Are we storytellers or statisticians?
A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk on "Building Public Value with Extension and Research" at the National Extension and Research Administrative Officers Conference in Madison, WI. I heard a question that echoed one that I once asked of an Extension legislative affairs officer: "When making the case for Extension funding to an elected official, is it more effective to tell personal stories about positive experiences with Extension, or to share statistics about the impact of Extension programs?"
The answer I got from the official who visits regularly with state legislators was, "We need a lot of both!" He said that the evidence on program impact is crucial for showing legislators that Extension is improving conditions in their districts. However, we make a stronger case when we can also "put a face" on those statistics with personal stories about Extension and, importantly, personal stories about how the improved community conditions have positively affected a constituent. So, it seems to me, our best case has three components: (1) evidence of program impact, (2) testimony from individuals whose lives were improved by their own participation in Extension programs, and (3) testimony from individuals who benefit from the improved conditions--environmental, social, economic, etc.--that Extension programs helped generate.
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