Networks are the thing. Summary of our 2nd deliberative forum on campus

forum2wordcloud1On August 26th we facilitated a second deliberative forum here on campus at Cornell. During the hour and a half session a range of issues and focal points emerged. Some of these overlapped issues and ideas brought out during our first deliberative forum. But one of the strongest thematic areas to emerge from this forum addressed the idea of extension as a hub or networking lynchpin. This is a theme that is explored in depth in the publication “Extension 3.0: Agriculture Education and Outreach in the Age of Connectivity.” by Lubell and Niles.

Themes of funding, research (both on-campus and county based) and community were also strong during this session. County based deliberative forums kick off next week (September 10 in Albany county, September 12 in Broome) and will be continuing throughout the month. It will be interesting to track overlaps and divergences that arise as the forums move off-campus.

A few key highlights from the discussion:

  • Evidence based program – how much latitude does that give educators?
  • Reductive view of what an adult educator can do – how creative they can be – does this boxed them in?
  • Might lead to divisiveness between those who wrote the curriculum and those with local knowledge
  • Like the focus on impact
  • Established curriculum is helpful as a starting point – but not offering it robotically
  • My reality changes daily
  • CCE is trusted (and the university cannot get to the communities).  But is the trust going one way?
  • Sending rockets out into the world from Cornell University
  • Framing and interpreting rather than helping them figure it out on their own – need more freedom for engagement
  • Framing seems to be stuck in old model.  We now have a more collaborative approach to research.
  • We do need people who do research but needs to go in many different ways.  Who decides what gets to be researched?
  • Questions could start within the communities – that will inform research.
  • We need to be better at answering questions that people have right now.
  • Need big funding – and the sources of that funding based on the old model.
  • Fluidity – there is a self organize aspect which is scary – hard to manage, measure, replicate
  • Long term goal strengthen networks.
  • Need to think about regional programs rather that community based.  Funding is creating challenges to have communities be the focus unless through regional offices with long term view
  • Educators need to see their role more as networkers
  • This is the way of the future.

Extension Reconsidered – The Poster

ER PosterAre you planning an Extension Reconsidered event in your county or community and are in need of a poster to help raise awareness? We’ve just developed a basic Extension Reconsidered poster suitable for printing in a variety of sizes and we’d be happy to share it with you. Please contact us and we’ll send you an electronic copy of the customizable ER poster.

October 8, 2014 – Voices & Values: Extension, engagement and the future

Save the date! During the afternoon of October 8, 2014 plan on coming and participating in the capstone event of the Extension reconsidered project in New York State. We’ll be gathering in Barnes Hall here at Cornell University for an afternoon of stories, theater and discussion as we wrap up the project. Minimal PowerPoint and maximum dialog is our clarion call for this event. Staying true to our theme of “Join the conversation” there will be plenty of opportunities to interact and engage with friends and colleagues who are passionate about the future of Cooperative Extension.

The afternoon will be (loosely) divided into three chapters. During the first we’ll present a snapshot of some of the key moments from the project. Chapter two will consist of a performance by Civic Ensemble (plus a few special guests) woven from voices that have contributed the conversation around Extension Reconsidered here in New York State these past few months. And chapter three is an open invitation to dialog.

We’re anticipating a dynamic, thought provoking afternoon and we’d like you to join us!

October 8, 2014 1:30-4:00 PM

Barnes Hall (Click here for map)

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY 14853

CCE and University-Community Engagement

Click here to download a pdf version of CCE and University-Community Engagement

Cornell Cooperative Extension is the university engaged and embedded in New York State communities. Currently, there is renewed interest within Cornell University around the concept of “university-community engagement.” The Cooperative Extension System can use this interest as an opportunity to more fully articulate extension work as engagement.

Public engagement is a broadly inclusive term to encompass the variety of ways that Cornell works to effect positive change in the world. “Conceiving of the university’s outreach mission as ‘public engagement’ is an important shift because it recasts that mission in broader and more inclusive terms.”  CCE is a key player in assisting the university in public engagement in NYS. CCE supports the language of public engagement that has recently been developed that includes community-engaged research, community-engaged teaching and learning, outreach and dissemination, the scholarship of engagement.

