Join the Conversation

We’d like to invite you to join the conversation. We are interested in hearing from people both within, and outside, Extension.Please share your stories of extension work as civic engagement. We all know that this work is multi-voiced, informed by the needs, desires and aspirations of all participants and we hope to hear your voice joining in. We are hoping to be surprised, and are interested in inviting participation that takes advantage of the full spectrum of creative expression, such as poems, paintings, songs and other art forms.

Getting started:

You can make your voice heard in many ways:

  • Have a short anecdote you want to share? Scroll down to the bottom of this page and leave a reply. It’s that simple – we’ll re-post your comment as an entry here.
  • You can also send us a tweet (via Twitter). Use the hashtag (#) ccextrecon, or include us in your tweet @ccextrecon
  • Want to share an image or short video via Instagram? Tag it with #ccextrecon and we’ll gather it up and re-post here
  • Want to contribute to this blog? Leave a reply below and let us know. We’d be glad to have you.
  • Have a Youtube video of your story? Let us know and we’ll include it on the blog
  • Want to sit down for an interview that we’ll edit and post here? Contact us.
  • Have a painting, poem, song, etc… you’d like to add to the conversation? Let us know and we’ll work with you to get in in the mix.

Need a little inspiration? Try a What if… question.


9 thoughts on “Join the Conversation

  1. “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves, and if we think of them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.” Thomas Jefferson 1820

  2. Challenges?
    With limited time and money for travel, we must continue to work on maintaining strong connections to our colleagues in the Land Grant system. Face-to-face interactions, in addition to virtual interactions, would ensure that we are learning from each other as a system and understanding the best practices of our system for program and process. There are many good things happening and we need to work together to find what will continue to help Extension grow and stay current. Working together, we can adapt the best resources, programs & staff development approaches.

    People, history, being firmly planted in both counties and on campus are all great strengths. There is so much potential with our organization and for our programs. Technology is also a great strength that we have used well. It seems like we are often on the leading edge of using technology. That seems to be evidence of good hires in IT and elsewhere who lead others including campus staff in using technology for communication.

    Innovations needed?
    Staying current with innovations will take work. We will need to continue to hire those who are at the head of the curve in terms of technology, and then support the continuing development. As the world is changing we need to stay current with what is happening with other Land Grants and beyond. We should continue to ask – are there places that we should be that we are not? Professional development, volunteer management will continue to be a strength, a challenge, and an opportunity for innovation. We need to continue to ask what creates excellence in programs and people? And then be flexible to change our approach to get there.

  3. Challenges?
    Instant access to information might be a perceived threat. How does Extension stay relevant in a time when anyone can google – anything? It seems that Extension should capitalize on the networks and interactions that make Extension based education unique. Develop strong programs that are made stronger by face to face interactions – served well by field demos, meetings, face to face contact.

    There is a system in place with local input, local programs and local funding. Local funding means that local offices can consider what is necessary to meet constituent needs – picking and choosing programs based on what people are interested in. 4-H is also a strength – in part because it builds an auto-audience of adults who are more likely than most to spend time on the periphery of Extension programs. Over time it is easy to expose these adults to Extension programming and impacts as a result of their association.

    Innovations needed? More PR. We are living at a complicated time in the world. People don’t have one go-to news source – it depends on the individuals. CCE needs to be at the head of the communications trends – good at getting the word out through all of the sources – especially social media FB, Chatter, Twitter, etc. pushing information out there. The good work is already there – it just needs to be communicated.

  4. Challenges?
    I’ve been involved with Extension in a lot of ways – as a community person with kids in 4-H, a volunteer, a staff member, a representative on national committees etc. The challenge remains the same – most people don’t know what Extension is in our community, state and nation. We have pockets (like 4-H) that people understand but in general people don’t really get the value of Extension. General statements that we use – “connecting the resources of the University to the people” are too broad. The challenge is communicating simple messages through all forms of media.

