A game developed in a knowledge mobilization (KMb) class could become a real tool for bridging discussions and building partnerships with the next generation of knowledge brokers.
The students who developed the game were aiming to better inform themselves about the growing field of KMb when they took on the project for Geri Briggs, co-manager of Carleton’s Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) initiative.
Anthony Maki, Alex Maisonneuve, Elena Milicevic and Bojana Bogeljic, all master’s students in the Health: Science, Technology and Policy program, invented the initial board game last winter when they were required to choose a KMb technique for a final project.
The group set themselves up at the Ministry of Coffee on Elgin Street, installed the game-in-progress on a pedestal table and worked on refining the play.
“In research,” explains Maki, who completed his undergraduate degree in psychology, with a minor in neuroscience and mental health, “you often publish and then throw it on the shelf. It accumulates in the Ivory Tower and no one uses it. The underlying theme of this game is to build bridges from knowledge to actions and make players think outside the box. In developing the game, we got to work with people from psychology, biology, health sciences and sociology in a collaborative environment.”
Maki and Maisonneuve further refined the game over the summer and presented it at a KMb forum in Saskatoon in June.
The object of play is to dismantle the Ivory Tower (built out of Connex game pieces) by answering questions about KMb, uncover the knowledge hidden beneath and build a bridge across the board to an “action space” in the centre.
The game’s “action cards” move players forward or, perhaps, backwards on the board if it informs you that your research team failed to consult your community organization, for example. A “scenario card” might present you with a challenge to understand who the stakeholders are in a circumstance that requires mobilizing knowledge in a particular field.
Players can dismantle each other’s bridges to rebuild their opponents’ towers, but can also interact with each other, and contribute to the conversation, making it a shared learning experience.
Maki and Maisonneuve were hired last March by Briggs to work as research assistants for CFICE’s KMb research hub, which is co-led by the Canadian Alliance for Community-Service Learning. This hub – one of five in the CFICE project – focuses on improving the application and relevance of research in the social sciences and the humanities.
Cathy Edwards, research facilitator for institutional initiatives and an advisor to CFICE, finds the students’ board game project exciting.
“It brings together the heart of the Strategic Integrated Plan for the university,” says Edwards, who has been providing guidance and advice to the students regarding further development, management of intellectual property and a target audience.
“Community is the heart of the plan and this element is richly rooted in the three pillars of academia: teaching and learning, research and service. It requires and benefits from integration and co-operation between all aspects of the university itself.
“The game,” Edwards continues, “which started as a class assignment, exemplifies this in a tangible way.”
When Maki and Maisonneuve showed an interest in exploring the potential of what they helped create, Dinesh Kakadia, manager of industry partnership relations, came on board to work with the budding entrepreneurs.
“At the end of the day,” says Maki, “we created a physical product that has the potential to be beneficial to students, researchers, employers and employees. The best case scenario is the game gets commercialized and benefits people in their future career endeavours. While it is designed for newcomers to the knowledge mobilization field, it targets anybody who wants to enhance their organization and can be adapted to other disciplines.”
Quite serendipitously, the game has brought together aspects of the university community that traditionally would not have intersected.
“Because the program required a KMb component that was taught by one of the community leads on the CFICE project,” explains Edwards, “I was exposed to the game. This is the beauty of KMb. At its roots, it is about sharing and exchange of knowledge.”