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April 11, 2011

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?

April 7, 2011

JCEP report - NEAFCS

Hi again,
The second part of the JCEP conference was held in respective sections. What came up at NEAFCS section was that the majority of states present are facing reorganization and/or potential cuts. Wisconsin shared they are framing work with families from an economic perspective and that they had a new governor that did not value education. (who knew what was to follow at that moment??)

Membership is down across the nation and dues increase seems to be contributing to the decrease as well as decreasing workforce.

You might consider joining a national committee - Dec. 31 is the committee sign-up deadline, but you can join anytime. Committees are:
-Webinar review and selection

The NEAFCS Annual Session will be in Albuquerque, NM this fall. The Balloon Fiesta begins the day after the conference ends and hotels are booking up quickly. Preconference workshops will be on Exer-Gaming and "Teaching From the Heart."

Living Well cookbook - so far 11,000 have been sold; 15,000 are left. As a member, we can use the recipes in our educational offerings, but should credit the source.

Amy Peterson chairs a new advocacy committee to help the FCS profession and NEAFCS appear more current and the experts that should be tapped into for national movements and efforts.

April 6, 2011

JCEP report

In February, I had the privilege to attend the national JCEP Conference in San Antonio. JCEP stands for Joint Council of Extension Professionals and representatives from all program areas as well as Epsilon Sigma Phi were present. The first half of the conference was a staff development on NIFA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture), USDA and NIFA grant proposals, particularly AFRI grants.

It was quite interesting as I was going into this quite uninformed. Federal presenters were featured speakers and the audience was quite tense. Federal money for Extension has been flat for years and money that would have gone to Extension increases is now distributed through competitive integrated projects. These integrated projects must include an Extension partner, but none are solely for Extension. What has been happening is that research projects are going for the money and then discover that Extension must be included, so Extension feels like an afterthought. One of the purposes of this conference was to educate Extension faculty so that we can "drive NIFA from the ground up rather than the other way around."

The 2010 Challenge Area RFAs are:
1. Childhood Obesity Prevention
2. Climate Change
3. Global Food Security
4. Food Safety
5. Sustainable bioenergy

Many of these grant proposals take a year or two to write before submission and approximately 18% of applications were funded in 2010.

Check out www.nifa.usda.gov for more information on grant proposals.

I will close for now and will submit another entry about the NEAFCS action that took place at JCEP.