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April 29, 2010

Should sponsors benefit from Extension programs?

Many Extension programs receive sponsorships from third parties: individuals, businesses, or organizations that wish to ensure that a program takes place. The program's sustainability sometimes hinges on the sponsor's financial support, and sponsors have an interest in the program's outcomes. University of Minnesota Extension's Farm Transfer and Estate Planning program is an example. According to Agricultural Business Management Extension Educator Gary Hachfeld, sponsors for the program include attorneys, accountants, and bankers who support the program so that their clients (and others) may attend.

When assembling a public value message, we consider the private benefits to the program participants and the public value that accrues to the greater community. But, is it legitimate for a program to also create benefits for the third-party sponsors? In my view, when the sponsor's financial support is crucial to the program, and the program persists in creating substantial public value, creating benefits for the sponsor is warranted.

Consider the schematic below, based on the diagram we typically use to illustrate the elements of a public value message:
sponsor.bmp
Note that the program's outcomes may result in private benefits, public value, and sponsor benefits. Moreover, the sponsor's interests may overlap with those of the program participant (private benefits) and the greater community (public value). In the case of the farm transfer program, a sponsoring attorney may value improved business outcomes for her clients, as well as an increase in demand for her own estate planning services. Being a member of the same community as her clients, she may also value the economic vitality and social capital improvements that arise from the program.

So, generally, where the interests of a third-party sponsor coincide with--or at least do not compete with--a program's public value, a sponsorship can create a win-win-win-win for Extension, program participants, the sponsor, and the community.

April 26, 2010

Evidence Based Living Blog from Cornell

Looking for ways to support your public value message? Spend some time exploring the Evidence Based Living Blog, written by Cornell Cooperative Extension's Karl Pillemer, Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach, and Rhoda Meador, Associate Director of Outreach and Extension in the College of Human Ecology as well as the Associate Director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center. Cornell.jpgThe blog highlights research on the outcomes arising from all kinds of programs and interventions, particularly in the areas of youth development and health and wellness.As the authors say, "The blog is based on one key principle: Now more than ever, people need help separating the good scientific information from the bad. We are all about assessing the scientific evidence on human problems and looking at how to use it every day." Does that sound familiar? Does your extension program make an effort to "separate the good scientific information from the bad"?

Consider adding the Evidence Based Living Blog to your blog reader, so you can see when the authors post about the latest research or media stories on youth behavior and health. Take a stroll through the archives and read the discussions and evidence assembled therein. You may come across ideas for new research projects or findings that you can use to make the case for your own programs. If you find something that you find useful, go ahead and share that in a comment on the Cornell blog or here.

April 23, 2010

Fall program conference input

I am on the planning committee for the University of Minnesota Extension Fall Program Conference. For any readers from University of Minnesota Extension, please share your ideas or preferences for this year's conference. Would you be interested in any public value trainings? What other kinds of offerings would be useful? Feel free to share in the comments or in an email to me. Thank you!2CM-ExtWdmk.gif

April 21, 2010

Hunting for public value?

Last month a group of about 30 Extension professionals from around the country participated in a train-the-trainer course for "Building Extension's Public Value." One of the participants, Jonathan Ferris of Purdue Extension, shared his ideas for a public value message for Purdue Extension's Venison Workshop. j0406855.jpgThe program teaches participating hunters proper techniques for field dressing deer and safe methods for storing and preserving venison. Educators also update participants about chronic wasting disease in Indiana.

Regarding the evaluation methodology for the venison program, Jonathan reports: "For years, we only asked questions like 'did you pick up some butchering tips,' or 'did you learn something about food safety,' etc. Last year, however, we decided that since we have many return attendees, we would begin asking them if they 1) hunted or fished more as a result of attending our program (we also do fish programs), and 2) do they keep or bring home more fish and game as a result of our programs."

With affirmative responses to those evaluation questions, Jonathan and his colleagues argue that the hunter/fisherman programs create public value by generating hunting and fishing license fees for the state (provided that the program participants hunt and fish in concordance with state regulations). Moreover, wild game and fish are low in saturated fats and sodium, and are generally part of a healthy diet. Sportsmen and women who bring home more wild game and fish and incorporate it into their diets may see improvements in health. When these health improvements lead to lower public health costs, we can see that the Extension programs have generated public value.

Additionally, if the venison team can produce evidence that program participants identify and report animals that show signs of chronic wasting disease, they may be able to make a "natural resource protection" argument, as well.

Do you have hunting and fishing programs in your state? Have you tried to make a case for public funding for such programs? How do you explain the programs' public value?

April 2, 2010

2010 National Extension and Research Administrative Officers' Conference

On May 18 in Madison, WI, I will lead a breakout session at the National Extension and Research Administrative Officers' Conference (NERAOC). I will present an overview--and the basic concepts--of the "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop, and talk about how to make a case for funding for outreach, extension, and research. If you are planning to attend the conference, please join me at the 10:15 session.