In order to fully understand and gauge our relationships with communities it is important to look at the range of engagement, reflect on where Cooperative Extension System (CES) has traditionally been positioned, and consider what a truly engaged university might look like. One of the goals of CCE’s new 5 years plan entitled, “People, Purpose, Impact: A Strategy for Engagement in the 21st Century,” is to implement action steps to enhance CCE’s role in university-community engagement and to more fully brand our work that supports meaningful engagement.

Fundamental to the success of CCE’s unique approach are skilled educators. We believe that educators need to be aware of the technical, political, economic, environmental, and social complexities of New York’s communities and regions. We expect all educators to 1) have a basic understanding of community development principles and practices, 2) be adept at building relationships, developing partnerships and fostering collaborations, and 3) be able to help communities synthesize different kinds of knowledge which includes making accessible research findings. The relationship aspect needs to be underscored as essential for truly effective educators working with a wide range of partners: other educators, faculty and campus based associates, community members and increasingly students. Ideally extension educators position themselves as co-learners and co-researchers with their project partners.

University-Community Engagement is embedded in CCE’s new mission and vision statements.


Cornell Cooperative Extension puts knowledge to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being. We bring local experience and research based solutions together, helping New York State families and communities thrive in our rapidly changing world.


Cornell Cooperative Extension is a national leader in creating positive change on behalf of families and communities through rigorously-tested extension programs. We create measurable change in the following priority areas by aligning local needs with the resources and priorities of the land grant system and its state and federal partners.

The land grant mission is a covenant between higher education and the people. Our scholarship directly responds to needs in the local and global community and strives to improve the quality of life in our society. A unique aspect of a land grant university is that the flow of information, wisdom, and discourse is bidirectional between the university and the people. Across the world the intent of this model is being replicated, and today the land grant mission at Cornell is a mission for the world. Helene Dillard, former director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology

Historically two tendencies have been at play within cooperative extension work. The technology transfer model positions the university as distributing innovation to “the people”. This model emphasizes a one way flow of knowledge and information being delivered from the university. Technology transfer tends to position communities as passive receptors of needed knowledge and innovation. The second model arises from a more participatory approach and validates community knowledge as an equal partner to university research and innovation. These tendencies can be seen as two poles on a spectrum of “university-community engagement”. Held within these poles are a range of possible activities and outreach approaches.

The work of the CES is the work of engagement. However, recently there are those working in the CCE system that believe we have taken a somewhat constricted view of engagement.This belief grows out of a perceived  narrowing of focus within the system that is, in many ways, tied to economics and budgetary uncertainty. The challenge for Cornell Cooperative Extension is in negotiating the tension between our necessary adherence to federal funding priorities and a full bodied engagement in communities. A robust engagement would, of necessity, open a dialogue about what we stand for in relation to such issues as healthy families, the promotion of economic opportunities, environmental health, informed citizens and sound decision making. A deep engagement means that we are involved with individuals, families, businesses, local officials and communities. Increasingly we see our work done in relationship with others. Through trusted relationships and partnerships we have to be clear on what we are supporting through education and outreach. Our engagement as a trusted partner positions us in a way such that may suggest that some of the language we have used in the past might be revisited, e.g. ”neutral.”


In looking at instructional styles, past CCE Director Merrill Ewert’s developed a process/content matrix. We feel that this matrix provides a map for evaluating the categories of community engagement ( In a similar way all extension activities could be mapped into one (or more) of the 4 quadrants of this matrix. We may have as a goal for CCE’s work related to university-community engagement that it be both high process and high content leading to transformational practices.

McDowell, G. R. (2001). Land-grant universities and extension into the 21st century: Renegotiating or abandoning a social contract. Ames: Iowa State University Press.



"CCE and University-Community Engagement" was developed in 2013 as a result of CCE's new strategic plan. It was meant to foster discussion about community engagement. We are posting it here with the same intent. Please add your comments below or contact us if you would like to post a lengthier response.