‘Who you know and what you have to say’: An alternative look at knowledge mobilisation theory

Chris Brown

University of London


The diffuse nature of decision-making has led many to regard the creation and formation of organisational ‘policy’ as extraordinarily complex, and the evolution of individual policies as heavily dependent upon a multitude of factors whose influences are difficult to isolate and predict (see e.g. Weiss 1980, 1982; Pestieau 2003; Trowler 2003; Davies 2004; Gough 2004; Lavis 2006; Ball 2008; Perry et al. 2010). It is also recognised that the impact of research outputs on policy development may be manifold and are likely to range in nature from actual use, where tangible change occurs on the back of research findings to one of ‘enlightenment’, and where outputs serve to enhance or add to users’ perspectives on a given issue. These impacts have been defined by Weiss (1979, 1982) as the ‘instrumental’ and ‘conceptual’ uses of research, respectively. Despite these complexities, it is argued that there are a number of key points at which research can help with the decision-making process: for instance, by aiding the identification of a problem, by helping to create, form or steer a given agenda, or by aiding (or inspiring) organisational directorates or functions in the development of their initiatives (Nutley et al. 2007; Perry et al. 2010; Brown 2011).