(Photo by With Luv (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))
I believe everyone is a learner and everyone is a teacher. That each of us has expertise of our own lived experiences, and that coming together to share those experiences helps us find patterns and co-create a way forward.
So it's not surprising that I was drawn to the work of Michigan State University's Julie Doll, Cheryl Eschbach and James DeDecker when I read their article, "Using Dialogue to Engage Agricultural Audiences in Cooperative Learning About Climate Change: A Strategy with Broad Implications," in the Journal of Extension.
Their use of the Fishbowl method (inspired by "Fishbowls in the Field: Using Listening to Join Farmers, Ranchers, and Educations in Advancing Sustainable Agriculture") to allow participants to drive the conversation about climate change demonstrates the potential of a more democratic approach to Extension work to address complex issues.
I found out about the "Get Engaged! A Guide to Getting Involved in Your Community" program on Twitter. Eric Walcott, a State Specialist with Michigan State University Extension’s Government and Public Policy programs, was sharing his experience offering the program in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Here are the 2 tweets that prompted me to reach out to Eric.
Our conversation for the podcast covers the "Get Engaged" program, but also Eric's work talking with local governments about real engagement. As we talked, I was reminded of this Gapingvoid illustration:
Eric referenced the Public Participation Spectrum from the International Association for Public Participation as a resource for increasing public engagement. I think it's a great resource, not just for governments, but for Extension programs. Eric wrote a series of articles on the public participation spectrum. This is the first article in the series: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/public_participation_beyond_public_comment_at_open_meetings and here's the last onewith links to all the prior articles: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/engaging_the_public_in_local_government_decisions_empower.
Listen to the podcast
Neil Klemme's belief in the abilities of young people is rooted in 4-H. Neil's a 4-H Youth Development Educator in Iron County, Wisconsin. He grew up in 4-H. His mom and his sister also work in 4-H. He's acting on that belief by getting 4-H members involved in community development in their county.
He's gotten youth involved in a community First Impressions survey, in creating a campaign for attracting and retaining young people to the county, and in designing the Iron County Regional Trail project. He even invited 2 of the kids to co-present with him at the NACDEP/CDS international community development conference.
Here's what one of his 4-H teens said about him, "I was really surprised how (the others groups) were presenting on how to get youth involved, and some of them were doing longitudinal studies on how to get youth involved and what makes them want to be involved," she said. "And here Neil is - we go up and present and we have youth there. Start to finish, youth was involved and this was the final product. That was really impressive. I just assumed everybody else did the things Neil did, and they don't." - Felicia Herlevi quoted in the Daily Globe (Ironwood, MI).
In the latest Working Differently in Extension podcast, I talked to Neil about Iron County, his work with youth and what a "charrette" is.
Over the last year-and-a-half people throughout Cooperative Extension have been creating spaces for conversation and collaboration. eXtension Issue Corps designathons, Working Out Loud circles and Innovate events in Ohio, Utah, North Dakota and Oregon have all given Extension professionals the time and intellectual space to come together to create change.
Data Jams at the University of Wisconsin create the same kind of space. Based on Game Jams, where game developers gather to rapidly develop prototypes of games, Data Jams, bring together researchers, program teams and evaluation specialists to analyze large amounts of data and collaboratively produce write-ups, models, initial theories and visualizations.
Here's my conversation with University of Wisconsin Extension qualitative research specialist Christian Schmieder about the Data Jam Initiative.
Cooperative Extension is making a difference, but does it show?
I talked with Dena Wise from The University of Tennessee Extension about that very question. Dena authored the Journal of Extension commentary, "Evaluating Extension Impact on a Nationwide Level: Focus on Programs or Concepts?"
I'm embarrassed to admit I had thought little about the needs of children with an incarcerated parent. I had never thought about Cooperative Extension's ability to help those kids until I found out about the 4-H LIFE program.
My colleagues in the eXtension Educational Technology Network brainstormed a list of potential guests for the podcast, and Lynna Lawson's name was on it. Lynna helps lead 4-H LIFE, a program for children of offenders and their families, in Missouri. After an emotional and eye-opening review of the work 4-H LIFE is doing, I couldn't wait to talk with her.
Here's our conversation.
First, an apology. I'm sorry for the recent radio silence. The holidays and a family-wide cold/flu epidemic have me well behind. So far behind, that I am just now posting this interview that was recorded last month.
Cayla Taylor, a program coordinator at Iowa State University, talked with me about the Journal of Extension article, "Examining eXtension: Diffusion, Disruption, and Adoption Among Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Professionals," which she co-authored with Greg Miller.
I think it brings up some interesting discussions about eXtension and its current rate of adoption among Extension professionals.
What do you think? Is eXtension being used in your state? Do you think the number of Extension professionals using eXtension tolls is a good measure of its success? Share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!
The latest Working Differently in Extension podcast is a testament to working out loud. Justin Thomas, a family and consumer science agent with University of Tennessee Extension, gave the small gift of gratitude to Jamie Seger. Jamie, Program Director, Educational Technology, Ohio State University Extension, and Paul Hill, Extension Assistant Professor, Utah State University Extension, wrote the article, "The Future of Extension Leadership Is Soft Leadership," for the Journal of Extension. Justin emailed Jamie to express his appreciation for the article and invited Jamie to appear on his podcast, "Blue Ribbons & Boots."
Then it was Jamie's turn. Since Justin said he had a podcast, she decided to introduce him to me. In network building that's called, "closing the triangle." Jamie's connection with Justin forms one edge of the triangle, and her connection with me forms another. Jamie closed the triangle by connecting Justin to me to form the final edge.
I'm glad she did. Justin and I connected for an informal conversation about our podcasts, and agreed to an exchange program. Justin would appear as a guest on WDinExt, and I would join Justin on "Blue Ribbons & Boots." I got the first shot. Age before beauty, I guess.
Be sure out check out Justin's podcast on Facebook, iTunes, and/or Spreaker.
Here's my conversation with Justin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Sara Axtell and Kari Smalkoski are two of the authors of the Journal of Extension article, "One Size Does Not Fit All: Effective Community-Engaged Outreach Practices with Immigrant Communities." When I first read the article, I immediately connected it to my interest in collective action networks. Community-engaged outreach practices prioritize relationship building, reciprocity and two-way sharing of knowledge. All of those priorities have a place in a networked approach to problem solving as well.
Cooperative Extension needs to do a better job of engaging the public, not just as audience members, but as co-learners and co-creators. As Sara said in the podcast, we need to think about where the ideas for our programs come from, what issues we are trying to address and about "partnering with communities and engaging with communities way before a program starts." Sara continued, we need to "remember that communities have their own priorities that might be different than our priorities." When we create programs first, without including the community in that creation, it's difficult to think of the community as anything other than audience, a group to be talked at and marketed to.
Photo credit: courtesy Ramsey County Minnesota on Flickr, https://flic.kr/p/9wsiYi
Over the past several weeks I've talked with members Jamie Seger and Paul Hill, director Keith Smith about the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy's (ECOP) Innovation Task Force.
When I spoke with Innovation Task Force members Bradd Anderson and Hunter McBrayer, I wanted to keep the conversation more general. Bradd and Hunter have really valuable insights into innovation in Extension. I hope you enjoy our conversation.