February 3, 2014

How do your programs create public value?

In the Building Extension's Public Value workshop, we highlight three main ways Extension programs create public value. Programs address concerns about fairness, close an information gap, or encourage actions that benefit the greater community (or equivalently, discourage actions that impose costs on the community). Each of these can be thought of as a criterion or justification for public sector involvement. In my experience, most Extension programs focus on the third type of value creation and base their public value message on the ways a program encourages beneficial activities.

During a recent a webinar for University of Minnesota Extension, we conducted an onscreen poll asking which of the three criteria participants thought applied to their programs. Respondents could choose any criterion that applied, including choosing all three. Out of about 32 participants, five thought their programs addressed a concern about fairness, and both the information gap and public benefits criteria received 20 votes.

We can't generalize from this non-scientific poll, but I wondered about the lack of attention to the fairness criterion. In the workshop, I encourage program teams to use this criterion with caution. Whether the unfairness of a situation warrants public sector action is subjective, and stakeholders with different values may assess fairness differently. So, I think Extension makes a more effective case when it uses the fairness criterion selectively. For this reason, I wasn't surprised by the small number of responses for fairness. I wondered, though, whether it arose because respondents thought their programs did not address a concern about fairness, or if they thought the program did address fairness, but they planned to emphasize a different criterion in order to make a stronger case.

Do you think a relatively small share of Extension programs address a fairness concern? Which criterion would you have chosen for the Extension programs you work with?

October 23, 2013

Does public value magnitude matter?

Is it enough for a stakeholder to learn that your program produced public value, or do stakeholders want to know how much value was created? Put another way, is it adequate to demonstrate that a program has a positive return on investment for a community? Or does it have to have a higher return than all the alternative investments the community could have made?

I was asked this question today at a Center for Integrative Leadership Research Forum where I presented, "How Cross Sector Leadership Builds Extension's Public Value." It seems that the answer has to be yes, it does matter whether a program generates a large or small amount of public benefit relative to its cost.

A potential funder wants to direct dollars toward their highest use. Ideally, all programs would report a return using a common metric. The metric could be dollars for programs whose impacts can be monetized (i.e., converted to dollars); it could be some other common metric (e.g., amount of pollution remediation, high school graduation rate) for programs addressing similar issues. With common metrics, a funder could rank programs by return on investment and fund as many of the top programs as they can.

Such apples-to-apples comparisons must be rare, though, even for programs with common objectives. I also imagine that the magnitude of a programs' expected public value--if it is known--will inform, but not drive a funder's decision.

What has your experience been? Have you sought funding from a source that demands to know the expected return on their investment in terms of dollars or some other metric? Do you know of funders that use those metrics to rank programs by return?

October 14, 2013

Working Differently in Extension Podcast

Interested in a short introduction to "Building Extension's Public Value"? Check out this Working Differently in Extension Podcast, featuring a conversation between Bob Bertsch of Agricultural Communication at North Dakota State University and me. If you'd like to actually see us converse, check out the video of the podcast below.

July 1, 2013

Give voice to the public value experts

Occasionally I become aware that some of the participants in a BEPV workshop have had prior experience with the workshop. Some may have participated in a full workshop or completed the train-the-trainer course, others may have been introduced to the BEPV content in a speech or webinar. 397080364_0b8225f5b6.jpgI am often uncertain about how to address the range of experience in the audience. If I teach primarily to the inexperienced, I run the risk of disengaging those familiar with the content. If I teach to those with experience, I may frustrate the newbies. Because I usually do the former, I am willing to bet that more than a few participants have emerged from one of my workshops mumbling, "Well, that was nothing new."

Last week at a training session for the LEAD21 leadership development program, a trainer used an approach that I think can be effective with a mixed-level-of-experience group. The trainer first asked group members who had been through a similar training to identify themselves. S/he then named these people as the group's experts on the topic, and said that s/he would call on them to enrich the training by sharing their own experiences. Instead of expressing unease that some people in the group were already familiar with the content (which I'm sure I have done), the trainer showed gratitude that the room was rich with peer expertise.

Here are some ways I can see using this approach in a BEPV workshop:

==Ask people with prior experience to not only identify themselves, but describe briefly the kind of experience they have had (e.g., prior workshop, writing public value messages).
==If time allows--and if the experts are few in number--ask them to explain why they have chosen to attend the training again. I might use that information to more effectively prioritize the program content.
==Arrange participants so that the experts are distributed among the work groups.
==Before setting groups to work on an activity, ask the experts what they recall as the pitfalls for that activity, For example, I can imagine someone saying, "I remember that it takes a while to get all the way through the stakeholder exercise. Make sure you quickly choose a program to work on and move ahead to the exercise."
==During the next steps module, ask the experts what steps they have taken since their original training, and what obstacles and successes they have experienced.

I am grateful to the LEAD21 trainers for the reminder to draw "expert" participants into the conversation and to encourage them to share their knowledge with their peers.

(Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik on FlickR.)

April 17, 2013

Public Value at 2013 PILD Conference

JCEP.PNGThis year's Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference, to be held April 21-24 in Alexandria, VA, has been organized around the theme of "What you CAN do!" The program is packed with practical guidance on how to effectively advocate for Extension with elected officials and stakeholders. There will be two opportunities to hear about the public value approach to communicating about Extension programs. On Monday I will give a keynote talk,"You CAN Understand and Effectively Communicate the Public Value of Cooperative Extension." I will give a brief introduction to the public value approach and then present my current thinking about how Extension organizations can make a stronger public value case going forward. Then on Tuesday, I will teach a mini Building Extension's Public Value Workshop for any conference attendees who have not been through the program or who would like to apply the approach to a program of their own. I hope to see you there!

