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When I read about Anindita Das, refugee coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, I was interested in the idea of an Extension professional focused on the refugee community. I have not heard of another Extension organization with a full-time position dedicated to serving the refugee community.

While we did discuss how and  why Extension should be reaching out to the refugee community, I was surprised by how much of our conversation connected to Extension's potential to work within collective action networks.

Anindita's works with a coalition of organizations many of which have served the refugee community for years. Anindita is working to connect these organizations, help them coordinate and help them show the impact of their collective work. Her work reminded me of my conversation with Jame Bain, Noelle Harden and Stephanie Heim, in which we talked about the ways Extension could contribute to existing networks.

When Anindita talked about how the refugee organizations could help connect Extension with the refugee community, I though of my recent conversation with Jessica Beckendorf and Sandy Liang. Jessica and Sandy got connected with the veterans by working with their county veterans service officer.

Anindita had only been on the job for 6 weeks when we spoke. I really appreciate her willingness to talk about her work, when she was still figuring it out.

I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Over the past year, I've had the good fortune to get to know Jessica Beckendorf. Jessica approaches her work with great energy, empathy and sense of community.

I was excited to find a post on the Military Families Learning Network blog in which Jessica and her University of Wisconsin Extension colleague Sandy Liang, describe their work with the County Veterans Service Officer in their community to build capacity to address PTSD and Criminal Justice Response to Veterans in Crisis.

Here's a follow-up blog post from Jessica and Sandy.

I've written before about how important I think networks are to the future of Extension. The work Jessica and Sandy are doing, work that builds the capacity of a community to deal with complex issues, is a great example of Extension working in a networked way. Their willingness to play a supporting role, to connect people and organizations, and to encourage community ownership of the project are all indicative of a network mindset.

I was anxious to talk with Jessica and Sandy about their work. I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Jami Dellifield and Amanda Raines from Ohio State University Extension - Hardin County are spreading the word about the positive impact Cooperative Extension professionals could have just by being aware of how to interact with someone dealing with a mental health issue. They are encouraging Extension educators and agents to attend Mental Health First Aid training.

In the conversation below, Amanda and Jami make a compelling case. When you hear about their experiences and think of the difference you can make just by being able to recognize when someone might be dealing with a mental health issue, it's difficult to disagree. What do you think? Have you had an experience like the ones Jami and Amanda described? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Working Differently in ExtensionI have spent quite a bit of time thinking about how Extension professionals need to work as part of broad coalitions or networks, if Extension is going to be a part of addressing complex problems like health, climate or water. I have spent considerably less time thinking about the skills Extension professionals will need to be effective in these coalitions and networks.

That's where Carol Smathers and Jenny Lobb from Ohio State University Extension come in. They surveyed Extension professionals in Ohio to find out if they were working with community coalitions and what professional development they needed to be more effective in that work They published a Journal of Extension article about what they found out, "Extension Professionals and Community Coalitions: Professional Development Opportunities Related to Leadership and Policy, System, and Environment Change." I talked with Carol and Jenny on the Working Differently in Extension podcast.

If we expect Extension professionals to work with coalitions and networks (I think they must if Extension is going to stay relevant), then we need to make sure they have the skills to help build and sustain them. Community development and leadership specialists in Extension already have a lot of those skills, and are prepared to share them. They might be the single most important group to Extension's future.

Enjoy the podcast!

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Working Differently in ExtensionYesterday on the Working Differently in Extension podcast, I had a really interesting conversation with Linda Prokopy from Purdue University and Rebecca Power from University of Wisconsin Extension. They're the authors of the commentary, "Envisioning New Roles for Land-Grant University Extension: Lessons Learned from Climate Change Outreach in the Midwest," in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Extension.

As part of the "Useful to Usable" project which develops climate information for corn producers in the North Central Region, Linda and Rebecca have conducted surveys with farmers, Extension personnel and agricultural advisers about what they believe, who they are influenced by and who they trust when it comes to climate change.

If you listen to the podcast, you'll hear that I was very interested in the results from their survey that showed Extension educators do not believe in the anthropogenic climate change at the same level as university scientists. Linda and Rebecca call this a "troubling disconnect," and I agree.

In course of the interview, however, my mind was taken by something else. In their survey, Linda and Rebecca asked about both influence and trust. The results showed that, although Extension was a trusted source of information, it came behind family, chemical and seed dealers, consultants, other farmers, Farm Service Agency and other sources when it came to influence.

We have heard often that Extension is a trusted source of information, but what good is that trust if we have no influence over the people we are trying to help. Kudos for Linda and Rebecca for thinking to ask about both trust and influence.

Enjoy the podcast!

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Working Differently in Extension