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Global universities turn to Memorial for guidance

By Jeff Green

With its fifth anniversary just weeks away, the Harris Centre has become an international role model for other post-secondary institutions looking to spread its expertise beyond the ivory tower and into the wider community – a concept referred to as knowledge mobilization.

Universities from all corners of the globe – as far away as Australia and Bolivia – as well as several across Canada have recently come knocking for the centre’s successful secrets.

And that praise is the icing on the anniversary cake, said Dr. Rob Greenwood, founding director of the Leslie Harris Centre for Regional Policy and Development, which was officially launched on Oct. 1, 2004.

“These organizations and universities are looking to Memorial and the Harris Centre as a model for best of practice in community engagement,” he said in a recent interview with the Gazette.

Since its launch, the centre has devoted much of its energy to connecting Memorial researchers with the community by organizing public forums, workshops, community meetings and regional discussions. It made headlines earlier this year with the launch of yaffle.ca, an interactive search engine showcasing Memorial’s research and expertise. Users can search for lay summaries of research, find an expert or upload their own research ideas.
All that work is catching the attention of universities around the globe.
Dr. Greenwood said he and his staff are happy to spread the Harris Centre success story.

“Every time we share our knowledge with other institutions and organizations we are building Memorial’s reputation, potentially attracting more students, more research partnerships and more faculty who want to work here,” he noted. “These groups wanted to hear first-hand of our lessons in knowledge mobilization and we were more than willing to oblige.”

One of those requests was from the Australian University Community Engagement Alliance, which held its annual conference in July. Dr. Greenwood was invited to be its keynote speaker and the alliance’s visiting scholar. He spoke with seven universities while Down Under, all focusing on the work of the Harris Centre.

Last fall, he ran several workshops at the University of Oruro in Bolivia, supported by International Development Research Canada and was made an honorary professor. While there, Dr. Greenwood helped identify opportunities for Oruro to partner with Memorial.

Meanwhile, David Yetman, the Harris Centre’s manager of knowledge mobilization, has also spoken at conferences at universities across the country.
“The interest in yaffle.ca and the Harris Centre is overwhelming,” noted Mr. Yetman.

And, it all adds up to a busy but rewarding time, said Dr. Greenwood.
“We have been active in communicating the Harris Centre approach and successes, which is consistent with our goal of establishing Memorial as a recognized centre of excellence in regional policy and development,” he said proudly. “We have been surprised by the number of requests to share information on how we have been structured, our mandate and how we do our work.

“We are just at the start of a wave where knowledge mobilization will be a massive new field for Canadian and international universities,” Dr. Greenwood added. “As long as we set priorities and deliver on them, we’ll continue to have a good story to tell.”
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