Summer 1993 // Volume 31 // Number 2
Exactly 10 years ago, I escaped social constructivism and all those other "isms" of an academic in a liberal arts field, to join the refreshingly pragmatic world of Extension education. If you'd told me then that by 1993 Extension professionals would be talking about "next-age leadership" "continuous process improvement," "new paradigms," and "symbolic frames," my response probably would have been, "You've got to be kidding." But to the extent that the Journal reflects what's going on in Extension nationwide, theory has evidently caught up with (or crept up on) practice. The articles selected for this issue are about both theory and practice.
The $11 Nutrition Challenge
Each well-run event not only impresses the immediate participants, but also serves as an opportunity to develop a multitude of stories directed to relevant media vehicles and audiences. These were exactly the outcomes Illinois Cooperative Extension staff aimed for in initiating the $11 Nutrition Challenge. Since 1989,the event has been conducted in eight counties with the leadership and involvement of more than 240 staff and volunteers. As a result of participating in the challenge event, key opinion leaders in the counties were more aware of nutrition and hunger issues and Extension's role in addressing them through education.
Creating a Community Sounding Board
This article chronicles our efforts, operating as a team with other Extension educators, to work with nontraditional clientele. Our goal was to develop a training program focused on an analytical problem-solving model and interactive group processes for a city government eager to deal with the public and ongoing problems in a more proactive manner. The success or failure of Extension programs in public policy isn't necessarily a function of the quality of the decisions made by citizens and their representatives. Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the stakeholder. However, the program's success in Fairfield depended on whether our training process "improved" the breadth of community participation and the depth of the discussion, and whether, and how well, participants were able to use the process when next faced with a tough issue. More knowledgeable problem solvers make better, more informed decisions-a core Extension mandate and a core tenet of the democratic process.
Extending Information Resources in Rural Areas
To test the hypothesis that greater cooperation between Extension centers and rural libraries improves their services, a cooperative pilot project by the University Extension Center and the County Library System in Texas County, Missouri, was done. The findings from our pilot project indicated that by working with local libraries, county Extension centers can disseminate useful information to rural clientele in facilities where they're more likely to look for it. Moreover, this innovative way of expanding Extension's informational services can be done with few, if any, additional dollars. We suggest that Extension centers seeking cost savings even explore the possibility of sharing space and personnel with their local libraries.
Training for Quality Child Care
With the majority of parents now in the work force, much of the care and education of young children is being done by child care providers. Extension educators can address the need for quality child care arrangements by forming coalitions of interested agency personnel to work together in presenting educational programs for child care providers. In Nebraska, program success has also been accomplished by carefully considering both the barriers and benefits to participation. Educating child care providers is a valid role for Extension educators in addressing family issues.
Job Satisfaction in Extension
This study of agents in the Western region was designed to examine the relationship between coping strategies Extension agents use in their work to deal with stressful work-related situations and job satisfaction. The instrument used for this study obtained responses from agents about job satisfaction, attitudes toward the organization, and coping strategies. This study demonstrated an interdependency among the three segments of job satisfaction identified in the model.
Beyond "Business As Usual"
Continuous Process Improvement is one component of the total quality management philosophy. CPI is a problem-solving and problem-prevention system that empowers natural work teams. It involves using a set of tools to diagram and simplify the elements in any work-flow process. Then, those elements are arranged logically, focusing on and simplifying the critical elements... Among those tools ISU Extension faculty have found to be most useful are: brainstorming and story boarding; affinitizing (grouping); root cause analysis or tree diagramming; process mapping; developing a prioritization matrix; developing an action plan. These tools have proven their worth not only in simplifying work processes, but in providing a way to put the process down for all to see and understand.
Paradigms for Program Planning
It's time to examine the assumptions of the program planning model and explore new ways of meeting the needs of society through education. This article argues that the reductionistic program planning model is a useful tool, but only in certain situations. New ways of approaching complex social issues, called wicked problems by public administrators, need to be considered.
Interdependence models combine the perspectives of Extension held by research-transfer models and adult education models. Research faculty and public policymakers generally use research-transfer models to characterize Extension roles, while faculty and administrators within Extension generally use adult education models. Use of interdependence models can build common understandings and expectations concerning Extension processes and roles. Extension should invite other agencies and organizations, public policymakers, and legislators to use interdependence models. This not only should improve cooperation and collaboration among Extension and other public agencies and the private sector, but also should help build broader support for Extension.
To The Point
Leadership for the Next Age
The next age will require new solutions, based on new ways of thinking. Gone is the mechanical, technical approach to leadership. Leaders must then be able to transcend conflict. Without quality, another education provider will take Extension's place.
I'm Supposed to Dance with the One That Brought Me
To ask our leadership to change strategies in a time of budget battles is like asking a run-oriented football coach to pass on first down. What about an Extension culture that has long valued the traditional view of leaders as special people? How many [organizations] are making real structural changes based on the organization's vision?
Assisting Poland in Transition
For the last three years, U.S. Extension personnel have been involved in a collaborative project with Poland's Ministry of Agriculture to restructure and revitalize Poland's Agricultural Advisory Service. Beyond helping Poland, this project has provided a unique opportunity to extend the federal/state/county partnership that has made our domestic Extension programs so successful to the international arena. As word of the project's accomplishments has spread, USDA has received requests for Extension help from Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Ukraine. At a critical time in history, U.S. Extension has been able to demonstrate the power and effectiveness of adopting to and meeting the needs of the people.
Overcoming Barriers to a Global Outlook in 4-H
We need to examine the impact of emerging international opportunities at the county level. We need to look at those activities, often fragmented and isolated from the rest of 4-H, to take a balanced look at the barriers as well as the benefits of such programs. The keys to improving the management of international programs are stability and communications. Procedures must be simplified, clarified, and unified.