April 3, 2012

Program design impacts public value

Elements of a program's design can influence how much public value the program can create. Module 9 of the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide lists a number of those elements:


When I was at the 2012 Women in Agriculture Educators National Conference last week, I was reminded of the risk management education program for farm and ranch women known as Annie's Project. It is an example of a program that achieves its impact by targeting a carefully selected audience: women who are motivated to be involved in a farm or ranch business. Not knowing much more about the project than that, I wondered how the Annie's Project curriculum is tailored to its target audience. After all, if the program could achieve its objectives using all the same approaches as a traditional risk management education program--which historically were targeted to men--then it wouldn't be necessary to have a separate program for women.

I have learned, partly from this 2010 Journal of Agricultural Education article by Lynn Hambleton Heins, Jeff Beaulieu, and Ira Altman, some of the ways that Annie's Project is designed to be particularly effective with farm women learners. For example, the curriculum recognizes that women typically play different roles in the farm business and have different motivations for being involved in the business than men do.

I have also read and heard elsewhere--not in the Heins, Beaulieu, Altman paper--that the Annie's Project uses educational approaches that address the specific learning needs of women, who learn better in supportive environments with other women. I haven't found an article that describes these specific educational approaches or presents evidence that they are more effective with women learners than approaches used in traditional risk management classes. If any readers know of such a source, please let me know. With that evidence, I think Annie's Project can be a fine example of a program that maximizes its public value through careful program design.

Source: Hambleton Heins, Lynn, Jeff Beaulieu, and Ira Altman. "The Effectiveness of Women's Agricultural Education Programs; a Survey from Annie's Project." Journal of Agricultural Education 51,4 (2010):1-9.

March 22, 2012

Are we disoriented about Extension's assets?

Module 7 of the Building Extension's Public Value workshop leads participants to answer the question "Why Extension?"--that is, why should Cooperative Extension, and not some other public or private entity, develop and deliver outreach education programs? We answer the question by listing the people and organizations that are perceived to deliver programs that are similar to what Extension does, and naming Extension's strengths relative to those alternative providers. The result is a type of asset inventory: a list of the qualities that make Extension a preferred source for programming or the assets that we bring to the table when we engage in partnerships. The inventory usually includes Extension's trained educators, research-based curricula, local knowledge, statewide and national networks, and connection to the land-grant university.

disorient.JPGIt can be affirming for Extension professionals to assemble this asset inventory and see the organization's strengths. However, the exercise also gives us an opportunity for transformative learning through a disorienting dilemma, an idea from Jack Mezirow that I learned from Nancy Franz and wrote about in these blog entries.

The fact is, we can only use our list of Extension's strengths to make our case for Extension funding if the items on the list are true. In the "Why Extension?" exercise, I challenge participants to think about whether their organization really does ensure that educators are using the best teaching methods, curricula are based on current research and local knowledge, and connections to the university and to key networks are maintained. Inevitably, I hear participants share that for their organization, there is frankly room for improvement in at least some of these areas.

I think this challenge can create a disorienting dilemma for some participants: they have been asked to switch from admiring their organization's strengths to recognizing some of its weaknesses. I suggest that the way out of the dilemma is to see the asset inventory as a list of possible investments that Extension administrators can make to shore up Extension's strengths. Investing in our strengths can help us make Extension's best case.

I thought about this opportunity for disorientation and transformative learning on Tuesday of this week when I lead the "Why Extension?" exercise for Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals. Were you at the VCE workshop? What did you think of the exercise? Have you taught this module? What approaches work for you?

March 20, 2012

Fund the arrows!

At the OMAFRA public value workshop last week, a participant suggested that in order to make a strong public value case for Extension programs, we cannot only provide funding for program delivery. We must also invest in research and program evaluation that will provide the data to support public value messages. She said that in the following diagram of a public value message, we need to "fund the arrows"--the links between the stages of the model. Not only will funding the arrows help us make our best funding case, it can also help us choose which programs to prioritize. For anyone with budgeting responsibility, what do you think? Should we "fund the arrows"?


March 14, 2012

Women in Agriculture Educators Create Public Value

2012NavTop.JPGAre you an Extension or outreach educator who works with women in agriculture? Do you develop, evaluate or teach risk management education programs? Are you planning to attend the 2012 Women in Agriculture Educators Annual Conference in Memphis, TN? I will be there on March 29, 2012, to present "Creating Public Value with Risk Management Education."

How do you think risk management education programs create public value? How are programs targeted to women in agriculture different from more general programs? Whether you share your ideas here or bring them up at the conference, I look forward to hearing from you!

March 12, 2012

Creating Public Value with Animal Health and Welfare Programs

Last week I spoke about creating public value with animal health and welfare programs at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Animal Health Forum in Guelph. cattle.JPGI also taught a public value workshop for OMAFRA and University of Guelph Extension professionals. If you picked up the url for this blog at the OMAFRA events, welcome! Feel free to explore the site and contribute comments and/or questions on any of the entries. Or, if you prefer, email your comments and questions to me at kalam002 at-sign umn dot edu. Also, if you participated in the March 9 workshop, look for an email with a link to an end-of-workshop survey. The survey contains only a few questions and should take very little time to complete. I will use the results to evaluate the workshop's effectiveness and to improve future public value offerings. Thank you for your feedback!

October 27, 2011

Extension's bias toward public value

Key to making the case for funding for Extension is our ability to explain why Extension--and not some other public or nonprofit organization--should provide programming aimed at improving conditions in the state. In other words, we need to answer the "Why Extension?" question. When I ask Extension professionals to name Extension's strengths relative to other possible program providers, the first response is usually that Extension provides sound, unbiased, research-based programs. Case closed, right?

At a recent workshop for University of Wisconsin Extension's Western Region, this question arose: Can we really say that Extension has no bias? We do not have a profit motive, like private sector service providers. And we do not have specific mandates, like many local government service providers. But, can we say that our program content that has no bias at all? Isn't striving to improve conditions in the state a bias? Isn't striving for public value a bias? Isn't using scientific research as a base from programming a bias?

