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What exactly is Knowledge Brokering?

What do the terms knowledge brokering, transfer, exchange, translation and mobilisation actually mean and what’s the difference between them all.

Whilst there are some roles which specifically focus on knowledge brokering what most people don’t realize is that the skill of knowledge brokering is part of many people’s role.  So what exactly is knowledge brokering? Here are some (loose) definitions of terms associated with the set of functions and processes at the various interfaces between knowledge, policy and practice, in the field of knowledge sharing.

Defining different types of knowledge sharing

What is Knowledge Brokering

Knowledge Brokering is a  two-way exchange of knowledge about an issue, which fosters collective learning and usually involves knowledge brokers or ‘intermediaries’. 

  • It is the strategic transfer, exchange and co-production of knowledge, research and ideas between two or more parties.
  • It identifies how knowledge, research and ideas from one domain can be of value in another domain, in other words how is it learned and re-learned.
  • It brings people together from different contexts and professions.
  • It explores how knowledge, research and ideas can be shared.
  • It transfers, exchanges and co-produces knowledge between producers and users.

What is Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management is the process of ensuring that knowledge is available.  It is sometimes used to describe the suite of activities from the storage of information through to its dissemination. However, with the emergence of other terms and greater differentiation between roles, it is beginning to refer more to the collection and storage of different types of knowledge so that they can be accessed when needed.

What are additional elements that form part of the Knowledge Brokering Process such as knowledge transfer, exchange, translation and mobilisation?

Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge Transfer is  a one-way process of sharing knowledge which can be construed as more of a teacher-student relationship than other knowledge-related activities and perhaps associated with mutual exploration of an issue.

Knowledge Exchange

Knowledge Exchange is a more two-way process of sharing knowledge between different groups of people.

Knowledge Translation

Knowledge Translation is the process of translating knowledge from one format to another so that the receiver can understand it; often from specialists to non-specialists. KT is sometimes represented as a one-way, and sometimes a two-way, process.

Knowledge Mobilisation

Knowledge Mobilisation is a two-way process that makes use of the existing stock of knowledge and co-creates new knowledge to help foster change

Innovation Brokering

Innovation Brokering is the process of facilitating and coordinating innovation by bringing together the different individuals and organisations and the necessary knowledge needed to exchange, recombine and co-produce knowledge.

Why is merging all knowledge sharing concepts useful?

The boundaries between these definitions are fuzzy and have significant overlap. The different functions are best considered as part of a spectrum of knowledge sharing activities. This list is not exhaustive; there are other knowledge sharing terms associated with the field of knowledge sharing, however these are the most widely used terms across sectors and geographies.


K-star* is the collective term for the set of functions and processes at the various interfaces between knowledge, policy and practice as termed by Shaxson and Bielak (2012).

The term K* (K-Star) was coined as an overarching concept and as a useful shorthand to collectively describe the various related terms associated with the field of knowledge sharing. The K* concept offers common language and sets out the common principles shared by all K* component functions and processes. Proposed in a paper by Shaxson and Bielak (2012) the authors set out a framework for thinking about, assessing and developing a shared understanding of the various component functions of knowledge sharing. The K* concept incorporates the various forms of knowledge, including explicit and tacit knowledge, individual and communal knowledge, and knowledge related to both content and process. This paper and way of understanding all forms of knowledge sharing is useful to a wide audience, whether they be in research, policy or practice. It provides a baseline understanding and common terminology among the global community of K* practitioners.


This annotated bibliography was developed from the following paper:
Shaxson, L and Bielak AT (2012) Expanding our understanding of K* (KT, KE, KTT, KMb, KM, etc): A concept paper emerging from the K* conference held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, April 2012. UNU-INWEH, Hamilton ON, 30pp + appendices