As we learned this week, Knowledge Translation (KT) has been practiced and implemented by Indigenous communities throughout their history. Now that KT is being recognized as a fundamental step in research and policy development in the Western world, we can begin to bridge a gap, or develop meaningful relationships, between researchers, policymakers, and Indigenous communities. The one fundamental consideration in KT that needs to be recognized is that Indigenous communities have important knowledge to share when it comes to research and policy development. Their contributions need to be respected and taken seriously.
When preparing to conduct KT in an Indigenous context it is important for a researcher to follow the fundamental phases of community-based participatory research. There needs to be active and continuous involvement from the Indigenous community that is being researched. Without this, there is a potential that the results of the study are not relevant or cannot be applied to policy development in that community. There could be skewed data due to researchers not measuring the correct targets or asking the wrong questions. This can completely stop the process of KT from even occurring as the knowledge gained from the study will not be able to provide that community with a relevant policy or program. This partnership needs to take place in order for meaningful research and policy development to occur. Indigenous communities need to have an active participatory role in research and policy development from the very beginning to the very end. This includes upholding the principles of the 4 R’s of research, OCAP and KT.
Researchers and policymakers need to understand that KT is not meant to be a one and done approach. Collaboration and communication will be an ongoing process. Once research or KT on a policy front takes place, there needs to be a sustained relationship. Communities evolve, they are not stagnant. Policy or programming will need to be adapted to overtime. This is why a sustained relationship needs to take place to ensure the effectiveness of policy or programming is maximized.
If knowledge, or research, is being translated from other communities or contexts, the researchers or policymakers need to understand that Indigenous communities are not homogeneous. There is not a one size fits all approach when applying knowledge to policy or practice for Indigenous communities. Each community has its own needs. Each community will need meaningful consultation to ensure the way the knowledge is implemented is actually respectful and relevant to their community.
When presenting the knowledge to communities it is especially important to tailor the message correctly. When a new policy or program is being implemented for an Indigenous community, it is important that community leaders can take hold and foster the messaging. Indigenous community leaders know their community best, will know how to promote messaging and educate their community.