SFU-led projects, Make a difference for BC

Knowledge Mobilizers: Creating meaningful change through community partnerships

November 30, 2023

A cornerstone of good knowledge mobilization is engaging communities throughout the research process in a reciprocal and ongoing partnership.

As Canada’s leading engaged university, it is no surprise that Simon Fraser University (SFU) researchers are fostering and growing strong research partnerships with communities.

One exemplar partnership is with South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH). I sat down with Meridith Sones, SFU Health Sciences doctoral student and manager of knowledge mobilization for Interventions, Research, and Action in Cities Team, Liza Bautista, neighbourhood equity and representation manager at SVNH, and Mimi Rennie, executive director of SVNH, to hear about their partnership with SFU and the positive impact it’s had on their organization and the greater South Vancouver community.

It all started with the neighbourhood inequities project, a collaboration between SVNH and SFU’s Meg Holden, a professor in Urban Studies and Resource and Environmental Management. They systematically identified inequities in community resources and funding between Vancouver neighbourhoods, which provided SVNH substantial data and knowledge mobilization outputs.

A series of further projects between SVNH and SFU researchers built on this foundation exploring how social infrastructure inequities are impacting groups often underrepresented in city planning.

One such project, the Reframing South Vancouver Initiative was developed by SVNH with funding from the Vancouver Foundation to build community connections and strengthen community voices in planning and decision making for the community. Funding for this initiative supported new staff positions to engage in this work and other community-engaged research such as Youth.hood.

Youth.hood, led by Sones in partnership with SVNH, looked at how community design impacts social connectedness for youth (15-19) living in South Vancouver to contextualize the neighbourhod inequities data. The project engaged youth as community scientists, creating space and opportunity for them to identify neighbourhood assets and barriers to their connection and engagement, and voice solutions for neighbourhood improvement to residents, city staff and elected officials.

“I do want to commend SFU because of the relationship,” says Rennie. “Meridith, for example, was really invested in this, it was so felt. The commitment to carry through—it felt like you [Sones and all the SFU collaborators] all lived in South Vancouver as well. It is about the relationship we have. It fits so well with the Neighbourhood House, relationship and partnership is what community is.”

Beyond the projects, SFU and SVNH engaged in capacity building activities, including mobilizing knowledge through workshops such as learning how to visualize data using Google My Maps with SFU geographic information systems librarian Sarah Zhang and Jaimy Fischer, a health sciences graduate student.

SFU and SVNH actively mobilized this work with City of Vancouver staff and council. Recently, a City of Vancouver councillor successfully put forward a member's motion, based on this work, for addressing ongoing inequities by improving social infrastructure and access to services across South Vancouver and Marpole neighbourhoods.

Are you interested in learning more about knowledge mobilization? Join us for MobilizeU at SFU starting January 2024.

Have specific knowledge mobilization questions? Get in touch with Lupin Battersby lupin_battersby@sfu.ca for a consultation.