4-H is changing. A couple of weeks ago at our annual staff development conference, the theme was "Building on traditions and inviting transformation." A few short months from now, we will host the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) National Conference, where the theme will be "Tradition and Transformation".
Do you see a pattern? Transformation! Tradition has been the foundation to the 4-H educational model. The model includes youth-adult partnerships, the development of 21st century skills and a pathway to higher education. Today we are transforming our traditions for the 21st century.
How do we go about this? How do we make sure transformation feels right at home now that we've invited her in? My mom used to say "a good education starts at home." I would add that transformation starts at home, too.
Two recent experiences made me reflect on how both our staff and our programs are being transformed. I have been part of a Shared Learning Diversity and Inclusion Cohort, and in our most recent gathering, we looked at intercultural guidelines and skills that can be useful when trying to be transformative from within and with communities. These skills include things like:
- staying curious
- asking clarifying questions
- being open to new ideas and perspectives
- listening to internal messages
- giving feedback
- acknowledging failure
- acknowledging not knowing
- mutual adaptation
Our group worked through practice dilemmas that we face in our diversity and inclusion work. We used intercultural skills to address the dilemma at hand and to learn from it. It was such a rich and empowering experience. For example, one county program is explore ways to engage the Latino community working on dairy farms in their region.
This cohort example demonstrates how transformation is happening among our staff and we want to continue the process throughout the organization so our programs mirror the transformative nature of our world. We also wish for all young people to take part in programs where they transform themselves and their communities for the better.
Another example is from our urban 4-H program. Take a look at how it is being transformed by African culture. Minnesota's population is diversifying rapidly. A significant number of Minnesota 4-H members are new African immigrants. We are not letting go of what traditions have given us but we are transforming the educational experiences we offer to suit the young people living in our communities today.
Have you used intercultural guidelines and skills to transform traditions? How could we use them to transform youth development into the 21st century? What diversity and inclusion practices have help you to transform youth programs? Share your examples with me and let's learn together!