Knowledge Mobilization, Collaboration, and Social Innovation: Leveraging Investments in Higher Education


  • Naomi Nichols York University
  • David Phipps York University
  • Johanne Provencal York University
  • Allyson Hewitt MaRS



Social innovation, Knowledge mobilization, Community-academic collaboration, Research, Development / Innovation sociale, Mobilisation du savoir, Collaboration communautaire/académique, Recherche, Développement



This article is a qualitative literature synthesis in the areas of community-campus collaborations, knowledge mobilization and social innovation. The article aims to be useful to people who work in academic settings, community organizations, public institutions, and government. The authors utilized a purposive sampling methodology to explore the following questions: 1. How can university-based knowledge mobilization leverage investments in higher education research and development (R&D) through community-campus collaboration and social innovation? 2. What is the role of university-wide knowledge mobilization projects in supporting community-campus connections and ultimately social innovation strategies that contribute to the public good? Our review indicates considerable interplay between community-campus collaborations, knowledge mobilization and social innovation given that knowledge mobilization facilitates – and is facilitated by – collaboration. With sufficient knowledge mobilization, community-campus collaborations stimulate social innovation. The article concludes with recommendations based on our review of the literature.


Cet article se fonde sur une synthèse littéraire qualitative portant sur les collaborations communautaires/académiques, la mobilisation du savoir et l’innovation sociale. Il se veut utile pour toute personne travaillant dans un milieu académique, un organisme communautaire ou une institution publique. Les auteurs ont recours à une méthode d’échantillonnage raisonné pour répondre aux questions suivantes : 1. Comment la mobilisation du savoir universitaire – au moyen de la collaboration communautaire/académique et de l’innovation sociale – peut-elle faire augmenter les investissements en recherche et développement dans l’enseignement supérieur? 2. Comment les projets de mobilisation du savoir universitaire peuvent-ils resserrer les liens entre campus et communauté et, en fin de compte, appuyer des stratégies d’innovation sociale qui contribuent au bien commun? Notre évaluation indique qu’il y a beaucoup d’influences réciproques entre les collaborations communautaires/académiques, la mobilisation du savoir et l’innovation sociale, surtout que la mobilisation du savoir facilite la collaboration et vice versa. En effet, avec une mobilisation du savoir suffisante, les collaborations communautaires/académiques stimulent l’innovation sociale. Cet article se termine par des recommandations provenant de notre analyse documentaire.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Naomi Nichols, York University

Research Associate,

York University and

Applied Scientist,

The Hospital for Sick Children , AboutKidsHealth

David Phipps, York University

Director, Research Services & Knowledge Exchange,
York University

Johanne Provencal, York University

Research Associate

Allyson Hewitt, MaRS

Director, Social Entrepreneurship, Director, SiG@MaRS, MaRS


Agrawal, A. (2001). University-to-industry knowledge transfer: Literature review and unanswered questions. International Journal of Management Review 3(4), 285-302.

Amsden, J. & VanWynsberghe, R. (2005). Community mapping as a research tool with youth. Action Research 3(4), 357–381.

Ahmed, S. & Palemo, A. (2010). Community engagement in research: Framework for education and peer review. American Journal of Public Health, 100(8), 1380-1389.

Andrew, C. & Klein, J‐L. (2010). Social Innovation: What is it and why is it important to understand it better. Centre de recherche sur les innovations socials (Crises).

Arskey, Hilary & O’Malley, Lisa. (2005). Scoping Studies: Towards a Methodological Framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8(1), 19-32.

Austin, J., Stevenson, H., Wei‐Skillern, J. (2006). Social and commercial entrepreneurship: Same, different, or both? Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 30(1), 1‐22.

Austin, D. (2003). Community-based collaborative team ethnography: A community-university-agency partnership. Human Organization, 62(2), 143-153.

Bennet, A. & Bennet, D. (2008). Knowledge Mobilization in the Social Sciences and Humanities: Moving from research to action. Frost, WV: MQI Press.

Best, A. & Holmes, B. (2010). Systems thinking, knowledge and action: towards better models and methods, Evidence & Policy 6(2), 145-159

Bielefeld, W. (2006). Issues in social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. Journal of Public Affairs Education 15(1), 69‐86.

Biggs, R., Westley, F.R., Carpenter, S.R. (2010). Navigating the back loop: Fostering social innovation and transformation in ecosystem management. Ecology and Society 15(2), 9.

Bowen, S. & Martens, P. (2005). Demystifying knowledge translation: learning from the community. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy 10(4), 203-211.

Bouchard, M. (2004). “Un exemple de service collectif innovant: le logement communitaire au Québec” in D. Demoustier. Économie sociale et développement local. Paris: L’Harmattan, pp. 103-106.