This discussion brought two things to the forefront for me. First, we need some language other than "unbiased" to describe Extension programming. "Motivated by the public good"? "Based on the best scientific knowledge"? "Designed to create public value"? I'm not yet sure what the answer is...Second, for whatever descriptor we use, we need to ensure that Extension programming actually fits the descriptor. We need to be certain that we are doing whatever it is that separates Extension from other program providers.

October 24, 2011

The late-workshop slump

I got some constructive feedback on a recent four-hour "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop that I taught here at the University of Minnesota for NELD. While the evaluations were largely positive, I also heard that some participants grew weary toward the end of the workshop and even "checked out" during the later small group exercises. One participant wrote on the evaluation form, "Content was very good, but a very long time sitting with no activity."

This lead me to search for activities I might include in the second half of the workshop--which often occurs in the sleepy after-lunch hours--that would get people up out of their seats and moving around. I admit that I am torn, because even without adding new activities, it is hard to achieve all of an organization's workshop goals in the allocated time. So, I do not want to add anything to the workshop that doesn't advance the BEPV learning objectives.

My search brought me to the University of Minnesota's Techniques in Learning and Teaching (TILT) blog. The October 17, 2011, entry is about reinvigorating student learning during the "mid-term slump." My issue is more with a "late-workshop slump," but I'm willing to try some of the suggested techniques. For example, I think I can adapt the flipchart-page-synthesizing technique to the BEPV workshop. It is described here:

"Version 2: Create four flip chart pages, each with its own unique synthesizing question and post each page at different locations around the room. Group students in 3s or 4s and have them discuss the question on one chart, come to a consensus, and then record their thoughts. At a designated time all groups rotate to a new flip chart, review and respond to previous groups and raise new questions. By focusing the four questions on a specific, common-to-all case or scenario, students must draw on all they have studied to analyze and address the discrete components of an overall problem, while also reflecting on how content and coherence of previous commenters."

I can think of two ways this technique might work:

(1) I could use the activity to help participants synthesize the main content of the BEPV workshop (modules 1-4): the criteria for public sector action. I'm not yet sure what the "unique synthesizing questions" for the flipchart pages would be...perhaps something like, "Can the criteria for public sector involvement be used to justify public funding for any Extension program?" Alternatively, each flipchart page could simply hold one of the criteria, as identified in the slide below, and groups would add to each page examples of Extension programs that satisfy the criterion.

(2) After participants complete the "Demonstrating Extension's Public Value" activity (module 8), but before they refine their work with the public value message template (module 8.1), I could post draft public value messages on four flipchart pages. The messages would come from elsewhere, i.e., not from the workshop participants. I would sort participants into new small groups, as explained in the TILT blog excerpt, and ask each small group to critique the draft messages. Perhaps they could re-draft the messages on the flipchart pages. If there is enough time, I could rotate the small groups through the flipchart pages, asking them to improve upon the previous groups' work, if possible. The slide below, providing some guidelines for drafting messages, could serve as a resource for the activity.


What are your reactions to these ideas? Is it worthwhile trying to invigorate the second half of the workshop with a get-up-and-move-around activity? Do you think the suggested activities would help accomplish the learning objectives, and not simply add minutes onto a tight agenda?

October 20, 2011

Constructing a public value message in real time

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, a couple of weeks ago I taught a one-hour "mini" public value workshop as part of the University of Minnesota Extension fall program conference. With such a short amount of time, we really had to pare down the presentation, and there wasn't enough time for participants to complete exercises. construction.JPGMy co-organizer, Aimee Viniard-Weideman, wanted us to at least give the participants a sense of how the construct a public value message. Aimee suggested that we invite a colleague, who had already completed the BEPV workshop, to demonstrate how her program's message came about.

We included a blank version of the public value message graphic, like the one below, except with empty boxes. Prior to the session, we asked Sue Letourneau, program leader for health and nutrition programs, to share a public value message for Extension's Simply Good Eating program. I created a slide that included Sue's text within the message graphic and added animation that brought the text in one box at a time. At the session, I asked Sue to present her message, explaining how her team arrived at the language they chose.

Given the short amount of time, we hope this approach helped participants see how a program team can go about constructing a public value message, even if they didn't get a chance to do so themselves. It also gave an example of a UM Extension program that had completed the workshop, hopefully dispelling concerns that it would be too demanding. Finally, Sue helped participants see how the public value message was related to the research agenda that the Simply Good Eating program team is currently implementing.

blank worksheet.bmp

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.

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?


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.

September 20, 2011

Leading with Public Value

On Thursday, September 22, I will teach a Building Extension's Public Value workshop as part of the National Extension Leadership Development NELD North Central meeting here at the University of Minnesota.

NELD's mission is " build leaders in Cooperative Extension at all levels and provide them with the vision, courage, and tools to lead in a changing world." Extension's world certainly is changing--and fast. I hope public value will be one of the tools NELD participants will find useful as they lead through that change.


September 19, 2011

Public Value in Wisconsin

bucky_badger_small.jpgTomorrow, September 20, I will be in Eau Claire, WI, teaching a BEPV workshop for University of Wisconsin Extension's Western Region. I am looking forward to hearing what has been going with Extension across the border!

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

April 5, 2011

Building Public Value in the Southern Region

This Thursday, April 7, 2011, I will teach a Building Extension's Public Value workshop to Extension leaders in the Southern region as part of the Southern Region Middle Managers' Conference in Arlington, Texas. I look forward to hearing how Extension organizations across the South are communicating with stakeholders about their programs' impact and value.

March 24, 2011

Announcing a Building Extension's Public Value Train-the-Trainer

Help Build Extension's Public Value!

You know how your Extension programs benefit your participants, but your programs also create public value when they benefit the rest of the community. Nationwide, participants in "Building Extension's Public Value" workshops have learned how their programs create public value and how to communicate this value to stakeholders whose support is crucial to Extension.

Now, you have an opportunity to learn how to conduct these workshops for Extension scholars at your own institution by participating in an online train-the-trainer program for "Building Extension's Public Value."

