“Creativity as Practice”: Three highlights from the 2015 Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum

“Creativity as Practice”: Three highlights from the 2015 Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum

Some may consider ‘The Arts’ and ‘Health Research’ to be strange bedfellows, but a clear take-home message from the 2015 Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum suggests otherwise. In fact, they are strong allies and if combined effectively may have huge impact. The Forum was full of inspiring examples that showcased this year’s theme: “Creativity as Practice: Mobilizing Diverse Ways of Thinking.” Below I highlight three of them, each based-in a different artistic discipline: video, theatre and dance.

I begin with the work of our team.

Mobilizing your message through documentary video: research findings as cinematic narrative

Callista Haggis, Joanie Sims-Gould, Heather McKay

The Forum is a fantastic and unique opportunity for knowledge mobilization practitioners (aka knowledge brokers and knowledge translation and exchange specialists and managers), to come together and share tools and strategies. Attendees’ disciplines ranged from mental health, to maternity care, to food security, to aging. As such, the focus of my 40-minute workshop was on the process of developing a research-evidence based documentary video as a knowledge mobilization tool. I did not focus on the specific aging and health content of “I’d Rather Stay” (read about how the content was received in this blog: “I’d Rather Stay” on the film fest circuit: reaching an international public).

My workshop goals were to; (i) equip attendees with the basic knowledge they require to lead their own video-making process, regardless of their discipline, and (ii) challenge them to make ‘knowledge mobilization tools’ that are emotionally and visually compelling. I also wanted to highlight how ‘beginning with the end in mind’ is central to a successful stakeholder-engaged dissemination strategy.

An attendee shared with me that she and the two people sitting beside her attended the session out of curiosity, but left motivated to lead their own video development process. They indeed learned how research-evidence informed documentary video can be a powerful and practical way to communicate content. That, for me, is a very positive outcome.

Exploring critical intersections between research and performance in transforming dementia care

Pia Kontos, Christine Jonas-Simpson, Sherry Dupuis, Julia Gray, and Gail Mitchell

Cracked: New Light on Dementia is a dramatic performance (drama) that disrupts stereotypes about dementia through its complex and humanized portrayal of the condition. Dr. Pia Kontos focused her presentation on the intent and development of “Cracked”. Directly informed by people living with dementia and their families, the drama was based on the lived experiences of individuals, families, and care providers. She also explained how academic researchers, health practitioners, playwrights and actors worked together rigorously and creatively.

A central motivation for the project was to respond to dominant narratives about dementia that are often reductionist and largely negative. Thus, the team created a counter-narrative to educate and provoke discussion. They also gathered data on audiences’ responses to the drama, to learn more about its educational strengths and limitations. 

During her presentation, Kontos’ shared clips from the play to show its emotional impact.  The three short clips demonstrated how through humour, sadness, and levity, “Cracked” captures audiences and invites them to reconsider the meaning and experiences of dementia. They also show hot the drama provides commentary of the significance and practical application of ‘ethical delivery of care.’

Overall, Kontos’ presentation effectively showcased how artists and social/health science scholars can work together to deepen understandings, build relational communities, and promote social justice, to envision a new culture of dementia care.

When asked about the next steps for the project, Pia responded “We are currently exploring how health care practitioners in long-term care homes are engaging with the drama, and if successful with a grant submission, we will also be exploring the effectiveness of “Cracked” in conveying the principles of person-centred and relational care to family care partners and staff working in home health and support services and adult day program. We are also fundraising to support a Canadian tour of the play.”

Watch trailer here:

Pia Kontos is a Senior Scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute - University Health Network and Associate Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Community on campus: what is an ‘Engaged Practitioner in Residence’?

Caroline Duvieusart-Dery and Georgia Simms

Positioning itself as an institutional leader in knowledge mobilization, the University of Guelph had strong representation at The Forum. Caroline Duvieusart-Dery and Georgia Simms co-presented one particularly innovative initiative based out of Guelph’s Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI). Specifically, a pilot program that supports an arts-based ‘Engaged Practitioner in Residence’ to work with academics towards a mutually identified goal.

Dance is the artistic-medium in the pilot program’s first iteration. And Georgia, a professionally trained dancer, is the Practitioner.

Creative Director of IMAGEO artworks, Georgia has a proven track record of using dance to provoke thought and conversation around complex subject matter. As one example, she led Water Moves, a dance production centered on education and awareness of the significance of water in our lives.

Currently, Georgia and Caroline (Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator at CESI) are at the very early stages of program development. They explained they foresee that some projects may use choreography in private settings to work through internal issues and build relationships (i.e. animate joys and frustrations of interdisciplinary group work), whereas other projects may aim to creatively communicate findings to a broader public.

Georgia described how she uses techniques that are accessible for even the most rhythmically challenged scholar; a welcoming non-judgmental environment is key. She also pointed out that not everyone she works with will have to dance—they may instead co-produce and/or direct. The power of these methods lies in the custom design of the experience to suit the context.

A main goal is to use dance-based methods and, more generally, arts-based approaches to mobilize knowledge and build capacity for community engaged scholarship. Caroline is optimistic about this new program model. She stated, “I can already see how Georgia’s presence at the University is encouraging students and researchers to expand their creative potential, and think about how they can work with her as a resource to connect with communities of interest.”

When I asked what ‘success’ would be for them a year or two from now, Georgia responded that it would have many dimensions—growing a network of scholar-artist allies, hosting learning forums and events for students, faculty and community entrepreneurs where new research opportunities are considered and new dialogues begin, and ideally laying the foundations of a collaborative performance project that demonstrates these methods in action. For Caroline, a key challenge will be to create long-term impact out of a relatively short-term intervention, and try to sustain this work on campus beyond the duration of Georgia’s position at the university.

Caroline Duvieusart-Dery is the Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator at CESI, @CESIGuelph and Georgia Simms is the Engaged Practitioner in Residence with CESI, @imageoartworks