What is Knowledge Brokering?
Knowledge Brokering is essentially the two-way exchange of knowledge about an issue, which fosters collective learning and usually involves knowledge brokers or ‘intermediaries’. Most individuals that undertake knowledge brokering will not have the term itself in their job title or job description. However researchers, policy advisers, development professionals, practitioners, all to a varying extent undertake knowledge brokering as part of their day to day role.
Knowledge brokers have been described as intermediaries (a person or an organisation) that aim to develop relationships and networks with, among and between producers of knowledge and users of knowledge by providing linkages, knowledge sources and in some cases knowledge itself to organisations in their network. Knowledge brokers have been variously described as boundary spanners or bridge builders because they exist at the interface between separate domains, for example research and policy, and are tasked with linking those domains and facilitating the movement of knowledge across those links.
The role, function and process of Knowledge Brokering
The role, function and process of knowledge brokering is highly context dependent and varies across settings. Typically, knowledge brokering will involve some or all of the various key activities in the knowledge to action pathway: knowledge production, transfer and exchange, translation and mobilization. In trying to understanding the role, function and process of knowledge brokering, there is a demarcation problem; that is how can you describe the knowledge brokering process in one model, when it is so context dependent?
Can the task of Brokering Knowledge be codified?
Researchers have approached this challenge by developing conceptual models of knowledge brokering and such models now abound in the literature. As an example, one paper alone provides a review of 47 separate models of knowledge brokering, to develop their own framework for knowledge brokering (Ward, 2017). From an academic perspective, this may seem a non-controversial process as the various models are tested and sifted. Whilst the expansion of the literature on knowledge brokering models and processes provides us insight into what could potentially ‘work’, it my also make it more difficult to understand the process of knowledge brokering and the role of a knowledge broker. With Knowledge Brokering being so context dependant, how much guidance can we gain from individual models? And, indeed how much of the role, function and specifically process of knowledge brokering, can be codified?
The best of both worlds – Drawing on codified and tacit knowledge
In our experience successful Knowledge Brokering draws as much on tacit knowledge as it does on codified knowledge. Rather than drawing on single models from which to undertake knowledge brokering, exchange, translation and mobilization, we argue that a better approach is to develop the skills, attributes and disposition that supports the knowledge brokering process; build the tacit knowledge of know-how through individual and collective learning, and, have at the ready a ‘backpack’ full of the concepts, models, tools and resources from which you can choose the most suitable ones at each stage of the process.