Simulation as a tool for developing knowledge mobilisation strategies: Innovative knowledge transfer in youth services

Main Article Content

Michael Ungar
Shelly Whitman
Angie Hart
David Phipps


While there are excellent models of knowledge mobilisation (KMb) that address the opportunity for co-production and sharing of best practice knowledge among human service professionals, it remains unclear whether these models will work in less formal settings like community-based non-government organisations (NGOs) where there are fewer resources for KMb. For three days, 65 policy-makers, senior staff of NGOs, mental health professionals, KMb specialists and youth participated in a set of simulation exercises to problem solve how to mobilise knowledge in less formal settings that provide services to children and youth in challenging contexts (CYCC). Based on simulation exercises used in other settings (such as the deployment of international aid workers), participants were first provided with reports synthesising best practice knowledge relevant to their workplaces. They then engaged in an appreciative inquiry process, and were finally tasked with developing innovative strategies for KMb. Observation notes and exit interviews were used to evaluate the process and assess impact. Findings related to the process of the simulation exercises show the technique of simulation to be useful but that it requires effort to keep participants focused on the task of KMb rather than the content of best practices within a focal population. With regard to developing innovative KMb strategies, findings suggest that service providers in less formal community-based services prefer KMb activities that promote one-to-one relationships, including the participation of youth themselves, who can speak to the effectiveness of the interventions they have experienced. Unexpectedly, the use of electronic communication, including social media, was not viewed very positively by participants. These results suggest that the use of simulation to search for innovative KMb strategies and to problem solve around barriers to KMb has the potential to inform new ways of co-producing and sharing best practice knowledge among human service providers.

Keywords: simulation, knowledge mobilisation, high-risk youth, community-based mental health, knowledge brokers, barriers to knowledge exchange

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biographies

Michael Ungar, Dalhousie University CYCC Network

Professor School of Social Work

Shelly Whitman, Director, Child Soldiers Initiative

Deputy Director, Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University

Angie Hart, University of Brighton Nursing and Midwifery

Academic Director, Community University Partnership Programme (CUPP) Prof of Child, Family & Community Health, Faculty of Health and Social Science

David Phipps, York University

Director, Research Services & Knowledge Exchange