March 14, 2011

Public value messaging via the web

Visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website to see an example of an organization communicating to stakeholders with the public value approach. nebraska.bmpEasily spotted by anyone visiting the organization's public home page in February, was a public value message for a private drinking water and wastewater Extension program. Below the message was a link to a document containing messages for programs across all disciplines. Today, links to program impact summary reports occupy that left-column space on the home page. Prominent on the front of each colorful, two-page report is a message about the program's public value.

Keep checking in with the UN-L Extension web page to see other ways they highlight their programs' public value.

How has your organization used public value messages on the web?

August 13, 2010

Teaching public value to all types of learners

Last week I spoke at a workshop for grantees of the North Central Risk Management Education Center (NCRMEC). At the workshop, Karl Duley of University of Wisconsin Extension gave a presentation on meeting the needs of learners with different personality types, using the Myers-Briggs taxonomy. I wondered how well the "Building Extension's Public Value" (BEPV) curriculum can be adapted for different kinds of learners. ncrme.bmp Below are a few of my own observations about how well the BEPV workshop--as I teach it--matches some of the learning preferences Karl described.

  • Extroverts (E-types) prefer thinking out loud, working with other people, and group activities. The BEPV curriculum includes many small group activities, so I think we may do a good job of reaching E-types.

  • Introverts (I-types) prefer quiet reflection and keeping their thoughts to themselves until they are comfortable. Karl demonstrated teaching to this preference by having us write down our answers to some of his questions, only sharing them later in the small group. In the BEPV workshop, when I introduce the different criteria for public sector action, I ask participants to think about the ways those criteria apply to their own programs. I can easily augment this by, after explaining each criterion, asking participants to write down the ways their program satisfies the criterion. This would give I-types a chance to reflect before speaking up, and would give everyone a list of ideas to refer to during the small group exercise.

  • Sensing learners (S-types) prefer a practical approach to new material, providing skills and facts they can currently use. I think the worksheets, exercises, and examples in the BEPV workbook should serve this kind of learner well.

  • Intuitive learners (N-types) prefer seeing the big picture before details. Spending adequate time on the introductory BEPV material (the workshop learning objectives, what is public value?, what is the purpose of the public value approach?) and periodic reminders of that material throughout the workshop can help I-type learners to keep track of the big picture.

  • Thinking learners (T-types) focus on objective truths, free from emotional distractions. Basing the public value approach on the (somewhat clinical) principles of public economics should be satisfying to these learners.

  • Feeling learners (F-types) feel comfortable taking into account people's motives and personal values. One key objective of the BEPV workshop is to help learners see the value of their own program from the perspective of someone who is not a participant in that program. I ask them to "put themselves in the shoes of" that non-participant stakeholder and imagine what matters to that person. This exercise should be a cinch for the F-types!

  • Judging learners (J-types) want clear structure in the learning situation from the beginning. The BEPV workshop is carefully organized into modules, each with learning objectives and exercises. I think J-types will feel comfortable the degree of organization in the curriculum.

  • Perceiving learners (P-types) prefer open exploration with limited structure. Hmm. Being a clear J-type myself, I may have designed a curriculum that doesn't serve this type of learner very well. I need to think of ways to insert--into a highly structured workshop!--some unstructured time to allow for a more creative flow of ideas.

Have you ever tried to modify a curriculum to meet different learning styles? Did you use the Myers-Briggs taxonomy, or do you find a different approach more useful? Do you have suggestions for how to make the BEPV curriculum more learner-friendly?

May 1, 2009

Revise and rewrite

During a typical public value workshop, participants draft a public value message for an Extension program and the presenter and other participants provide feedback. Most groups will need to revise the messages post-workshop before they can be used in publications, websites, or grant proposals.

To help with the revising step, I cobbled together a list of criteria for evaluating messages. Some of the criteria came from University of Minnesota Extension's Aimee Viniard-Weideman, and I thought up some myself. Recently, I have incorporated the checklist into workshops for Texas, Nebraska, and Missouri Extension. With University of Missouri Extension, we went a step further and developed an exercise using the checklist. Workgroups started with a message they had drafted earlier and critiqued and revised it according to the criteria on the list--and any other criteria they thought were important. Each group received some feedback from a colleague from a different program area, and they revised the messages a second time. Some really strong messages emerged!


The checklist--and the accompanying revise-and-rewrite exercise--are not yet part of the public value curriculum, but I am thinking about including them in the next revision. Do you think your organization would find the exercise useful? If so, how would you change or add to the list? What other criteria do you think drafters should consider when they are writing messages for use in their work?

To get the ball rolling, here are some thoughts I've had about the criteria::

==This is not an exhaustive list: Workgroups may have other criteria that are important for a particular program, stakeholder, or delivery method. For example, some messages will be very effective in print, but should be differently composed for legislative testimony.
==Revising a message will involve balancing these criteria; some will be more important than others in a particular case. For example, there is a natural tension between the objectives of brevity and credibility, and a group might opt for a slightly longer message in order to present some evidence in support of their case. Additionally, there will be some instances where negative framing will make a better case than positive framing.
==The first three items--all about focusing on the stakeholder--could be combined.

Other ideas? Or can you suggest a completely different direction?

January 29, 2009

Ordering from a menu of messages

This week I taught a "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. (It wasn't exactly warm in Lincoln, but it was nice and sunny and at least warmer than here at home!) While the UN-L work groups were drafting public value messages for their programs, a few of them wrestled with the trade-off between brevity and completeness. Should they draft a message that names all of the behavior changes, outcomes, and public benefits their program generates, sort of like a logic model? Or should they draft something that is shorter and "punchier" that tells only a single story: naming a single set of behavior change-outcome-public benefit?


For communicating with a single stakeholder who has an identifiable concern (e.g., the county commissioner who is concerned about demand for public services, or the business owner concerned about property values), the short, one story message might be best. But, it might be useful for a program team to draft the more comprehensive message for their colleagues within the organization. Then Extension staff could pick and choose from the list of changes, outcomes, and public benefits to create messages that they can use for various purposes. The idea arose for a "menu" of changes, outcomes, and public benefits from which we could choose one from column A, one from column B, and one from column C to form an appealing meal...I mean: message. Different messages for different stakeholders and different stakeholder concerns.

What do you think? Do you have an idea about how to organize and implement a public value message menu?