Bullinger, H-J. (2006): Verdammt zur Innovation. RKW-Magazin 57 (1), 12-14.

Burke, J., O’Campo, P., Peak, G., Gielen, A., McDonell, K., Trochim, W. (2005). An introduction to concept mapping as a participatory public health research method. Qualitative Health Research: 15(10), 1392-1410.

Campbell, E. & Lassiter, L. (2010). From collaborative ethnography to collaborative pedagogy: Reflections on the other side of Middletown Project and community-university research partnerships. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 41(4), 370-385.

Carlson, E., Engebretson, J., & Chamberlain, R. (2006). Photovoice as a social process of critical consciousness. Qualitative Health Research 16(6), 836-852.

Carlton, E., Whiting, Jason B., Bradford, K., Hyjer Dyk, P. & Vail, A. (2009). Defining factors of successful university-community collaborations: An exploration of one healthy marriage project. Family Relations 58, 28-40.

Cherry, D. & Shefner, J. (2004). Addressing barriers to university-community collaboration: Organizing by experts or organizing the experts? Journal of Community Practice 12(3/4), 219-233.

Choi, J.N. (2003). How does context influence individual behavior? Multilevel assessment of the implementation of social innovations. Prevention & Treatment 6(23).

Cooper, A. & Levin, B. (2010). Some Canadian contributions to understanding knowledge mobilization. Evidence and Policy, 6(3), 351-369.

Dahrendorf, R. (2009). Nach der Krise: Zuruck zur protestantischen Ethik? Sechs Anmerkungen. Merkur Deutsche Zeitschrift fur europäisches Denken, 63 (720), 373-381.

Davies, H., Nutley, S., & Walter, I. (2005). Assessing the impact of social science research: conceptual methodological and practical issues. A background discussion paper for the ESRC Symposium on Assessing Non-Academic Impact of Research. School of Management, University of St. Andrews (

Dhesi, A.S. (2010). Diaspora, social entrepreneurs and community development. International Journal of Social Economics 37(9), 703‐716.

Eckerle Curwood, S., Munger, F., Mitchell, T., MacKeigan, M., & Farrar, A. (2011). Building effective community-university partnerships: Are universities truly ready? Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, 1-13.

Emschoff, J., Darnell, A., Darnell, D., Erickson, S., Schneider, S. & Hudgins, R. (2007). Systems change as an outcome and a process in the work of community collaboratives for health. American Journal of Community Psychology 39, 255-267.

Fairweather, G. & Davidson, W. (1986). Community experimentation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Flicker, S. & Savan, B. (2006). A snapshot of CBR in Canada. Wellesley Institute.

Flicker, S., Travers, R., Guta, A., McDonald, S. & Meagher, A. (2007). Ethical dilemmas in community-based participatory research: Recommendations for institutional review boards. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 84(4), 478-493.

Gardner, C., Acharya, T. &Yach, D. (2007). Technological and social innovation: A unifying new paradigm for global health. Health Affairs 26(4), 1052‐1061.

Goldenberg, M., Kamoji, W., Orton, L. and Williamson, M. (2009). Social innovation in Canada: An update. CPRN Research Report.

Goldstein, J., Hazy, J., Silberstang, J. (2010). Complexity science model of social innovation in social enterprise. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship 1(1), 101‐125.

Ward, V., House, A. & Hamer, S. (2009). Knowledge brokering: The missing link in the evidence to action chain. Evidence & Policy 5(3), 267-279.

Hart, A. & Northmore, S. (2011). Auditing and evaluating university-community engagement: Lessons from a UK case study. Higher Education Quarterly 65(1), 34-58.

Hazel, K.L. & Onaga, E. (2003). Experimental social innovation and dissemination: The promise and its delivery. American Journal of Community Psychology 32(3/4), 285‐294.

Henderson, J., MacKay, S. & Peterson-Badali, M. (2010). Interdisciplinary knowledge translation: Lessons learned from a mental health fire service collaboration. American Journal of Community Psychology 46, 277-288.

Howaldt, J. & Schwarz, M. (2010). Social innovation: Concepts, research fields and international trends. IMO.

Hynie, M., Jensen, K., Johnny, M., Wedlock, J. & Phipps, D. (2011). Student learning from community engaged graduate internships. Education and Training 53(1), 45-56.

Isreal, B., Schultz, A., Parker, E. & Becker, A. (1998). Review of community-based research: Assessing partnership approaches to improve public health. Annual Review of Public Health 19, 173-202.

Kania. J. & Kramer, M. (2001). Collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved April 28, 2012, from:

Kerlin, J. (2006). Social enterprise in the United States and Europe: Understanding and learning from the differences. Voluntas 17, 247‐263.