With your registration fee, you get:

• Four hours of instruction in how to conduct "Building Extension's Public Value" workshops from the creator of the workshops, Dr. Laura Kalambokidis, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota.
• Access to the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide, the Building Extension's Public Value Workbook, and accompanying Powerpoint™ presentation to download and print for your use in conducting workshops for University and Extension scholars at your institution.

To register, go to The registration fee is $100 per participant. To encourage institutions to send teams of staff to the training, the maximum total registration fee for any institution is $500.

The training will be conducted online, via UMConnect, and will consist of two, two-hour sessions, with all participants attending both sessions. The training sessions will be Tuesday, June 7, and Thursday, June 9, 2011, at 10:00-12:00 Eastern; 9:00-11:00 Central; 8:00-10:00 Mountain; 7:00-9:00 Pacific.

Prior to the beginning of the sessions, participants will receive an email notifying them of how to participate in the two online sessions and how to download the training materials, including the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide, the Building Extension's Public Value Workbook, and accompanying Powerpoint™ presentation.

Questions about registration? Contact our help desk at or 800-876-8636.

Questions about program content and relevance to your work? Contact Laura Kalambokidis at

Other questions? Contact Diane McAfee at

February 28, 2011

Workshop at the 2011 NACDEP Conference

If you are attending the 2011 NACDEP Conference next week in Charleston, SC, consider participating in the mini "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop that I will teach Tuesday, March 8, 11:00-12:30. We won't have enough time to do a full workshop or cover all of the learning modules, but it will be a good opportunity to get a introductory "taste" of BEPV training.

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?

July 29, 2010

The public university's mission is to...create public value?

Around the country Extension organizations are using the public value approach to make a case for public funding for Extension programs and, in some cases, for the organization as a whole. But, can the public value approach help make a case for public higher education funding, generally? This was--understandably--a topic of conversation yesterday when I taught a short workshop for the Public Higher Education Advocacy Professionals, who held their annual conference here at the University of Minnesota.
One answer is that the public value of a state university is the sum of the public value from everything the university does: teaching and granting degrees, outreach education, research, athletics, art performances, continuing education, public engagement, community service, etc. The "public value message" for the university is the [rather thick] catalog of messages for all of the programs in each of these categories.

A more satisfactory answer--and the one I think university advocates are seeking--would convey the public value of the institution in a single, compelling, all-purpose statement. To me, this sounds like a mission statement for the university, with the stipulation that it focus on public value: how the university benefits those who do not have direct contact with the university. The institution's public value statement answers the question, as if posed by a state resident with no access to university resources, "What are you doing for me?"

A short web search reveals that some public university mission statements already include the answer. Below I excerpted from mission statements the pieces that sounded the most like public value messages:

Michigan State University:

"[The university's teaching prepares students] to contribute fully to society as globally engaged citizen leaders...[The university's research] make[s] make a positive difference, both locally and globally...[The university's outreach and public engagement] lead to a better quality of life for individuals and communities, at home and around the world."

Oregon State University:

"Oregon State University promotes economic, social, cultural and environmental progress for the people of Oregon, the nation and the world."

Kansas State University:

"The mission of Kansas State University is to foster excellent teaching, research, and service that develop a highly skilled and educated citizenry necessary to advancing the well-being of Kansas, the nation, and the international community."

Many public universities see their missions as generally making the state--indeed, the world--a better place. As long as that "betterment" extends to people without direct contact with the university, the institution has accomplished its public value mission, as well.

June 4, 2010

Revising the public value curriculum

This summer I will be updating the curriculum materials for the "Building Extension's Public Value (BEPV)" and "Public Value of Programs (PVofPP)" workshops. For each workshop, we are updating the slideset, the participant's workbook, and the presenter's guide.
If you have taken the BEPV train-the-trainer course and are using the curriculum materials to teach your own BEPV workshops, or if you are a UM Extension Educator who teaches PVofPP, I would love to hear your suggestions for revising the materials. Have you noticed typos in the printed materials? Have you thought of ways the workshop activities can be improved? Can you suggest updated examples for presenters to use? Are there images or graphics that you think would improve the materials' look? Please share any ideas at all in the comments here or in an email to me.

Thank you for your suggestions. I look forward to sharing the revised materials later in the year.

May 24, 2010

Building public value with risk management programs

Congratulations to the 2010 grantees of the North Central Risk Management Education Center! ncrme.bmpThe summer training workshop for the 2010 project directors will be in Indianapolis, IN, August 10-11. As part of the workshop, I will present a customized version of the "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop, tentatively titled, "Creating Public Value with Your Educational Project."

If you are a NCRMEC grantee and will attend the August workshop, what would most like to see at the public value session? What questions do you have about BEPV and how other programs have used it? Share your ideas in the comments section here, or email me. I look forward to seeing you in Indy!

May 17, 2010

ExTEND-ing public value in Georgia

Across the country, Cooperative Extension organizations are adopting a variety of strategies for training their staff in the public value approach. University of Missouri appointed an "MU Extension Public Value Education Team," who subsequently offered "Building Extension's Public Value" training to all of MU Extension. Some states introduced the training to a particular program area (Family and Consumer Sciences in North Carolina, and Community Resource Development in New York and Pennsylvania). Nevada, in contrast, introduced it in selected regions.
University of Georgia Extension has chosen to introduce public value training as part of a professional development program for the organization's leaders--and future leaders. Last week I taught the BEPV workshop for Georgia's "ExTEND" group: participants in an advanced program of the Extension Academy for Professional Excellence. I look forward to seeing how the ExTEND group chooses to use the training--how they plan to extend their organization's public value.

What approach do you think will work best to build support for public funding for Extension programs? BEPV training for everyone? For Extension leadership? Rolling out the concepts by program area or region? Or another approach?

March 30, 2010

Efficient, benevolent, and honorable...government?

