Monday, June 22, 2009

Where do we go from here?

It seems that a lot of my conversations lately have centered around the future of Cooperative Extension.

Most people are discussing and worrying about the budget woes and the realization that future funding is changing.

Some Extension professionals are looking beyond the funding issues. They are realizing the effects of:

  • ubiquitous connections.
  • pervasive information and communications.
  • multi-way and instantaneous communications.
  • rapid increases of non-linear information availability.
  • expectations of open communications, transparency of organizations, and adding societal value; these expectations are not only expectations of online activities but also include the way we serve, operate, manage, and lead.
  • changes in knowledge construction.
  • online and placed life becoming one. The online life does more than mirrors the physical life. The online is meshed into the way we function in work, leisure, and home.

Are we positioning ourselves to adapt and excel in a changed future?

  • A future where the public, stakeholders, and partners want to know how we are impacting communities.
  • A future where we continue to meet community and local citizens needs and are influential locally, but use global,far reaching, methods.
  • A future where we grow education without significantly increasing our organization.
  • A future that embraces “non-linear, information seeking” learning processes.
  • A future that embraces the ways that learning, access, engagement, and knowledge construction are changing, by being ahead of the learning curve, not behind it.
  • A future that opens access to our content and research
  • A future where our organization is a contemporary organization that has the "capacity to connect, unite, react, or interact" among many individuals and organizations, both traditional and new.
  • A future where we capitalize on instantaneous, multi-way communication.
  • A future where we understand that context matters and that contexts are continually in flux, thus, knowledge within context is more important than knowledge by itself.

The thoughts above are not mine alone, but rather they are a compilation of thoughts and expressions from many people who I have had a privilege of talking with in the last few months and hope to continue with future conversations.

While some people are very worried about our future as the third arm of land-grant institutions--Cooperative Extension--particularly from a funding standpoint, I am realizing the opportunities are vast and exciting. In fact, I see that the future, in some ways can bring us back to using the principles of  Seaman Knapp and George Washington Carver. The difference is in context, but the ideals of engagement and integrating research and education are not again available because we can go where the people are.

The challenge is to immediately change the way we communicate, build education, and are organized, and capitalize on existing and new relationships through more collaboration and seizing the power of ubiquitous connections and pervasive communications.


Unknown said...

After posting this article, Kevin Gamble sent me a link to Blessed are the beginners

The article from 2008 emphasized that some of the best authors are those who are new to the knowledge because they become the best teachers.

If Cooperative Extension included the new learners into our content and knowledge development,imagine the community effect. This would make for a great trial and research project.

Unknown said...


These are some great thoughts, thanks for sharing. I too believe we have reason to be optimistic. There are but's and however's though. Extension has to evolve faster and there are so many people and traditions holding it back.


Unknown said...

Daney, thanks for your comment. Alabama Cooperative Extension System Director Gaines Smith says "We should honor and celebrate the past; accept and adjust to the current situation; and position ourselves to prosper in the future".

His thoughts are that we should not forget our rich and important past, but we must adjust. Like you, evolve faster.

Pusser said...

When I saw this, I immediately thought of Extension.

Pusser said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.