Knowledge Mobilizers: Creating impactful mental health supports through community engagement

January 27, 2022

Knowledge Mobilizers is a story series from the Knowledge Mobilization Hub that highlights knowledge mobilization (KM) projects around the university. At SFU, KM is about collaborating on, and exchanging, research discoveries to create a positive impact in our far-reaching communities.

This past fall, I had the pleasure of speaking with professor Masahiro Minami from Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education about the impact implementation science has had on mobilizing his clinical counseling and mental health services-research work in Rwanda.

Implementation science is the study of methods that promote the systematic uptake of evidence-informed interventions into practice to help improve health services and care. Minami describes implementation science as “starting in the opposite direction” of typical research.

Minami begins by connecting deeply with the community he’s working with to identify the problem or issue, then leverages his clinical experience to begin formulating solutions, and finally he explores empirical evidence to refine and inform the intervention, which is then brought back to the community to review and test.

Minami explains that this approach to implementation science is important because “some problems can’t wait.”

Masahiro Minami learned about a forgiveness-based approach to reconciliation from a non-governmental organization in Rwanda as part of their efforts toward recovery from the 1994 genocide.

Finding mobilization success through implementation science in Rwanda

Minami was inspired by his clinical counselling practice clients who had experienced trauma, and their resilience.  He was curious if this was observed in other contexts. He visited a number of post-conflict zones around the world to meet and connect and listen to peoples’ experiences.

Through these conversations, he learned about a forgiveness-based approach to reconciliation that a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Rwanda was providing as part of their efforts towards recovery from the 1994 genocide.

The approach required the perpetrator to seek forgiveness from the survivor. In practice, this meant the survivor needed to forgive. Minami observed that this was difficult for survivors so he explored alternative approaches towards reconciliation.

Working closely with the NGO and community members, Minami developed an alternative program called, Action-Based Psychosocial Reconciliation. The program’s development process included integrating literature, clinical experience, and the lived experience of the community and partners. The program was tested with a small group of participants.

Now Minami is running a feasibility and acceptability testing study in preparation for a large-scale hybrid-design implementation-evaluation study. In the meantime, a number of communities have adopted and are benefitting from the program.

Do you want to learn more about implementation science and knowledge mobilization? Be sure to follow Lupin Battersby, knowledge mobilization officer, on Twitter where she shares the latest news, events, jobs, and publications on these and related topics, and sign up for the SFU Knowledge Mobilization Hub newsletter.