Researching knowledge brokering in diverse sectors: issues, challenges and works-in-progress

After a hiatus since our last RURU event, around 30 invited guests came together on Monday 14th January to explore the topic of knowledge brokering in diverse sectors.

After a warm welcome to a typically sunny St Andrews from co-director Huw Davies, the scene and agenda for the day was set by (newly arrived) RURU co-director Vicky Ward who introduced three themes for discussion: assumptions about knowledge brokering, models and frameworks of knowledge brokering and persistent issues in knowledge brokering.


To begin to flush out some of our assumptions and experiences, we each shared one word that came to mind when thinking about knowledge brokering. This prompted an interesting and diverse range of words!

Thanks to our newly-launched Twitter account, we were also able to reach to those beyond the room to get some of their responses.



We were then treated to three diverse presentations on knowledge brokering. Two were from our invited speakers, but due to illness the third slot was filled by our very own Vicky Ward.

  • Ioan Fazey from the University of Dundee focused on how knowledge brokering can support knowledge co-production with local communities as they seek to respond to climate change. See his powerpoint presentation here.
  • Vicky Ward from the University of St Andrews invited us to move beyond knowledge broker competencies and skills to the bigger picture of whose, what, how and why knowledge is being brokered. See her powerpoint presentation here.
  • After lunch Justin Waring from the University of Nottingham focused on knowledge brokering chains –  implicit teams of people with different skills, social expertise and legitimacies. See his powerpoint presentation here.

Amongst the presentations a discussion started to emerge about knowledge brokering as a metaphor, which included developing a whole host of other meaningful phrases and metaphors. This was a useful way of teasing out some of our assumptions and starting to consider the differences between knowledge brokering and other types of activities.

Further group discussion continued into the afternoon, focusing on our three themes. We began to question and challenge many of our own assumptions as well as those in the literature. These assumptions included that knowledge brokering is a helpful metaphor, knowledge brokers need to be independent, knowledge brokers are individuals, conflict is disruptive and unproductive and that prior to knowledge brokering practice is not informed by knowledge/evidence.

We also identified a range of models and frameworks that may be useful in thinking about (and doing) knowledge brokering. From the literature these included diffusion of innovation models, facilitation models, organisational learning models, individual learning models, political and conflict models and knowledge regime models. Fairly typically, however, we also began to question these and whether such models and frameworks were helpful when it came to the practice of knowledge brokering.

Persistent issues in relation to knowledge brokering (and therefore areas for further work) included how brokering can facilitate and support unlearning, the underlying (and often unspoken) assumptions and motivations of different actors in the knowledge-practice space, the management of power differentials and how knowledge brokering collectives emerge over time.

Feedback was typically warm and appreciative including:

Thanks for yesterday – it was really fun. As always – lovely people, open and deep discussions and of course led and facilitated by amazing people!

Many thanks for organising a fantastically stimulating day, and inviting to share our work on knowledge brokering. The day sparked lots of ideas and helped progress our own work.

There’s a terrific sense of community that develops on these days. Focusing on well-defined discussion topics, circulating us round and using the speaker to stimulate discussion without diverting us into Q&A is a very good method. Giving priority to the discussion element and taking the outputs of discussion seriously makes people really engage, and listen to one another. It works – but it’s unfortunately quite rare!