What is Knowledge Exchange? Towards a flexible framework from the Arts and Humanities

Lara Salinas
University of the Arts London

Introduction and aim: In the context of higher education institutions (HEI), Knowledge Exchange (KE) is broadly used as shorthand for collaboration between university and a non-academic organisations such as business, public and third sector organisations across-disciplines. It is paramount for KE practitioners across sectors to develop a shared understanding of KE practices in order to facilitate collaborative design of and reflection upon KE activities (Salinas, 2018). However, in describing these collaborative activities, KE is often used to refer to processes as diverse as knowledge transfer or co-production of knowledge (Fazey et al. 2012) and interchangeably with concepts such as co-production, transfer, storage, exchange, transformation, translation of knowledge and social learning (Evely et al. 2012). Consequently, it is quite unclear what we mean when we talk about KE. So, what is KE?
Method: The research is grounded on the author’s practice of KE in the arts and humanities and a scoping literature review of academic research and grey literature on carried out between September 2017 and July 2018, focused but not limited to the arts and humanities in the British context.
Results: The study provides a review of different conceptualisations of KE in HEI. The literature review reveals a dominant approach to frame KE practices based on whether they are primary concerned with Research, Innovation and Education as the three missions of HEI (Zawdie, 2010). In addition, KE practices may be classified according to mode of interaction between university and industry (PACEC, 2012; Hughes et al. 2016; HEFCE, 2016; Lawson et al 2016). The author argues that these two dominant frameworks respond to funding bodies’ need to assess the excellence of their publicly funded activities, and make a limited contribution to understand what KE really is and therefore to enable its practice. Noting the limitations of current KE frameworks to provide with conceptualisations of KE that accurately reflect the practice of KE in HEI, the author advocates for a flexible and multidimensional framework that considers how KE is conceptualised by the different actors involved. A framework is suggested and illustrated through case studies from the Arts and Humanities, based on the author’s experience in projects such as the Creative Exchange (2012-2016) as one of the four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK (Senior, 2016; AHRC 2017) and the Public Collaboration Lab (2015-2018 a strategic collaboration between design education and local government supported by AHRC (Thorpe et al. 2016).
Conclusion: The study provides a review of different conceptualisations of KE in HEI and proposes a flexible and multidimensional framework that highlight the main differences between KE practices. The purposed framework is applied to case studies from the Arts and Humanities serving to demonstrate the contribution of the framework to clarify diverse KE practices. The framework provides the scaffolding for further research into KE.