It’s the Basement Stories, not the Belt: Lessons from a community-university knowledge mobilisation collaboration

David Phipps, Daniele Zanotti


Since 2006, United Way of York Region and York University have been collaborating to support community-university knowledge mobilisation and research collaborations that serve the human service needs of citizens in York Region. Ours is a sustained and sustainable community-university collaboration. What makes us sustainable? Certainly there is no single sustainability panacea (‘do this and you to will have a sustainable community-university collaboration’) but, in general, if you pay attention to the little details, the big things (like sustainability) will take care of themselves. Looking back we realise that the journey (our evolving collaboration) is more important than the destination (sustainability). We share our journey by interpreting a story about a family trip one of us (Daniele) made to see relatives. What happened when Daniele visited his relatives is an allegory for our community-university knowledge mobilisation story and is instructive for those forging community-university collaborations. We illustrate each of the lessons with examples from our experience.

Community-university collaboration, knowledge mobilisation, shared history, evolution of partnership, sustainability

Full Text



Agrawal, A 2001, 'University-to-industry knowledge transfer: Literature review and unanswered questions', International Journal of Management Review, vol. 3, no. 4, p. 285.

Boaz, A, Fitzpatrick, S & Shaw, B 2009, 'Assessing the impact of research on policy: A literature review', Science and Public Policy, vol. 36, no. 4, p. 255.

Bonnen, J 1998, 'The land-grant idea and the evolving outreach university', in R Lerner & L Simon (eds), University-community collaborations for the 21st century: Outreach scholarship for youth and families, Garland Publishing, New York, pp. 25–70.

Butler, L 2007, 'Assessing university research: A plea for a balanced approach', Science and Public Policy, vol. 34, no. 8, p. 565.

Campbell, A & Schofield, N 2007, The getting of knowledge, report, Land & Water Australia, Canberra, viewed 6 September 2010,

Cooper, A & Levin, B 2010, 'Some Canadian contributions to understanding knowledge mobilisation', Evidence and Policy, vol. 6, no. 3, p. 351.

Davies, H, Nutley, S & Walter, I 2008, 'Why knowledge transfer" is misconceived for applied social research', Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, vol. 13, no. 3, p. 188."

Estabrooks, C, Derksen, L, Winther, C, Lavis, J, Scott, S, Wallin, L & Profetto-McGrath, J 2008, 'The intellectual structure and substance of the knowledge utilization field: A longitudinal author co-citation analysis, 1945 to 2004', Implementation Science, vol. 3, no. 3, p. 49.

Gagnon, M 2011, 'Moving knowledge to action through dissemination and exchange', Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 64, no. 1, p. 25.

Hart, A, Maddison, E & Wolff, D 2008, Community-university partnerships in practice, National Institute of Continuing Education, Leicester, UK.

Hart, A, Northmore, S, Gerhardt, C & Rodriguez, P 2009, 'Developing access between universities and local community groups: A university helpdesk in action', Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, vol. 13, no. 3, p. 45.

Hart, A & Wolff, D 2006, 'Developing local communities of practice through local community-university partnerships', Planning, Practice and Research, vol. 21, no. 1, p. 121.

Holmes, J & Harris, B 2010, 'Enhancing the contribution of research councils to the generation of evidence to inform policy making', Evidence and Policy, vol. 6, no. 3, p. 391.

Hynie, M, Jensen, K, Johnny, M, Wedlock, J & Phipps, D 2011, 'Student internships bridge research to real world problems', Education and Training, vol. 53, no. 1, p. 45.

Lavis, J 2003, 'Measuring the impact of health research', Journal of Health Research Services and Policy, vol. 8, no. 3, p. 165.

Lavis, J, Lomas, J, Hamid, M & Sewankambo, N 2006, 'Assessing country-level efforts to link research to action', Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 84, p. 620, viewed 29 January 2011,

Lerner, R & Simon, L 1998, University-community collaborations for the 21st century: Outreach scholarship for youth and families, Garland Publishing, New York.

Lomas, J 2007, 'The in-between world of knowledge brokering', British Medical Journal, vol. 334, no. 7585, p. 129.

Minkler, M & Wallerstein, N 2003, Community-based participatory research for health, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Phipps, D 2010, 'The knowledge mobilization ecosystem', blog, York University, Toronto, viewed 29 January 2011,

Phipps, D, Johnny, M & Zanotti, D 2009, 'Lessons learned from knowledge mobilisation: Turning research into action', Research Global, vol. 22, p. 20.

Phipps, D & Shapson, S 2009, 'Knowledge mobilisation builds local research collaborations for social innovation', Evidence & Policy, vol. 5, no. 3, p. 211.

PricewaterhouseCoopers 2007, Assessing the gap, report, Markham, Ontario, viewed 5 September 2010,

United Way of York Region 2010, Addressing our strengths, report, United Way of York Region, Markham, Ontario, viewed 6 September 2010,

Ward, V, House, A & Hamer, S 2009, 'Knowledge brokering: The missing link in the evidence to action chain', Evidence and Policy, vol. 5, no. 3, p. 267.

York University 2010, 'York responds to the knowledge mobilization evaluation', blog, York University, Toronto, viewed 29 January 20011,