To achieve effective KE, it is critical to find ways of establishing a dialogue, building relationships, developing collaborations and creating a culture of trust and shared purpose with potential research users and other stakeholders:
- Balanced representation When designing and implementing your suite of specific KE activities, ensure that the needs and views of all likely research users are systematically represented and include those users in decisions about what your programme needs to achieve. This will enhance not only the impact but also the legitimacy of your research programme by clearly demonstrating that you value stakeholders’ views at every point in the process.
- Stakeholder motivation Pinpoint what specific issues and concerns motivate stakeholders as this can help you to devise and tailor specific activities that will encourage their ongoing engagement in both the KE process and the research programme as a whole.
- Using knowledge brokers The use of ‘knowledge brokers’ as intermediaries, drawn either from the research community or from your stakeholders, can make a major contribution to the development of effective communications between you and key target groups and to the cultivation of a close, positive and enduring relationship with them.
- Involving Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) CSOs such as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) can play a key role as intermediaries between you and research users in government, business and elsewhere. These CSOs often have good outreach and dissemination mechanisms already in place that can be utilised to help you achieve your KE objectives.
- Integration into research teams Encourage research users to join research teams as co-investigators or to sit on advisory panels.
- Range of knowledge Ensure that you understand, respect and critically evaluate the contribution that other disciplines and types of knowledge (such as local knowledge) can make to the KE process, beyond those most obviously and directly relevant to your programme and its potential impacts. Take steps to engage with representatives of these disciplines and knowledge types at an early stage in your programme.
- Engaging in dialogue Developing a constructive, productive dialogue between researchers and research users is fundamental to establishing a secure platform for KE. The key is to identify and implement appropriate mechanisms capable of providing a non-hierarchical ‘level playing field’ where different parties can interact on an inclusive, collegiate basis and feel able to exchange opinions and information frankly and thoroughly. A combination of one-to-one and group-level dialogue, harnessing a variety of specific mechanisms, is likely to be needed in a majority of programmes.
- Ethical implications However you choose to engage with research users, give careful consideration to what the ethical implications may be. For example, what might be the ramifications in terms of intellectual property rights, the recording/attribution of comments or the potential for conflicts of interest?