Knowledge Specialists as connectors

Published on 08 November 2021, by Alison Day & Nicki Forgham-Healey

Mobilising evidence and knowledge

Knowledge mobilisation consists of connections. 

It is about ensuring healthcare organisations, services and systems are effectively connected to use evidence, learning, knowledge and ‘know-how’ to enable evidence-based policy and practice.  Evidence comes in many different forms – evidence from published peer-reviewed research papers, grey literature, data sets, statistics and organisational knowledge in the form of policies, manuals, procedures.  Healthcare workers need to be connected to these sources of evidence and knowledge plus connected to other people who hold expert knowledge, ‘know-how’ and values.  The knowledge specialist role is therefore that of connector – saving healthcare staff time by connecting them to the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time and in the right place enabling effective use of a full range of knowledge and evidence to inform decisions for better care.

How to be a good connector? 

If you go back to first principles of librarianship as outlined by Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Sciencei librarians and knowledge specialists have the perfect skill set to act as connectors.   

Ranganathan’s first law is fundamental “Books are for use” and the most critical aspect of knowledge mobilisation is the use of evidence and knowledge.  Sharing, gathering, compiling and curating knowledge are all important steps but connecting people to knowledge and encouraging the re-use of knowledge is what will make the difference to decision making ensuring that good practice is replicated, expanded and pitfalls avoided.  In 2019 B. Shadrach adapted these laws to suit the knowledge-based societyii.  He highlights that knowledge is for use in all forms and continues by explaining that “every human being is a knowledge resource today”(Shadrach, 2019 p 36).  

 Therefore, connecting people to people is as important as connecting people to evidence resources.  To help make good use of these connections there are a range of tools and techniques that you can use and some of these are described in the NHS Knowledge Mobilisation Framework e-learning and postcards.  For example, the After Action Review technique provides structure to connect people together for a facilitated conversation to discover lessons learned throughout a piece of work.   

The fourth law is about saving the time of all knowledge seekers.  As connectors the knowledge specialist role is about presenting knowledge at the right time and in a format that makes it “easily accessible, digestible and actionable” (Shadrach, 2019 p 36).  Within health we produce summaries of evidence and gather actionable insights from knowledge sharing activities taking the ‘heavy lifting’ out of getting evidence and knowledge into practice and giving the gift of timeiii to our healthcare colleagues. 

To regard the knowledge and library service as a growing organism, the fifth of Ranganthan’s laws, knowledge mobilisation should be seen as dynamic – ever shifting to meet the needs of not just individuals but also organisations.   

The knowledge specialist is agile in identifying knowledge needs, sourcing evidence and knowledge to meet those needs and converting this into knowledge that is easily accessible and digestible.  The Knowledge Mobilisation Self-Assessment Tool, launched on the 3rd November 2021, provides a straightforward tool to identify how well a team or organisation are using external evidence and organisational knowledge and provides an opportunity to work with knowledge specialists to develop opportunities to make better use of knowledge as an organisational asset. 

Building your own connections 

Why not use this November as the chance to build your own connections?  Networking is a key skill which we all need to develop but this needs regular practice. There is no magic formula to networking, it is about being curious about what other people do, talking to others and sharing experiences and ideas.  

Having a wide range of connections gives you the opportunity to have a vast array of knowledge at your fingertips. If you think about 6 degrees of separation, the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each otheriv, networking is a great way to build connections that in turn can help to provide a different viewpoint or solution to a challenge we are facing.  We are living in a very connected world, and it is now easier than ever to follow someone on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn - you may not ever have a conversation with them, but you can connect to see what they are up to and learn about them and their interests.  

The benefits of having a wide group of connections both within our own organisation and in the wider Knowledge and Library profession can help you in several surprising ways.  Here are a couple of examples from Nicki’s own practice: 

  • You can act as the “middleman”.  Knowledge and library services are spaces where connections happen, hubs of information and the people to contact when help or support are required.  I can recall a phone call asking about a particular issue that someone needed help with and although I did not know the answer myself, I was able to put them in touch with someone that did. It is important to remember that knowledge mobilisation can come in many forms – your knowledge as a specialist is highly regarded.  

  • Whilst working on a project, my colleague did not know enough about how to use MS Excel to develop reports. I knew of a data analyst who I connected with my colleague which resulted in developing a template to improve accurate reporting. 

  • Having information colleagues based in other sectors can be a huge benefit when you want to find out about how they have approached something like introducing a knowledge mobilisation technique like a Peer Assist.   

  • Asking questions on a social media platform can help you connect with a broader range of people and get a broader range of responses 

Sharing your own learning is also a key part of networking.  You may be uncertain about sharing your own reflections or knowledge, but you can guarantee someone will find it helpful to learn from how you approached something.  Think about how you can share your learning perhaps in a blog post, newsletter, podcast or more formal article.  You may find structuring your reflections around one of the knowledge mobilisation techniques such as the Retrospect helpful.   

Connecting top tips 

  • Within your organisation get involved and attend a wide range of events  

  • Attend committees or groups – this way you will have the opportunity to develop your skills along with meeting new people 

  • Shadow those working in different or similar roles to get an insight into their work 

  • Most importantly talk to people. I will admit that this can be scary at first, and it does take courage to go up and say hello. You can always find some common ground and these discussion areas may help: 

  • Discussing the event, meeting contents or a generalised topic 

  • At conferences and events approach a speaker that you have just listened to  

  • Channel the Queen – what do you do?  have you come far? 

  • And if all else fails - yes, you have guessed it the weather  

  • Follow people who are specialist in their field on social media, ask questions and respond if they ask you a question.  Don’t be shy in sharing your ideas.  

  • Take part or run a Randomised Coffee Trial so that you can chat to a new colleague 

You can start building your connections by taking up the #KNOWvember21 Challenge: 

  1. Connect with three new colleagues, this can be done via email, social media, you can always start with us 😊 

  1. Write up your reflections from what you have learnt over #KNOWvember21 and get these published perhaps in a newsletter, blog or journal. If you are worried about doing this on your own think about a joint article with a colleague 

Nicki Forgham-Healey @Nickiflh  

Alison Day @alisonday3 



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