Yesterday I taught a short version of the "Public Value of Public Programs (PVPP)" workshop for a Public Affairs class at the University of Minnesota. The PVPP workshop content is similar to that of the BEPV workshop, and the objectives are the same: to help people who develop, teach, evaluate, and advocate for publicly funded outreach programs to make a case for that public funding. The difference is that PVPP is not directed at Extension professionals, but at program providers in the government and nonprofit sectors.


I presented the slide below to introduce the idea that under conditions of market failure, collective action(for example, by the public or nonprofit sector) can improve the outcome for a community.

A student asked whether I was assuming that government or nonprofits would act efficiently and in the best interests of the people. In some developing countries, he noted, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are sometimes inefficient and corrupt. Their action, even in the presence of market failures, can make a community worse off than if the market failures had persisted.

public economics.JPG

Indeed, the PVPP program addresses the role of the public and nonprofit sectors when private enterprises ("the market") fail, but is silent on the possibility of government or nonprofit failures. A shortcoming, indeed.

So, yes, to make a strong case for public funding of a program, it is necessary not only to explain how a public or nonprofit organization can in theory address issues that the private sector cannot (market failure), but to provide evidence that your organization will in practice act efficiently, benevolently, and honorably for the public good.

In Extension's case, we can safely assume that our organizations always act efficiently, benevolently and honorably, right? Right?

March 16, 2010

Reminder: March train-the-trainer registration open

* To register for the March 2010 "Building Extension's Public Value" train-the-trainer course, go here. The registration fee is $100 per participant. To encourage institutions to send teams of staff to the training, the maximum total registration fee for any institution is $500.

* The training will be conducted online, via UMConnect, and will consist of two, two-hour sessions, with all participants attending both sessions. The training sessions will be Monday, March 29, and Wednesday, March 31, 2010, at 2:00-4:00 Eastern; 1:00-3:00 Central; 12:00-2:00 Mountain; 11:00-1:00 Pacific; 9:00-11:00 Hawaii.

* Prior to the beginning of the sessions, participants will receive an email notifying them of how to participate in the two online sessions and how to download the training materials, including the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide, the Building Extension's Public Value Workbook, and accompanying Powerpoint™ presentation.

* Questions about registration? Contact our help desk at or 800-876-8636.

* Questions about program content and relevance to your work? Contact Laura Kalambokidis at

* Other questions? Contact Diane McAfee at

January 25, 2010

What the doctor ordered

What should an Extension program team have on hand to draft a public value message that secures a skeptical stakeholder's support? Here's my prescription: prescription.jpgWhat's yours?

December 28, 2009

This I believe to be true today

Substantiating the claims that we make about Extension programs' public value is crucial to Extension's credibility. However, we don't always have enough time in a "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop to assemble the documentation (journal articles, program evaluation reports, etc.) to support the claims embedded in a newly drafted public value message. The purpose of the "Research Agenda" workshop module is to list those claims and create a plan for assembling the supporting documents, or even for conducting new program evaluations or research.
research agenda.JPG
Sometimes, a workshop group is torn between wanting to draft a public value message that is persuasive--but, maybe a bit aspirational--and one that contains only claims for which the team has strong supporting evidence. I usually encourage groups to be creative and persuasive during the workshop and worry about the documentation later, but not to publicly use a public value message until they are sure it is defensible. Understandably, this guidance occasionally leads to draft public value messages that include some pretty far-fetched claims.

Cynthia Crawford, Family Financial Education Specialist and County Program Director for University of Missouri Extension in Saline County, MO, has a suggestion for helping workshop groups stay creative while not veering too far off into "aspirational" territory. Cynthia suggests telling teams drafting public value statements that they don't have to have the documentation to substantiate their claims today (during the workshop), but they do have to believe the statements are true today. Cynthia reports that this bit of direction has lead to remarkably strong--and credible--draft public value messages in short amounts of work time.

I will definitely adopt Cynthia's "you have to believe it today" guidance the next time I teach a BEPV workshop. Do you have any other suggestions for helping teams "think big" while staying grounded?

December 22, 2009

Reporting by topic, not by table

In the Building Extension's Public Value Presenter's Guide, a small-group activity follows the presentation of the various ways a program creates public value. It is a brainstorming exercise, during which groups record as many ways as they can that their program satisfies any of the public value criteria, listed below.
How I handle reporting back at the end of this activity depends on time constraints. If I have plenty of time, I ask groups to report back any number of the ways their program meets any of the criteria. When time is tight, I ask them only to share their reactions to the activity, itself (what worked, what didn't, what questions came up), noting that they will use all of their notes from the exercise later in the workshop.

I tried something different last week when I taught the workshop for LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge, LA. Instead of asking each table to report, one by one, I went down the list of criteria. First, any group was welcome to share ways their program satisfied the information criterion, next any group could report how their program addressed fairness, etc. This approach takes a bit of time, but I think it might help to break up the workshop structure a little bit.

What do you think? Have you taught the BEPV workshop? Have you tried different ways of having groups report back? Were you at the LSU workshop? How do you think it worked there, aside from the fact that I gave confusing directions to start :-) ?

December 21, 2009

Extension, Show me the money! Or not.

While the objective of the "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop is to draft a qualitative message about a program's public value, many of our stakeholders are concerned about programs' financial impacts. For example, county commissioners and state legislators want to know how much a program will cost, and whether it's impacts will reduce strain on the county or state budget. A lot of us, therefore, are eager to quantify the impacts of Extension programs and, wherever possible, convert those impacts into dollars and cents.
Some exciting work is being done on monetizing Extension program impacts. These economic impact briefs from Texas AgriLife Extension are a strong example, and I know there are many more studies.

In future blog entries, I'll write more about ways researchers and program evaluators are quantifying and monetizing Extension program impacts. However, as persuasive as a dollars-and-cents case can be with some stakeholders, I can think of two reasons to proceed with caution as we pursue more financial and fiscal impact studies.

