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May 5, 2011

Hear about Extension's Public Value

Looking for a primer on the "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop? Listen to the recording of a one-hour webinar I presented last week for the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD). Go to the NCRCRD's webinar archives, and click on the link for my April 28 session. Then come back here and let me know what you think. Did the webinar answer your questions? Or leave you needing more information?ncrcrd.bmp

May 3, 2011

Public Value in the Journal of Extension

Check out the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Extension for three articles that reference Extension's public value.

Here is the abstract for my article in that issue, "Spreading the Word about Extension's Public Value":

In recent years, the idea that Extension can build support for its programs by highlighting how they benefit people who have no contact with the programs has taken root in the Extension system. Providing Extension program teams with resources, training, and leadership can lead to a body of public value messages that can infuse Extension's stakeholder communications. Hundreds of Extension professionals have received public value training, and survey results suggest that many trainees are following up with actions. Many trainees see positive effects from the public value approach, but measurable impacts will take more time.

The issue also includes an article by Nancy Franz of Iowa State University Extension on "Advancing the Public Value Movement: Sustaining Extension During Tough Times." Nancy's abstract is here:

Extension must more fully and adeptly embrace the public value movement to be sustainable as a publicly funded organization, or our demise as an organization will continue. The public value steps outlined here and piloted with several Extension systems and national work groups can be informative for others interested in capturing and sharing the public value of Extension work. Overall, the Extension public value banner needs to be held high as we struggle to change the perception of our work by addressing this as a "movement" in our organizational development and not a "response" to the economic environment.

Finally, George Morse's article "Regionalization with or without Specialization: A Call for a National Research Agenda" discusses the role of public value work in Extension reorganization. Here is George's abstract:

More research is needed to help states evaluate Extension delivery model alternatives. Given funding trends, access to all programs requires regional systems with county offices. The traditional county model provides access to an office but only to some programs. While there will be many differences, only states with specialized educators can make sufficient program investments to increase public value and funding. Stakeholders exploring regionalization need to know about the successes and failures of the early adopters. The implementation of a national agenda of high-quality research on regionalization and specialization is needed to protect Extension's historic mission.

November 16, 2009

Minnesota's Cooperative Extension Model

Those of you working within Cooperative Extension have likely heard about Minnesota Extension's major reorganization and shift to a regional/county program delivery model. I frequently field questions about the shift: Why did Minnesota make the change? How did it happen? What has been the result? How is Minnesota Extension doing now?

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I am very grateful that George Morse and a knowledgeable team of co-authors have now published a book, The Minnesota Response: Cooperative Extension's Money and Mission Crisis, that answers these questions and more.

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On his blog, "Economics in Cooperative Extension," George Morse explains what the book is about:

"The Minnesota Response explains how Minnesota Extension responded to its mission and money crisis in 2004 with a sweeping reorganization. Breaking with 95 years of tradition, Minnesota Extension shifted from a county based delivery model to a regional/county delivery model. Regionalization, however, is the tip of the iceberg. Several other policies define Minnesota's new approach, including changes in funding sources, degree of specialization of the regional educators, more statewide program teams, development of business plans, increased use of market research, supervision of field educators by program specialists rather than geographic supervisors, and new scholarship and promotion expectations. The Minnesota Response details these policies and reports on their initial impacts on program quality, scholarship, access to Extension, and public support for Extension."

The full citation to the book is: George Morse, Jeanne Markell, Philip O'Brien, Adeel Ahmed, Thomas Klein, and Larry Coyle. The Minnesota Response: Cooperative Extension's Money and Mission Crisis. iUniverse, Bloomington, October 2009. 428 pages.

It is available from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com in soft cover or hard cover.

Google Books allows you to read some of the book. To find the book easily, enter the full title at the Google Books link. George has also included some excerpts at his blog.

I'd be pleased to hear of your reactions to the "Minnesota Model" and to the book, and I'm sure George would be, too. Feel free to share your reactions in the comment section here (particularly as they relate to public value) or at George's blog.

November 10, 2009

Logically speaking about public value

Many of you use the University of Wisconsin Extension logic model to guide program development and evaluation. Below is my first attempt at mapping the elements of the logic model to a public value message.

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The "short-term" or "learning outcomes" in the logic model are a means to achieving the behavior changes and outcomes contained in the public value message. These learning outcomes lead the way to public value--and we must identify and measure them--but they are not the focus of the public value message. A skeptical stakeholder is unlikely to be persuaded of a program's value be hearing that a participant learned or became aware of something. The stakeholder is concerned with what the participant actually did with that knowledge.

What I call "changes" in the public value message are called "intermediate" or "medium term outcomes" in the logic model. What I call "outcomes" are the logic model's "long-term outcomes" or changes in conditions.

It seems to me that public value typically arises from a program's long-term outcomes. In some cases, a program's logic model will already include the outcomes that a stakeholder cares about (public value). In other cases, the public value exercise will tell us which additional outcomes we need to monitor--how we should extend the logic model--in order to substantiate our public value messages.

I believe that the public value approach must work hand in hand with program evaluation: it is through good program evaluation that we are able to make credible statements about our programs' public value.