Public Issues leadership Development Conference (PILD) 2011 Report
NEAFCS Scholarship Fund PILD Recipient Report
April 3-6, 2011, Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
By Suzanne Driessen, NEAFCS, Minnesota Affiliate
This was my first Public Issues leadership Development Conference (PILD) and my first trip to our nations' capitol. I had heard from past attendees what a great experience it is to go to PILD. After attending I too will encourage others to attend this unique staff development opportunity. PILD brings together leaders from six Extension professional organizations and volunteers from across the nation to focus on how the Extension system and our government work at the federal level.
The theme Cooperative Extension: Relevant Now and Beyond explored relevant issues for Extension to prepare for meeting with federal and local decision makers. National Program Leaders from USDA held roundtable discussions which provided a networking time with these leaders and others that work on specific issues. I attended the Food Safety and Family Consumer Science round table discussions. These leaders were very interested in issues in our states. They wanted to know what USDA should include in future grant proposals to help us continue to respond to emerging issues.
This was an interesting time to be in Washington with the potential for a government shut down and Smith Lever funding at risk. Our 'ask' of our legislators was to restore these funds at 2010 levels. Some take-home messages and ideas that I learned about communications with decision makers include:
Smith Lever funding requires a 1:1 University match; most leverage 4 to 5 times that amount.
Research the issues and background of the legislator. Know who they are. My congresswoman is Michelle Bachmann. I went to her website and found out that a week earlier she presented a congressional statement to honor and recognize Coborns Grocery for receiving the Independent Retailer of the Year award. I tied that story into how Extension has worked with Coborns on a produce food handling practice research study explaining how private industry reaches out to the University to partner on research projects.
Visit with the legislature from your district and mention you are a constituent. Be sure to mention the town in their district where programs were conducted and its impact.
Allow times for the staffer to ask questions. Engage them in the conversation.
Extension makes a difference in the lives of individuals by proactively engaging communities to solve issues and problems.
Communicate public value with message that show value of programs to those who did not participate. We need to show why our programs are worthy of public funding by explaining how society benefits.
The session on Branding Counts: Ensuring Cooperative Extension is No Longer the Best Kept Secret key points includes:
A brand lives in the mind of the consumer.
A brand is everything your name evokes in the mind of your customer.
A brand is a promise you make to your customer, a promise of quality, of experience---good or bad.
Every employee is responsible to portray a positive brand everyday and in every interaction.
It takes 8 impressions to make someone remember you--each impression builds on another.
Strong brands deliver strong benefits including: 1) strong funding; 2) greater customer loyalty; and 3) greater flexibility and adaptability.
We need to get better at telling our story. We can't afford to be the 'best kept secret' and it is our fault if funders do not know who we are.
Take the credit! We are essential to people lives.
ABCs of storytelling: A) Define the problem within the community and how you've begun to solve it. B) How are we part of the solution by explaining our relevance regarding issues of today? C) What was the impact on the community because of your involvement?