    The regional approach and SBNs have forced staff to work together and share resources and programs across county lines. It has been hard in some cases – but beneficial. Other states have regionalized but may not have been as successful because of financial pressures within their university due to the educators and Directors being employees of the university. Although we have had our challenges – it feels like we are moving in the right direction without the same kind of pressure that they have had. Regionalization shares the benefits of great programs and staff across a larger area. In terms of communication – Facebook and Twitter has been a good start for communicating good news. If every CCE employee and volunteer shared/liked their CCE good news stories we could show impact in a more tangible way.

    Innovations needed:
    Advertising! Getting word out there in a simple way so that the common people understand what we do. We need to be getting things on the news, and in the news all the time. If we aren’t sharing with staff ways to do that – we should. Every office should have a process to follow – when you offer a program – reach out and tell someone. It seems like we often promote to our own internal audience – and that audience is just getting smaller over time. We need to reach out more.

  5. Challenges? .
    Funding. Funding drives staffing. We could change the world if we had enough staff. Affording to pay staff well – so we can get the keep the best people – is a challenge. And with funding challenges – there is also the challenge of grant and contract funding driving staffing to provide very specific programs, so we cannot always be strategic about tackling the most important challenges and new opportunities. The same challenge exists on campus – with fewer Extension Associates and faculty to support and partner with field staff and being tied down to very specific projects through soft funding.

    People are the strength of Extension programming. The people who work in Extension are dedicated, passionate people. Another strength comes from working with people and communities over a long period of time. While some funding and programs are short term – extension programs in communities over time have long lasting impacts and promote transformational learning.

    Innovations needed?
    If we set our mind to something big together we could make a great collective difference. Think about the Apollo program…lofty goals and adequate funding drove innovations and engagement from a whole generation. Issues like feeding the world, climate change, energy, and sustainability are huge – we need to come up with a way to address these issues. We also need to play an important role in fostering science literacy – understanding science and making it accessible to people. So many don’t understand the way that science works or except what it teaches us. We can’t address huge challenging issues if people are not open to understanding issues and don’t apply critical thinking around the science that informs decisions. With our youth programming we have an opportunity to help shape our youngest citizens – still developing skills and habits of mind. Ideally Extension is providing experience for transformational learning and experiences that lead to understanding based on evidence and critical thinking skills.

  6. Challenges?
    CCE needs to consider ways to effectively draw new, capable, enthusiastic staff into the system. There are lots of great program opportunities that could support wonderful career “start-ups” but there is a need for more funding, getting the word out, and drawing on incumbent staff to really make a difference by mentoring.

    Another challenge is in helping Cornell (the university proper) to understand that Extension can help Cornell to realize the Land Grant mission. There are many good examples of Land Grant Universities that have embraced Extension – Alaska for example .

    We are tied in with a world class research university. That is a great strength right there.

    Innovations needed?
    Extension should be involved in programs that address priority needs globally – energy & climate change. In the community – the work that we do in human development, community development and agricultural programming is not offered by others and makes our communities a better place. We always have and should continue to bring knowledge to communities to build self-sufficiency.

  7. This is a conversation that could be very deep. Unfortunately with so many challenges over the last decade that are funding related the questions around Extension Reconsidered feel like it could be interpreted in a trivial way – though I have not.

    When I first started working as an Extension Associate I asked about how the Extension work is done. It was said with humor “Beans” – “Just count your beans and you’ll be okay”. Although I know that we have to do it – I think that the challenge is in quantifying what happens in and through an organization that is built on the foundation of relationships. Whether it is as a result of our changes in technology or changes in funding, we are losing the relationships, institutional memory, and the people who make the connections for us. That is a challenge.

    The refreshing thing about the how and the why of Extension can be found in our relationships – how we connect to each other and our audiences – be it by phone time, face to face time or electronically. We learn (needs and offer trainings) with and through each other and really make a difference that way.

    Innovations needed?
    I have found that when we are allowed the room to gracious (towards all) and spacious (with our welcoming attitude) that natural partnerships form on/off campus, with funders and with other stakeholders. That is a freedom allowed to those who have an Extension appointment. It is a challenge when we are working with others who are funded for a specific project to be open to working in this way. In terms of innovations needed – it does feel like something needs to be done to protect the freedom of staff for building relationships, listening for issues, stirring the pot to build support for programs that address needs.

