In New York State, Cornell Cooperative Extension has recently celebrated its own centennial in 2011, and developed a new strategic plan for 2013-2017. Participation in the Extension Reconsidered project now offers a unique opportunity to build on those foundations, especially around civic, and university-community, engagement. Our theme of inviting people to “join a conversation” signals the importance of inclusive engagement and the desire for this to be an integrated and meaningful dialog rather than simply another exercise in “data-gathering”. This conversation will continue beyond the immediate activities around Extension Reconsidered and contribute to the planning for Cornell University’s sesquicentennial in 2015 and the Land Grant Reconsidered initiative.
The goals of Extension Reconsidered at CCE are to bring to light, and then engage in shared consideration of, diverse and often deeply-held views on the essential role of Extension, in order to ensure its vitality and relevance in the 21st century. To this end, the project will reach out widely within and outside our campuses, county associations, and communities in New York State to gather answers to some open prompt questions. The responses – in a variety of formats – will be collected and shared, and offered back in two forms: a performance piece that illuminates the fundamental themes and variations that run through our collective insights, and a more formal “deliberative forum” that will present three distinct perspectives on Extension in the 21st century and then engage participants in thoughtful reflection on the implications of each of these views. In a world where differences can easily become polarized, the intention here is to offer a careful opportunity to reflect and deliberate, so that Extension’s decisions may be grounded in deep and inclusive understanding of Extension’s possibilities and imperatives.