Professionals as knowledge brokers: The limits of authority in healthcare collaboration

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Professionals with managerial responsibilities are often seen as natural boundary spanners, brokering knowledge between the professional and managerial domains. However, the tensions implicit in their knowledge brokering activities, especially when the latter are formalized, remain under-researched. Using interviews and observational data, we examine the case of an inter-organizational collaborative research partnership that deployed clinical professionals as designated knowledge brokers across multiple sites. We identify three strategies that such hybrid professionals utilized to surmount challenges associated with knowledge brokering in the fragmented healthcare context: (1) relying on additional boundary 'bridges'; (2) conforming to existing ways of doing things; and (3) shifting from 'facilitating' to 'doing'. An analysis of these strategies highlights the tensions between different dimensions of brokering reinforced by macro-level institutional arrangements, the intertwining of formalized and emergent elements of brokering as a collectively-enacted phenomenon, and the limitations of knowledge brokering professionals arising from their professional expertise and authority.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472–489
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number2
Early online date19 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016


  • Knowledge brokers; boundary spanners; hybrids; professionals; healthcare


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