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October 17, 2011

It's all in the timing

I've taught "Building Extension's Public Value" workshops varying in length from all day to 90-minute concurrent sessions at conference. A couple of weeks ago, I presented a "mini" workshop for University of Minnesota Extension that was only one hour long...and that was with interruptions for fire alarm testing!

That varied set of experiences, together with recent conversations with Extension staff who are gearing up to teach workshops in their own states (shout out to New York and Georgia!), made me think that we could benefit from an exchange of ideas about timing.

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I have experimented with a number of different structures for the BEPV workshop, but the most common takes about four hours, including a couple of short breaks. Of course, in that amount of time, I can't teach all of the modules in the BEPV Presenter's Guide. But, we can usually complete the content and activities for the modules shown below:agenda.JPG
Note that the last goal is "have considered next steps," and not "have completed a public value action plan." A four hour workshop may not give us enough time to complete the action plan module. Depending on the audience's objectives, I sometimes replace the full module with a large group discussion about next steps.

As I teach in the BEPV Train-the-Trainer course, I use caution when I skip workshop modules. Each of the optional modules was added to the curriculum, because I repeatedly fielded questions on that topic. So, when I skip a module and the associated exercise, I spend at least a few minutes talking about the issue that the module is intended to address. For example, if I don't cover module 9, "Maximizing Public Value," I lead a short discussion about the different types of program characteristics that are responsible for public value outcomes.

If you have taught a BEPV workshop, how much total time did you use? What were you able to cover in that amount of time? If you've participated in a workshop, how long was it? Did it seem like the right amount of time? Rushed? Did it drag on? Would you preferred a different schedule?

October 10, 2011

The unreachable stakeholder?

Last week I presented a mini public value workshop as part of University of Minnesota Extension's Fall Program Conference. When I suggested that public value messages should address the specific concerns of individual stakeholders, a question came up that I have heard several times before. Are there some stakeholders who will never be receptive to our messages about public funding for Extension programs? No matter how hard we try, are some stakeholders simply unreachable?

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I think that particularly skeptical stakeholders pose a challenge, to which we must try to rise. After all, we wouldn't have identified them as stakeholders if their support for Extension weren't important. Conversely, if all of our stakeholders were easy for us to reach, Extension would already be enjoying long-term financial sustainability.

Here are my suggestions:

==Consult with others in the organization who may have a better idea than we do of what matters the most to the challenging stakeholders. External and legislative affairs professionals, regional Extension directors, Extension liaisons to stakeholder groups in your state come to mind.
==Find stakeholders who are sympathetic to Extension, but who are otherwise similarly situated to the challenging stakeholder. For example, do you know of a "friend of Extension" who is in the same line of work, of the same age, living in the same region? Ask that person how they came to understand the value of Extension in their community and what information helped them choose to support Extension.
==If the stakeholder is a public official, study what she has said and written--not only about Extension, but about a variety of topics--to get an idea of what really matters to her.
==Evaluate whether this stakeholder truly is crucial to your program, or if it would not be a great loss to focus your efforts elsewhere.

What do you think? What kinds of stakeholders seem to be unreachable? Have you had success with them? What has worked for you?

September 26, 2011

Opportunity this fall for University of Minnesota Extension staff

leaves.jpgBecause the Building Extension's Public Value workshop began at the University of Minnesota, you might think that UM Extension staff are all familiar with the public value approach. Surely, most of us are. But for newer Extension staffers--and not-so-new staffers who have never participated in a BEPV workshop--this year's fall program conference provides an opportunity to learn the basics. Below is the description of the BEPV mini course that Aimee Viniard-Weideman and I will present as a concurrent session on October 4. I hope to see many of you there!

Your Program's Value: Tell it like it matters:

Have you ever had a great opportunity to tell someone who matters about the value of your program ---but you just didn't have the right words at the right time? Do you need a little help making the case for how your Extension program makes a difference in Minnesota? Here's your chance to develop key messages you can share with key stakeholders about the pubic value of your program. Laura Kalambokidis has trained Extension faculty members across the country to develop messages that matter. Take advantage of this opportunity to participate in an abbreviated version of her nationally recognized program and learn new ways to influence your key stakeholders.