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October 24, 2008

Follow up to UM Extension Annual Program Conference

Thank you to everyone who showed up at 8:00 (!!) Tuesday morning in Duluth to participate in the UM Extension Annual Program Conference session on "Demonstrating Your Program's Public Value: The Key to Gaining Support from Stakeholders and Funders." In the 90 minute session, I was able to present only a very abbreviated version of the public value content, but the little bit that we were able to cover stimulated some great questions and discussion.

I wonder if, when I have only a short amount of time to introduce the public value concepts and lead groups in one or two exercises, if I should focus on one criterion for public sector action (one source of public value), rather than explain all three of them. To be clear, I typically cover all three of the criteria listed in this slide:


In a full workshop, I believe it adds a lot of value for participants to consider how their programs address the first (information gap) and second (fairness or justice) criteria. After all, most programs will need multiple public value messages to meet the concerns of multiple stakeholders, and the additional criteria can help a team develop a suite of messages. But, for an "Intro to Extension's Public Value" session, such as the one we had in Duluth, perhaps I should describe only third criterion: public value arises from creating public benefits or reducing public costs.

What do you think?

Did you attend the session in Duluth? What do you think we could have done differently?

October 13, 2008

Follow up to Minnesota Council of Nonprofits conference

On October 3, 2008, I lead a session titled "Making the Case: Articulating the Common Good in Public and Nonprofit Programs" at the annual conference of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits in St. Paul, MN. The session, described here, was based on the UM Extension companion program to "Building Extension's Public Value" that is directed to local government and nonprofit program providers: "Public Value of Public Programs." (Scroll down to "Educational Offerings.") The "Public Value of Public Programs" workshop is taught across Minnesota by UM Extension Community Economics Educators. If you want to read more about "PVPP," it was featured in a recent issue of UM Extension's magazine, Source. The article is here.

We had about 150 people attend the "Making the Case" breakout session at the MNCN conference. As with other short presentations, I had to leave out a lot of the PVPP content, and we didn't have time for small group work. However, there were some very good comments and questions from an audience representing a wide range of nonprofit organizations. One participant asked about the public value of research conducted at a nonprofit nature center, which can be addressed by thinking about what would happen in the absence of the program. Without the nature center's research, would the research agenda be advanced? By whom? Would the resulting research be in the public domain? Would research focus on knowledge that advances the public good? In short, the nature center creates public value by generating knowledge that creates public benefits; knowledge that would not have been created in the absence of the center's work.

Even with the tight session time, one participant at the MNCN session drafted and shared a compelling public message for a program that assists older foster kids in finding permanent homes. She named public benefits, including the greater likelihood that adopted kids will succeed in school and alleviating the burden on the foster care system. But, as an adoptive parent herself, the private benefits she named were equally compelling: the privilege and pleasure of adding a new, cherished family member and new face in family photos!

Did you attend the MNCN public value session? What did you think went well? What should I have done differently?

Extension 2.0 and public value

Wrapping up the Extension 2.0 web course, here are my main take-home points:

1. Starting and maintaining a bare-bones blog is easy and rewarding. I'm glad I started this one, and I plan to keep it going.

2. Adding multimedia elements to the blog (audio, video, and even photos) is a bit intimidating for a beginning blogger. Check back here to see what I am able to with the blog as I learn more.

October 6, 2008

Follow up to Galaxy III conference presentation

Given that the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Galaxy III conference ended September 19, I am a bit late posting my follow-up thoughts. Let's just say I wanted to give myself a chance to think things over...

*I presented a very mini (90 minutes) version of the BEPV workshop for about 49 attendees in a breakout session on Tuesday, September 16. I was able to present the basic principles of the public value approach--a "taste" of the full program--for people who are unfamiliar with it. Thank you to everyone who attended, and especially those of you who added to the discussion or asked questions.

