Summer 1992 // Volume 30 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB2
Impacts on Program Success
How is the current economic climate affecting Cooperative Extension programming? Taxpayers, municipalities, and the federal government are placing demands on each other to provide services. How do these government and citizen demands influence Extension programming success? These are questions asked in a recent survey of district and county Extension agents across America.
How is the current economic climate affecting Cooperative Extension programming? Taxpayers, municipalities, and the federal government are placing demands on each other to provide services. How do these government and citizen demands influence Extension programming success? These are questions asked in a recent survey of district and county Extension agents across America.1
Cultural and language differences, along with a growing ethnic population and changes in household compositions and employment patterns, have altered the way Americans live. Such diversity is reflected in the way communities and individuals perceive their needs.2 The constraints of addressing national issues while meeting local clients' needs with fewer Extension educators can without doubt affect program success. It may have a positive impact by inspiring new creativity or a negative influence by diminishing program delivery.3 Today's fluctuating economy, extremely varied audiences, and limited resources demand innovative program design and development to ensure successful transfer of technology for practical use.4
A national survey was conducted to determine what effect administrative issues and program development practices had on program outcome. The survey contained 21 administrative and 20 program development factors affecting program success. The questionnaire was reviewed by county agents and Extension administrators for content validity, then distributed to a 10% random sample of the 3,000 county Extension offices in the United States and territories.5
Each of the 300 county Extension offices was mailed three copies of the questionnaire to be completed by the agricultural, home economics, and 4-H agents. Fifty percent (450) of the 900 questionnaires distributed were returned.
Factors Affecting Success
Table 1 shows the overall means for administrative and program development factors affecting program success as perceived by Extension agents across the United States. A mean score of 6.0 or above indicated a factor had some impact on program success.
|Table 1. Factors affecting program success for all agents.|
|Administrative factor||Mean||Program development factor||Mean|
|State funding||7.3||Preponderance of paperwork||7.6|
|County/district funding||7.0||Programs in line with local needs assessment||7.4|
|Financial support for program delivery||6.9||Programs in line with critical needs||7.4|
|Administrative expectations vs clientele expectations||6.8||Programs in line with specific requests||7.2|
|Clerical support staff||6.6||Independent creativity in program development||7.1|
|Availability of program materials||6.5||Program delivery-small groups (5-25)||6.9|
|Federal funding||6.5||Program in line with state initiatives||6.8|
|Volunteer assistance||6.4||Personal skill development/improvement opportunities||6.8|
|Communications flow between agents and support staff||6.4||Information dissemination via newletters||6.8|
|Communication flow between college administration and field staff||6.3||Advisory group input||6.7|
|Staff compatibility||6.2||Programs in line with national initiatives||6.5|
|Information exchange between clientele, government agencies, and Extension agents||6.2||Program delivery methods one-on-one||6.5|
|In-state travel||5.9||Information dissemination via newspaper articles||6.5|
|Office management responsibilities||5.7||Program delivery-large groups (over 25)||6.3|
|Number of FTEs per assigned project||5.7||Information dissemination via fact sheets/brochures||6.1|
|Physical environment (office facilities)||5.4||Program marketing via news releases||6.1|
|Availability of promotion/pay increases||5.3||Program marketing via general public mailing lists||5.3|
|Project grants||4.5||Information dissemination via radio||4.7|
|Out-of-state travel||4.2||Program marketing via radio/TV announcements||4.6|
|Personal fundraising activities||4.0||Information dissemination via TV||3.0|
|Contractual short-term assistance (student labor)||3.2|
|Scale: 1-2 = no effect, 3-4 = little effect, 5-6 = some effect, 7-8 = moderate effect, 9-10 = great effect.|
The 12 administrative factors most affecting program success can be grouped into the broad categories of funding, personnel support, and communication. One other factor, administrative expectations vs clientele expectations, didn't fall in any of these categories.
In program development, paperwork had a higher mean rating than the other 14 factors affecting program success. Several of the highly rated factors related to developing programs addressed the needs of various audiences. Other highly rated factors dealt with developing programs in line with national and state initiatives. This finding may illustrate the conflict between grassroots needs and the state and federal view on issues.
These program development factors seemed closely related to the administrative factors of administrative expectations vs clientele expectations. This disparity in expectations could explain agents' frequently expressed concern for independent creativity in program development. The meaning of responses to group size on program success offers another opportunity for speculation. Smaller groups could mean greater successes than larger groups; on the other hand, small groups could represent economic inefficiency, depending on the subject matter and audience representation. The questionnaire deliberately omitted positive and negative responses, requiring only an indication that specific factors had an impact on program success. Future research will be needed to determine their positive or negative influence on program success.
1. Directory of County Agents, 71st ed. (Niles, Illinois: Century Communications, Inc., 1989-1990).
2. Judy Waldays and Thomas Exter, "What the 1990 Census Will Show," American Demographics, XII (January 1990), 20-30.
3. Barbara A. White, "Doing More with Less," Journal of Extension, XXVI (Summer 1988), 28.
4. Ronald M Jimmerson, "What Values Will Guide Extension's Future?" Journal of Extension, XXVII (Fall 1989), 16-18.
5. Ellen Taylor-Powell and Burl Richardson, "Issues Programming Changes Extension," Journal of Extension, XXVIII (Summer 1990), 16-18.