  8. Challenges?
    There are always technical challenges – especially when there is an expectation that much of the work that we do will happen virtually and the expertise and hardware in the field and sometimes on campus is not always at the same level. There is also an inherent challenge working in CCE Administration – in order to be effective, we need to be trusted and valued by our county partners – sometimes we are and sometimes there is history or baggage to overcome. Some may feel that administration “expects the impossible” given their challenges. Truth is we are all very supportive and do work hard to develop relationships and get things done and we work – and want to work hard to build trusted relationships.

    The strength is absolutely in the system – we have people in every county working with people every day on good programs. There are people in communities who rely on our programs and information for making solid decisions and know that the experiences that get in Extension are not available elsewhere. A strength (which might also be a felt challenge) is our decentralized system – were we are meeting local people and needs. We are definitely on the ground – meeting local needs where they are at.

    Innovations needed?
    One “opportunity” is related to communications – how do we define ourselves as an organization? It doesn’t feel like we have good common language that means something. What is the difference between Extension county programs and regional programs? We are not all using the same language to describe these things – and it is hard to explain – it shouldn’t be that hard – and the answer shouldn’t be academic.

    Innovations needed includes some technical things – we could be doing more interactive/virtual programming – but technology, and some pockets where there is a digital divide make that difficult – how can we get around that? But there are simple solutions that the public is adopting that we need to be in front of – Twitter, on-line registration , payment – if we are not on-board with these – we are going to miss opportunities. Looking back – it already feels like we missed a generation of people who did not tune into Extension unless their families were historically involved in Extension. The question is how do we avoid that moving forward?

  9. Challenges?
    Funding is always a challenge. In support of resource challenges, both funds to support programs as well as staff time, we need strategies for building partnerships – like best practices for developing regional partnerships for programs. This is already underway, and we must share lessons learned and best practices in an organized fashion with all parties involved in the conversation. We can’t afford to have program silos – especially right now. Continuing along those lines, across the board we need to connect some of our program areas together – for example parenting and 4-H or even Animal Science and STEM or Healthy Living. We could both benefit from stronger links among these areas. How can we build on each other more…and intentionally? We have seen the relationship between 4-H and Nutrition grow – by going to meetings together, developing personal relationships, creating opportunities for working together and building proposals together. Another challenge lies in knowing more about how we each connect to one another and what potential there is. It would be great to have a way to understand who all is working on something specific – like renewable energy for example.

    The decentralized structure of CCE is a strength. It forces a two way conversation that makes us all think about local or campus buy-in, local context and how people who have a broad term connection benefit. A decentralized structure also allows for new ideas to be incubated. It means that we get to bust out of existing molds all the time. New ideas bubble to the surface and best practices are developed this way. This is invaluable, and we want to continue to learn from these innovations with an eye toward scaling-up programs and supporting dissemination.

    Innovations needed?
    There are lots of opportunities and innovations that could help.

    We need a way to get information to the field for building new audiences, particularly in populations that do not have a traditional following in CCE. For example – we need an established process for reaching bi-lingual Latino populations that involves materials & appropriately trained staff, volunteers & youth. If we want to reach new audiences we need to train our staff on how to navigate the opportunities and challenges therein.

    Another innovation or opportunity comes around having the strategies and knowledge for addressing broad issues like Climate Change. That might include having the capacity for developing teen leadership for such topics. Chip Malone, 4-H Energy Specialist, and I recently submitted a proposal to link leadership efforts within Healthy Living and STEM using the Renewable Energy model he has developed that includes regional partnerships and networking.

    Opportunities to bring CALS, CHE and Extension staff and faculty together to build relationships between people and programs are also necessary. Somehow we need to figure out a way to bring staff to campus regularly again for professional development—and to support professional development (release time) in general. It seems like this was a great step in helping build partnerships and relationships. We are missing that right now.

    It would also be great to continue to build our relationship with CORE and the evaluation capacity building projects. Many of us have been involved in their work and creating evaluation plans; it is an exciting time for those plans to be implemented and seen to fruition.

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