*I could tell from the commentary that a lot of different states were represented among the attendees, but I wish I knew which subject areas folks were from. I wonder if Extension professionals in some subject areas (youth development? natural resources? farm management?) are more drawn to the public value approach than others. What are your thoughts?

*When I have such a limited amount of time to teach BEPV, I usually convert the small group activities into open-ended questions to the full group. At a couple of points, I did allow a few minutes for participants to discuss questions with neighbors and report back. But, I miss the interaction and productivity that the activities allow. I am open to suggestions about how best to capture the small group benefits in a shortened program.

*Many of the modules in the BEPV curriculum were included specifically to address questions or challenges I heard when teaching early versions of the program. For example, I drafted the module on "Types of Public Sector Actions" after being challenged that the early program explained the conditions under which public sector action was warranted, but not which kind of action. So, each module addresses an issue that I expect someone in a workshop to bring up. Teaching an abbreviated version of the program can be frustrating, because questions inevitably arise, the answers to which are in modules that I had to cut out! For example, one participant at Galaxy asked a good question about assembling the research she would need to substantiate the claims she wants to make about her program. I sure wished I could have responded by going more fully into the BEPV module that leads small groups to draft a research agenda for their programs.

*Thank you to the Galaxy host at my presentation, who handed out end-of-session evaluations and counted attendees. I had brought some of my own evaluation forms, but the short Galaxy form was quick and easy for people to complete, and I was able to bring the completed forms back the office to be tabulated. (One frequent comment: the room was too cold! Did anyone else attending Galaxy find the rooms at the Indy Convention Center to be chilly?)

*I stayed in the same presentation room to attend the session following mine, "Cost Benefits of Extension Programs — So What?" by Sharon Hoelscher Day from Arizona Cooperative Extension. Measuring the costs and benefits of Extension programs can be a crucial step in substantiating claims about a program's public value, particularly if you can quantitatively differentiate between private and public benefits and costs. Did you attend any other sessions at the Galaxy conference that presented tools or information that would be valuable to a team working on communicating their program's public value?

*Did you attend my session at the Galaxy conference? What do you think went well? What should I have done differently? Go ahead, I can take it!

October 2, 2008

Public Value presentation at Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Conference

I am leading a session at the 2008 conference of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, October 3, 2008, in St. Paul, MN. Conference details are here. Below is a description of the session. If you're attending the conference, consider joining our session!

Making the Case: Articulating the Common Good in Public and Nonprofit Programs

To demonstrate accountability and attract scarce funding, nonprofit and government leaders need to show the far-reaching benefits of their programs. Therefore learning how to communicate a program’s public value – the benefit the community receives apart from the benefit participants receive – is a powerful tool. Designed to meet the needs of both government and nonprofit leaders, this session will help you learn how to define, describe and articulate the public value of your programs. Learn how to walk through questions designed to undercover public value, distill the answers into a succinct message and dig deeper to find the research to support it. In the end, you’ll discover how to effectively communicate to policymakers and the public how your programs contribute to the common good.

Teaching with web conferencing

I have taught BEPV workshops and the BEPV train-the-trainer course with web conferencing programs, such as UMConnect and Breeze. Here are a few quick thoughts about teaching this way:

*With 50-200 participants in the train-the-trainer course, it is not feasible to allow two-way audio. We have employed one-way audio (participants hear my voice), and have participants type their questions and comments into the comment box on the screen. It can be hard for me to keep up my end of the presentation while also tracking the comments, so I usually dedicate a few spots in the presentation as question periods, and I read and respond to the questions then.

*I appreciate having the assistance of a second presenter who can siphon off participants' technical questions (problems with audio, problems with downloading documents, etc.). He/she will answer those questions and send the content-related questions to me within the presenter chat, which only the presenters can see. That way, I can ignore the ongoing technical "chatter" in the general chat, and focus on the content-related questions passed on to me in the presenter chat.