Attitudes Toward Internationalizing
Extension has been challenged by ES-USDA to integrate international perspectives into all programs and help staff and clientele in developing global competence. Yet, how do our clientele feel about internationalizing Extension? During the Summer of 1991, a survey was mailed to 385 Ohio leaders. The target population consisted of three groups: county agricultural leaders, metropolitan leaders, and state level agricultural leaders. Overall, the groups targeted for study were positive in their attitude toward internationalizing Extension, but not strongly so. County agricultural leaders, agricultural opinion leaders, and metropolitan leaders indicated Extension should develop programs to educate U.S. farmers, agribusinesses, and rural leaders about competing in global markets and encouraged Extension staff to receive training to become more knowledgeable about global marketing.
When "Grassroots" Belief and "Research-Based" Information Conflict
Common sense tells us that an organization functions most effectively when its values are consistent with each other, and least effectively when they're not. I believe Extension's adoption of issues programming has meant "grassroots" and "research-based" programming, two of our most fundamental organizational values, increasingly have come into conflict with each other. Unless we, as an organization, begin to talk about which of these values is most fundamental to us, I fear we will, if we haven't already, drift into a malaise.
Community Festivals Can Educate
Although festivals may offer new educational opportunities, Extension educators should be selective about their involvement. They need to draw a clear distinction between their role as educators and service work. Even if the festival has strong educational goals, agents must decline tasks such as collecting or selling tickets, running food booths, or leading fund-raising activities. Otherwise, there's a danger the educational accomplishments will be overlooked. Likewise, Extension educators must, of course, avoid festivals that aren't accessible to the whole community, or are primarily commercial promotions.
Organizing for Change
The Extension System is in the business of responding to the needs of a changing society. But it's not enough to merely respond to a changing world in the same old ways. The Extension organization itself must change. We must employ new approaches, new tools to improve our effectiveness. Bolman and Deal offer us that explanation in four conceptual frames: the symbolic, political, structural, and human resources perspectives.
Ideas at Work
Divorce Handbook-Tool for Decision Making
The handbook was developed and written by a committee of attorneys, psychologists, and information specialists under the leadership of the Extension Service in Geauga County, Ohio. The handbook was well-accepted by most of the community. Those distributing it regularly ordered additional copies and it was updated and reprinted in 1992. The divorce handbook addressed an emotionally charged topic and created the potential for criticism. In spite of the risk, Extension recognized and served clients who otherwise might not have gotten critical information they needed during a crisis in their lives.
A Bi-State Seminar for Artists and Crafters
The people of Washington County, Ohio and Wood County, West Virginia have a rich heritage of diverse cultural arts and crafts. Because the area is a major tourist attraction, opportunities to turn the production of arts and crafts into a profitable business are numerous. Much discussion revolves around crossing county and district lines in Extension. Crossing state lines can help clientele and Extension alike when program needs are so closely related and interconnected.
Gaining "Repeat Customers" for Extension
A marketing principle called "the lifetime value of a customer" says it's easier to sell to someone who has used your product or service before than to someone who doesn't know you. Extension's "product" is research-based information and our "repeat customers" are clients who come back to subsequent educational programs after being satisfied with their first. This article describes an application of this principle.
Empowering Volunteers to Conduct a Consumer Survey
In many situations, motivated and trained volunteers like Master Gardeners could be central to cost-effective data gathering. Older youth and 4-H leaders, Master Recyclers, Master Woodland Managers, Home Study Group Members, and others could be empowered through their innate motivation and a modest amount of Extension training to participate in successful consumer surveys. This could help nonprofit groups we serve and improve our own Extension program delivery methods.
Returning to the Farm
Returning to the Farm is offered to families with college students who are interested in farming or ranching together. The program has three primary components that deal with the financial and personal sides of farming together. Families who have participated in the program said that they appreciated the opportunity to get together on equal terms to discuss their future business relationship.
Research in Brief
Agents' Learning Preferences
Our study examined Extension staff members' learning style preferences and how they vary across primary assignment areas as a basis for designing inservice training and professional development activities.
Groundwater Protection TV Campaign
Extension educators need to try innovative ways to reach audiences that don't attend traditional Extension educational programs. To do this, in the area of groundwater education, a campaign consisting of three 30-second television messages about groundwater protection was run over a three-month period. A telephone survey was then conducted to examine not only whether the messages were seen, but whether they changed viewers' knowledge level or practices. Results indicated television messages can be a cost-effective way not only of communicating, but also of facilitating change.
Home-Based Work: Research to Support Extension Programs
During the 1980s, economic and technological changes made home employment a viable option for many workers. This study was conducted to document demographic, household, and business profiles of home-based workers in Pennsylvania so Extension could learn how to develop effective programs for this clientele.
Teachable Moment with Single-Concept Cards
Many people report they obtain dietary information from their doctor and are unaware that information is available elsewhere. Reaching these people with Extension educational materials at the teachable moment is an important aspect to educational success. In an effort to expose their audience to Extension as a source of diet and health educational materials, Oklahoma Home Economics CES developed a tabletop "Health Styles" educational display holding a packet of nine different single-concept cards.
Tools of the Trade
The Unwriting Workshop
We designed The Unwriting Workshop for writers and nonwriters, secretaries and administrators, students and academics. It can be used in a group setting, or by individuals alone. Our intent was not to teach everything about good writing. Instead, we selected six simple rules to help people make their writing quicker to read and easier to understand. The rules apply to many kinds of writing-letters, reports, grant proposals, news stories, newsletters.