Kerr, J. (2007). Sustainability meets profitability: The convenient truth of how the business judgment rule protects a board’s decision to engage in social entrepreneurship. Cardozo Law Review 29(2), 623-669.

Kesselring, A. & Leitner, M. (2008). Soziale Innovationen in Unternehmen. Study compiled by order of the Unruhe Stiftung, Vienna.

Klein, J.L., Fontan, J.M., & Tremblay, D.G. (2009). Social entrepreneurs, local initiatives and social economy: Foundations for a socially innovative strategy to fight against poverty and exclusion. Canadian Journal of Regional Science 32(1), 23‐42.

Klerkx, L. & Gildemacher, P. (2012) The Role of Innovation Brokers in Agricultural Innovation Systems. Pp. 221- 230 in Agricultural Innovation Systems, An Investment Source Book, Washington DC: The World Bank.

Knowledge Mobilization Works. (2010). Social innovation and social entrepreneurship environmental scan. What Works? A report prepared for York University and the United Way of York Region.

Koné, A., Sullivan, M., Senturia, K., Chrisman, N., Ciske, S. & Krieger, J. (2000). Improving collaboration between researchers and communities. Public Health Reports 115(2/3), 243-248.

Kovach, M. (2005). Emerging from the margins: Indigenous methodologies. In Leslie Brown & Susan Strega (Eds.), Research as Resistance: Critical, indigenous, and anti-oppressive approaches, pp. 19-36.

Lantz, P., Viruell-Fuentes, E., Isreal, B., Softley, D. & Guzman, R. (2001). Can communities and academia work together on public health research? Evaluation results from a community-based participatory research partnership in Detroit. Journal of Urban Health 78(3), 495-507.

Lavis J., Woodside, J., McLeod, C. & Abelson, J. (2003). How can research organizations more effectively transfer research knowledge to decision makers? The Milbank Quarterly 81, 221-248.

Lock, I. (2001). Summary report of proceedings: strategic alliance: seeking common ground. Canadian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

Lomas, J. (2007). The in-between world of knowledge brokering.” British Medical Journal 334(7585),129-32.

London, J., Zagofsky, T., Huang, G. & Saklar, J. (2011). Collaboration, participation, and technology: The San Joaquin Valley Cumulative Health Impacts Project. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement 4, 12-30.

Leadbeater, C. (2007). Social enterprises and social innovation: strategies for the next ten years. A social enterprise think piece for the Cabinet Office of the Third Sector.

Lowe, P. & Philipson, J. (2009). Barriers to research collaboration across disciplines: Scientific paradigms and institutional practises. Environment and Planning 41, 1171-1184.

Molas-Gallart, J. & Tang, P. (2011). Tracing ‘productive interactions’ to identify social impacts: an example from the social sciences. Research Evaluation, 20(3), 219-226.

Morelli, N. (2007). Social innovation and new industrial contexts: Can designers “Industrialize” social responsible solutions? Design Issues 23(4), 3‐21.

Morton, S. & Nutley, S. (2011). What happens next? Getting research into policy and practice. In Jamieson, L. Simpson, R. and Lewis, R. (Eds). Researching Families and Relationships. London, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

Moulaert, F. & Ailenei, O. (2005). Social economy, third sector and solidarity relations: A conceptual synthesis from history to present. Urban Studies 42(11), 2037‐2053.

Mulgan, G., Tucker, S., Ali, R. & Sanders, B. (2007). Social innovation: What it is, why it matters and how it can be accelerated. Oxford University.

Murray, R., Mulgan, G., Caulier‐Grice, J. (2008). How to innovate: The tools for social innovation. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from:

Nichols, N., Gaetz, S. and Dyck, M. (forthcoming). Both sides now: The social organisation of community-academic collaboration. In L. Bisaillon (Ed.), The Impact of Policy on Everyday Life: The Policy Stories That People Tell. Springer.

Nichols, N., Phipps, D., Gaetz, S., Fisher, A., & Tanguay, N. (submitted). Revealing the Complexity of Community-Academic Collaboration. Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

Nichols, N. (Forthcoming) “All my life I’ve slipped through the cracks:” The Social Coordination of “Youth Work.” Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Nichols, N. (2010). Learning across the borders of community and academy. Pedagogies 5(4). 313-324.

Northmore, S. and Hart, A. (2011). Sustaining community-university partnerships. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement 4: 1-11.

Nutley, S., Walter, I. & Davies, H. (2007). Using Evidence: How research can inform public services. Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.

Osborne, S. & Brown, L. (2009). Innovation, public policy and public services delivery in the UK. The word that would be king? Public Administration 89(4) 1335-1350.