First, Cooperative Extension does not yet have all the resources and tools necessary to estimate the financial and fiscal benefits of all of our programs. To do a credible job, applied economists, program evaluators and others would need to devote many more hours to this effort than are currently available. Data must be collected and analyzed, models built and tested, reports written and vetted. The likely result of pressuring program teams to estimate financial impacts while providing them with inadequate resources is a collection of poor quality analyses that erode Extension's credibility.

Second, some programs' public value lends itself more readily to monetization than others. For example, a program that helps reduce a county's cost of managing its waste can make a strong, straightforward, dollars-and-cents case. On the other hand, methodologies for estimating the fiscal impact of social capital improvements are less well-developed.

Because so many of Extension's stakeholders are concerned about monetary value, I am concerned that those programs whose public value is more easily monetized will rise to the top of the priority list--not because they contribute more public value, but because their value is easier to translate into currency.

The objective of the BEPV workshop is to make strong qualitative cases for all Extension programs that create public value. I hope we can keep doing this, even while we seek the resources necessary to estimate the financial and fiscal impacts of those programs for which that is possible.

December 17, 2009

Using cultural diversity to narrow an information gap

One of the ways Extension and other outreach programs can build public value is by providing information that allows consumers and business owners to make better choices. In other words, Extension programs help to close the "information gap" that prevents people from doing the best they can for themselves and their businesses.

In the "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop, I caution participants about over-using the information gap as an argument for Extension program funding. All of our programs provide information, but if we try to use a single argument to justify all of our programs, we are unlikely to be successful. I suggest that we reserve the information gap argument for cases where it is likely to be strongest. Which cases are those? I think that when you can answer "yes" to at least some of the following questions, you can make a strong case with the information gap.


Take a look at the fifth question on the list, providing information to people who would not otherwise have access. The variety of ways that Extension programs address access includes providing information at low or no cost, bring programs to geographically isolated areas, giving people materials written in their native language, and delivering information in ways other than through written materials.

At a recent BEPV workshop for the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service, a participant suggested that cultural norms could also create a barrier to accessing and using Extension's information. For example, traditional gender or generational roles might prevent some members of a community from participating in a program. When we identify and address such barriers--indeed, when we allow cultural differences to inform and enrich our programs--we can be more successful in closing the information gap and building public value.


Incidentally, it is not at all surprising that the suggestion to consider cultural norms arose at the Hawaii workshop. Culture is deeply valued by the residents of the 50th state, which has the highest ethnic minority population in the nation. Mahalo, Hawaii, for reminding us to consider both cultural barriers and cultural contributions to Extension programs.

November 20, 2009

Disorienting dilemma and public value

I am continuing to look for ways that the theory of transformative learning--including the disorienting dilemma and perspective change that Mezirow (1) included as elements--applies to the "Building Extension's Public Value " workshop. One of the ways we try to encourage a perspective change for workshop participants is by setting up the free market ideal...and then knocking it down, or at least identifying its limitations. Hopefully we create a disorienting dilemma for someone who has bought into that free market ideal.

public economics.JPG

For someone who is confident that there is a private-enterprise-driven, government-hands-off solution to every condition that challenges a community, it's hard to see a role for publicly-funded outreach programs. But, once that person understands that free markets and private businesses alone can fail to lead to ideal outcomes, she can see that there is room for the public sector to act to improve those outcomes. Outreach programs in general, and Extension programs in particular, are one way the public sector can take action. (Recall that the "Public Value of Public Programs" workshop makes the same kind of case for outreach education that is sponsored by local governments and non-profits.)

I presented this argument, and the above slide, last week when I guest lectured in the "Transforming Public Policy" (PA 8001) course in the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, here at the University of Minnesota. A student challenged me by saying that she didn't see the point of my illustrating the limitations of the free market argument because she didn't believe it in the first place. She started from the perspective that the public sector has a role in addressing market failure, and so didn't need to make the transformation I was advancing.

Surely, this is often the case: that the audience for the BEPV workshop (Extension professionals) is made up of people who fully grasp the limitations of the market ideal. That's why they work for Extension in the first place! But, the above illustration is really intended to help BEPV participants to view the world from the perspective of a stakeholder who is skeptical about public sector involvement in the economy: someone who highly values the role of private enterprise. Hopefully, BEPV participants will then be better positioned to make their case for Extension to that skeptical stakeholder, perhaps by setting up the disorienting dilemma and inducing a perspective change in them.

(1) Mezirow, J. (Ed.). (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

November 19, 2009

New perspectives and public value

One of the tenets of Jack Mezirow's theory of transformative learning (1) is a change in perspective triggered by a disorienting dilemma--an event or observation that causes the learner to question her prior assumptions. Being introduced to someone else's perspective can be part of that dilemma. Consider, for example, a rancher and a wildlife conservationist working together in a community group to develop a consensus plan for managing a local population of wolves. Challenged to critically reflect on their own assumptions and to understand others' perspectives, their own perspectives may "transform."


I can imagine that in some cases an Extension program succeeds in encouraging a participant to make a different choice than she otherwise would have by helping her see the perspective of the community-member her actions affect. Letting a homeowner see how her poorly managed septic system turns her neighbors' drinking water toxic could be enough to induce her make a fix. Simply learning the impact of her actions on others--whether beneficial or costly--could be enough for her to make different choices.

In other cases, the perspective change might be a change in the way the participant sees how her actions affect herself, her family, or her business. She may make an alternative choice, not because she is concerned about her impact on the community (her public benefits or costs), but because she wants to improve her own or her family's well-being. As long as these changes also benefit the greater community, she is--however unintentionally--creating public value.

As a final thought on perspective change, I note that Extension educators who participate in a "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop are asked to assume the perspective of a stakeholder--someone whose support for the Extension program is valued, but who is not a program participant. For example, a stakeholder for an out-of-school-time program might be a school board member, who does not have children of his own in the program. BEPV workshop participants are asked to imagine what matters the most to the stakeholder: to put themselves in his shoes. For the school board member, a primary concern might be Kindergarten readiness or student performance on standardized tests. The public value message directed to that stakeholder, then, takes into consideration his perspective and addresses concerns. In so doing, the public value message should be successful in securing his support for the program. It's a case of transformative learning (through perspective change) on the part of the Extension professionals, themselves.