*The BEPV workshops include a lot of small group work, which is hard to accomplish in an online training. I will encourage groups of people from the same Extension Service and the same program area to "attend" the training together--even viewing the presentation together in a conference room. That way, they can discuss the material among themselves during the Q&A periods. Also, I try to spread the training over two or more days and give participants an "assignment" to work on between sessions. Teams who attend the training together can do their small group work during that time.

*We record the presentations (audio, slideshow, and chat) and post them on a permanent web page for participants to access after the training. People completing the train-the-trainer course can then consult the recording, if they wish, when they prepare to teach their own BEPV workshops.

* I post the documents participants will need on the UMConnect web page, and we open the page ahead of the meeting time so the documents can be downloaded.

*I do not yet have a web camera in my office, so I haven't yet taught with a live shot of myself on the UMConnect page. I wonder how important it is to participants to see me as I talk. What do you think?

*I wish UMConnect had a mechanism for participants to download pictures of themselves to the meeting space. I can see the names of participants, and I can ask them to list their affiliations, but it would be nice to put faces with names. It's fun to run into people at conferences or meetings who have taken one of my trainings, but it would be nice to be able to recognize them by sight!

Have you ever taken a training with UMConnect? Have you taken one that I have taught? What works well? What should I do differently?

Announcing March 2009 train-the-trainer course for BEPV

You know how your Extension programs benefit your participants, but your programs also create public value when they benefit the rest of the community. Nationwide, participants in "Building Extension's Public Value�? workshops have learned how their programs create public value and how to communicate this value to stakeholders whose support is crucial to Extension.

Now, you have an opportunity to learn how to conduct these workshops for Extension scholars at your own institution by participating in an online train-the-trainer program for "Building Extension's Public Value.�?

With your registration fee, you get:

• Four hours of instruction in how to conduct "Building Extension's Public Value�? workshops from the creator of the workshops, Dr. Laura Kalambokidis, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota.
• Access to the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide, the Building Extension's Public Value Workbook, and accompanying Powerpoint™ presentation to download and print for your use in conducting workshops for University and Extension scholars at your institution.

* To register, go here. The registration fee is $100 per participant. To encourage institutions to send teams of staff to the training, the maximum total registration fee for any institution is $500.

* The training will be conducted online, via UMConnect, and will consist of two, two-hour sessions, with all participants attending both sessions. The training sessions will be Tuesday, March 3, and Thursday, March 5, 2009, at 11:00-1:00 Eastern; 10:00-12:00 Central; 9:00-11:00 Mountain; 8:00-10:00 Pacific.

* Prior to the beginning of the sessions, participants will receive an email notifying them of how to participate in the two online sessions and how to download the training materials, including the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide, the Building Extension's Public Value Workbook, and accompanying Powerpoint™ presentation.

* Questions about registration? Contact our help desk at shopext@umn.edu or 800-876-8636.

* Questions about program content and relevance to your work? Contact Laura Kalambokidis at kalam002@umn.edu.

* Other questions? Contact Diane McAfee at dmcafee@umn.edu.

Building Extension's Public Value with Tweets?

This week for the Extension 2.0 web course we are exploring web-based instant communication, such as IMs, chats, and Twitter. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon (again!), I am having trouble seeing the importance of instant communication for the BEPV program. One idea that appears in this article is to Twitter a conference (follow all Twitters related to a conference). I could see this being helpful to remind people when and where a workshop is being held, encourage attendance, and receive feedback.

I have an overarching question about all of the photo-sharing, social networking, and communication tools: How does one employ these tools for professional purposes and still separate one's work and personal lives? From my observations of Twitter, for instance, a lot of people do not maintain that separation: their Tweets are equally about their work and personal activities. But what if I think that my mother doesn't need to know when I've updated my curriculum, and my colleagues don't care what I had for lunch? If you use Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr, for example, to keep up with friends and family, do you create separate accounts for work-related communication? I can see myself either getting overwhelmed trying to update too many sites, or trying to keep things simple and "oversharing" with my professional colleagues.

A curmudgeon