Office of Community-Based Research, University of Victoria and Community Based Research Canada. (2009). The funding and development of community university research partnerships in Canada: Evidence-based investment in knowledge, engaged scholarship, innovation and action for Canada’s future.

Pearce, J., Pearson, M., with Cameron, Sam. (n.d.) The ivory tower and beyond: Bradford University at the heart of its communities. The Bradford University REAP Approach to Measuring and Evaluating Community Engagement. Retrieved February 14, 2012 from

Pearlman, S. & Bilodeau, R. (1999). Academic-community collaboration in teen pregnancy prevention: New roles for professional psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 30(1), 92-98.

Phipps, D. (In press). A report detailing the development of a university-based knowledge mobilization unit that enhances research outreach and engagement. Scholarly Research and Communications.

Phipps, D. & Shapson, S. (2009). Knowledge mobilization builds local research collaborations for social innovation. Evidence & Policy 5(3), 211-227.

Phipps, D. (In press). A report detailing the development of a university-based knowledge mobilization unit that enhances research outreach and engagement. Scholarly Research and Communications.

Phipps, D. & Zanotti, D. (2011). It’s the basement stories, not the belt. Lessons from a community-university knowledge mobilisation collaboration. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement 4, 203-214.

Phipps, D., Zanotti, D. & Johnny, M. (2009). Lessons learned from knowledge mobilization: turning research into action. Research Global 22, 20-23.

Phipps, D., Jensen, K. & Myers, J. (2012) Applying social sciences research for public benefit using knowledge mobilization and social media. In Social Sciences and Humanities - Applications and Theories / Book 1. Ed. Lopez-Varela, M. forthcoming from In Tech.

Prahalad, C. & Krishnan, M. (2008).The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value through Global Networks. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Quarter, J., Mook, L., & Armstrong, A. (2009). Understanding the Social Economy: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Restler, S. & Woolis, D. (2007). Actors and factors: Virtual communities for social innovation. The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management 5(1), 89‐96.

Research Triangle Park, International – University of North Carolina. (2004). Community-based Participatory Research: Assessing the Evidence. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment, 99. Prepared for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Rickinson, M., Sebba, J. & Edwards, A. (2011). Improving Research through User Engagement. London & New York: Routledge.

Roche, B. (2008). New Directions in Community-Based Research. The Wellesley Institute.

Sakamoto, I., Khandor, E., Chapra, A., Hendrickson, T., Maher, J., Roche, B. & Chin, M. (2008). Homelessness – Diverse Voice, Common Experiences, Shared Solutions: The Need for Inclusion and Accountability. Toronto, ON: Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.

Serrat, O. (2010). Sparking Social Innovations. Knowledge Solutions 79, 1‐8.

Schwab, K. & Hartigan, P. (2007). Social Innovators with a Business Case: Facing 21st Century Challenges one Market at a Time. Innovations Journal, Fall, 7‐12.

Smith, D. (2003). Research collaboration with community organizations: A case example. Families in Society, 84(1), 75-79.

Spaapen, J. & van Drooge, L. (2011). Introducing ‘productive interactions’ in social impact assessment. Research Evaluation, 20(3), 211-218.

Strauss, S., Tetroe, J. & Graham, I. (2009). Knowledge Translation in Health Care: moving from evidence to practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Sud, M., VanSandt, C. & Baugous, . (2009). Social entrepreneurship: The role of institutions. Journal of Business Ethics 85, 201‐216.

Suri, Harsh. (2011). Purposeful sampling in qualitative research synthesis. Qualitative Research Journal 11(2), 63-75.

Urban, B. (2008). Social entrepreneurship in South Africa delineating the construct with associated skills. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research 14(5), 346‐364.

Walter, I., Nutley, S., & Davies, H. (2003). Research Impact: A Cross Sector Review. Research Unit for Research Utilization, part of the ESRC Network for Evidence Based Policy and Practice.

Waddock, S. & Post, J. (1991). Social entrepreneurs and catalytic change. Public Administration Review 51(5), 393-401.

Weerts, D.J. & Sandmann, LR. (2010) Community Engagement and Boundary-Spanning Roles at Universities. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(6), 702-727.

Wilson, A. (2009). Social Entrepreneurship. School of Social Entrepreneurship, London.

Wright, K., Wright, S., Williams, P., Lieber, E., Carrasco, S. and Gedjeyan, H. (2011). Ties that bind: Creating and sustaining community-academic partnerships. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement 4, 83-90.

Vazquez Jacobus, Michelle, Baskett, Robert & Bechstein, Christina. (2011). Building Castles Together: A sustainable collaboration as a perpetual work-in-progress. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 4, pp. 65-82.

Zadek, S. & Thake, S. (1997, June 20). Send in the social entrepreneurs. New Statesman, 26, 31.