(1) Mezirow, J. (Ed.). (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

November 5, 2009

Closing the loop between research and Extension

When I ask Extension professionals to name Extension's strengths relative to other providers of outreach education, the connection between Extension programs and university research inevitably is the the first item on the list. We build on that key strength when we deliver programs that are based on the best research, and the community's needs inform the research agenda: that is, when we close the loop between research and Extension. I focused on this relationship--substituting "engagement" for "Extension"--at the Purdue Scholarship of Engagement Workshop last week.


Here's how I think an Extension team can close that loop: They (or someone else) conduct research that leads to a discovery (knowledge creation) that could help address a condition of concern in a community (middle left box in the diagram). The team designs their Extension or engagement program with a curriculum that is based on the new knowledge, as well as existing best practices regarding program design and delivery (middle box). If the team is truly "engage" with their community partner, then the partner's needs and strengths will also inform the design of the program. The team conducts their program (middle right box) while also collecting data and observations that can be used to inform the research agenda (top box). This way, what is observed and learned "in the field" makes its way back to the lab to influence the direction of future research. The team also implements their program evaluation plan, which helps them evaluate the impact of the Extension or engagement program (lower right box). The results of the evaluation helps them improve the program design (lower middle box), so greater impact will result next time.

detail loop.JPG

Where does public value come into this scheme? I can think of at least two places: First, in the design phase, the team will plan how they expect the program to create public value. What are the expected impacts and outcomes, and how do they create benefits for sstakeholders who are not the program's direct beneficiaries? Second, in the evaluation phase, team members will assess whether those expected outcomes were generated: whether public value was created.

pubval loop.JPG

I can think of a few ways a team can increase their success at closing the loop:

*Form a team that includes researchers, Extension educators, and program evaluators.
*Embed the program evaluation plan into program design.
*Develop and implement a plan for collecting observations and data arising from the Extension or engagement program.
*Keep up to date on relevant research developments.
*Plan for steps to take once the program ends (e.g., analyzing data and revisiting the program design).

Do you think closing the loop between research and engagement is crucial? Can you suggest ways to make it happen more systematically in Extension?

November 2, 2009

Extension, Congratulations on your Engagement!

Last week I spoke at Purdue University's Scholarship of Engagement Workshop: Making the Case for Promotion. The workshop was a resource for Purdue faculty who devote significant effort to public engagement and need to document the impact of that work for their promotion and tenure cases. My talk was about "Creating Public Value with Scholarship and Engagement," and I'll tell you more about what I presented in a future blog entry.

The existence of a workshop like Purdue's testifies to the emphasis that land grant universities have placed on the "engagement" activities of their faculty and students. Many are striving to be "engaged universities" and to promote the "scholarship of engagement." As someone who works with Cooperative Extension, I wonder about the relationship between Cooperative Extension and "public engagement" as universities now define it. In particular, it seems that land grant universities that want to become more engaged need only look to their own Extension organizations, which have been practicing public engagement since the Smith-Lever Act was signed.


So, what do land-grant universities mean by "public engagement" and does it encompass Extension? (I added the emphasis in the quotes below.)

The University of Minnesota's Office of Public Engagement says:

"Engagement is defined as the partnership of university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good."

From the University of Illinois' Office of Public Engagement:

"As a land grant institution the University of Illinois has a long record of commitment to public engagement and to the discovery and application of knowledge to improve and serve the greater society in which we live. Its faculty, staff and students collaborate with external audiences and partners to address the needs and opportunities of society. It is through these partnerships that critical societal issues are embedded into and impact the research and educational missions of the University."

Purdue University's Office of Engagement says:

"Purdue believes in being a good neighbor. Through the Office of Engagement, the university uses its resources to address issues affecting the state's prosperity and quality of life."

Imagining America, whose Project Director for Research and Policy, Tim Eatman, also spoke at the Purdue workshop, explains university engagement this way:

"Our activities are based on the conviction that making universities more civic requires ongoing collaboration with partners in the public and non-profit arenas."

Finally, many public university offices of engagement are modeled after recommendations in the The Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities' third report, "Returning to Our Roots: the Engaged Institution":

"This Commission defines engagement as something that goes well beyond Cooperative Extension and conventional outreach. It even goes beyond most conceptions of public service. Our inherited ideas emphasize a one-way process of transferring knowledge and technology from the university (as the source of expertise) to its key constituents. The engagement ideal is profoundly different; embedded in it is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity. By engagement the Commission envisioned partnerships, two-way streets defined by mutual respect among the partners for what each brings to the table."

Within these definitions, I see two primary objectives for engaged scholars: (1) apply knowledge and expertise to address community needs and promote the public good and (2) work toward this end in partnership with constituencies outside the university. As Tim Eatman said at the Purdue workshop, "engaged scholars are co-creators with their community partners."

While the Kellogg Commission argues that public engagement "goes well beyond Cooperative Extension," it seems to me that contemporary Cooperative Extension--at its best--now goes well beyond traditional, one-way, outreach. By the definitions of the universities themselves, Extension is an example (exemplar??) of public engagement. Is Extension's work viewed this way at your institution? Do you see instances where Extension falls short of the engagement ideal?

(Incidentally, until I started fishing around the Internet, I did not know there was a Journal of Community Engagement Scholarship. Did you?)

October 19, 2009

When participants serve others, who is the stakeholder?

At last week's "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop for University of Wyoming (see: cowboy) Cooperative Extension Service (CES), one group drafted a public value message for their land reclamation Extension program. The program provides research-based education on how to reclaim rangeland that has been disturbed by energy extraction. You can read about it here.


As I understand it (and members of UW CES Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources initiative team will correct me), program participants might include landowners--including energy companies--or reclamation professionals, who do the reclaiming work on the part of landowners. The question arose: Who are the participants, and who are the stakeholders for this program? In particular, when the program participant is the person doing the work to reclaim the land, but s/he is working on behalf of a private landowner, should we direct a public value message to the landowner?

