward experience of conducting ethnographic research on research, as a relative outsider, in local government.

And finally, I was very struck by Gill Toms’ Ideas Jam session on using provocative statements in order to engage people with the knowledge or learning you want to share. She shared a box set of materials based on this method, developed for the DEEP (Developing Evidence Enriched Practice) program for using evidence in social care policy and practice development in Wales. This tool is especially helpful when the learning being shared may be contested, and people may be drawing on their beliefs, values, and experiences to make sense of the new learning. After having a play at our tables we concluded with a discussion on how the method can be used in other research and practice development areas. Or in my case, as a way of facilitating my PhD data-gathering workshop – if you’re planning on coming to one at the upcoming HLG conference, consider that a sneak preview!

This kind of event is a great opportunity for meeting practitioners from other fields and sharing ideas. Costs are always kept as low as possible, and I do recommend attending one year if you possibly can, it’s a really good way to broaden our knowledge mobilisation horizons and come away recharged and enthusiastic (and extremely well fed!).

Ruth Muscat
Evidence and Knowledge Specialist
Rotherham Foundation Trust Library & Knowledge Service