We might think of the private owner of disturbed land as a stakeholder, provided s/he doesn't participate in the educational program. After all, s/he clearly has a stake in the reclamation professional being able to do a good job of restoring the land to its original--or new--use.

In my view, however, the private landowner is not a stakeholder in the public value sense: s/he directly benefits from the program through being able to hire a trained--maybe certified--reclamation professional, possibly at a lower cost than if CES had not contributed to that training. The landowner may even enjoy increased land values.

I think the public value message may be more effectively directed to others--aside from program trainees and the private landowners they work for--who have a stake in the land being restored. Of course, if the disturbed land is public land, the stakeholders are all the residents of Wyoming. At the conference, the group suggested hunters (specifically grouse, I recall), people concerned with biodiversity, and those who value an open viewscape.

What do you think? Who are the stakeholders for a program that trains a group of professionals to perform a service for a family or a business?

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?

March 2, 2009

Learn first, then do

The behavior changes that we seek from Extension's interventions only arise once program participants learn something new: through our programs they gain knowledge, skills or awareness. For example, the Alaska Extension client below is learning how to plant a community garden. (Photo by Edwin Remsberg USDA/CSREES.)


The diagram that I usually use to illustrate a public value message leaves out this "learning" step. In two recent public value workshops--for Texas Agrilife Extension and for Missouri Extension--I presented the public value message diagram slightly differently than I have done before.


Many of us document the learning step in our logic models. End-of-workshop evaluations and follow-up evaluations often measure the increases in knowledge, skills, and awareness. And for program evaluation, that step will continue to be crucial. For a public value statement, however, I tend to de-emphasize the learning step. Because I think that stakeholders are more interested in what happened, as a result of the learning, I like to move quickly to the behavior changes, outcomes, and public value a program generates. Learning is part of the mechanism that gets us to public value, but it is not the end in itself.

What do you think? Should a public value message keep the learning step implicit, or should it receive more emphasis when we communicate with stakeholders? Do you think the (not very dramatically) altered public value message diagram is a helpful tool or an unnecessary distraction?

February 19, 2009

Change or stay the course?

You might think that after years of teaching BEPV workshops that I would have heard any and all possible questions and comments about public value, but that is not at all the case. Great input at every stop keeps me thinking, learning, and revising the way I talk about Extension's public value.

Earlier this week I taught a pair of BEPV workshops for University of Missouri (MU) Extension in Columbia, MO. One MU faculty member drew attention to the public value message diagram, which asks for a specific behavior change that program participants adopt. The participant observed that sometimes Extension programs validate the choices that program participants are already making. Rather than inducing a change in behavior, the program serves to solidify an existing beneficial behavior. Imagine a participant in a nutrition education program who has been trying to eat a heart-healthy diet based on information he has gathered on his own. In the program he learns that he is in the right track. That validation steels his resolve, and he continues his beneficial food choices. The public value message for this program might say that program participants either adopt or maintain healthful food choices (or something more specific, such as eat primarily whole grain carbohydrates).


I can think of a time when this happened to me. A couple of years ago I read a University of Minnesota Extension resource with communication tips for parents of teenagers. A few of the tips were new to me, but many were things that I already was trying to do, albeit instinctively, rather than consciously. Reading the tips made me consciously aware of the way I talk to my own kids, and gave me a reason to persist with what I already was doing right (and change a couple of things I was doing not so well!).

One caution about using a public value message that talks about maintaining a beneficial behavior: skeptical stakeholders want us to direct our program resources toward achieving the greatest possible benefit. Targeting participants who already have made positive choices may not seem like the best investment. Perhaps we could have a greater impact by focusing resources on those whose behavior is the farthest from ideal. To address this challenge, you may need to persuade your stakeholder that potential participants who are already doing well are in danger of reverting to poor choices if they do not receive the validation that comes from being exposed to research-based Extension education. Why might they revert? The positive choices might be costly to them (in terms of money, time, or comfort), or they may be influenced by advertising messages encouraging them to choose a different path.

What do you think? Is maintaining a beneficial behavior a valid objective of an Extension program, or should we always look for ways to make the greatest marginal change?

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?

Making the case for Extension during a fiscal crisis

The public value approach was born out of the state and local fiscal crisis of 2001-02. We wanted to make the case for public funding for Extension programs and to help Extension organizations focus scarce resources on programs that generate public value. States and localities are now facing what is, in many cases, even more discouraging fiscal news, and Cooperative Extension is again feeling the financial pressure. I wonder if the public value approach can help Extension make its case for funding under these circumstances. I wonder if focusing on the public benefits of programs can help secure support, even when demands on public resources are extraordinarily high.

A bit of insight into that question comes from a survey I conducted in December 2008 of "Building Extension's Public Value" trainees. The survey asked respondents how they have used the training and how their own public value work has influenced their organization. Out of 400 people surveyed, 106 responded, for a response rate of 27%. (If you were one of the respondents: Thank you!)

Most survey respondents reported having followed their training with additional steps toward adopting the public value approach. For example, 74% explained the public value approach to colleagues, 47% used a public value message when communicating with stakeholders, and 37% explained the public value approach to stakeholders. In addition, 83 % of respondents reported that the public value approach had influenced the way their organization communicates with stakeholders.

The survey also asked how the public value approach had affected various aspects of the Extension organization. On a five-point Likert scale ranging from "very negatively" (1) to "very positively" (5), the most positive impact was on the respondents' own work (average rating of 4.10). Respondents reported similar impacts on how stakeholders view the organization (average rating of 3.74) and how stakeholders view the organization's programs (3.72).

But, what really surprised me, and made me think about making Extension's case during a fiscal crisis was this: thirty respondents (33%) reported that the public value approach had positively affected funding for their programs. Of course, this is self-reported data, so we don't know the extent that anyone's public value work actually influenced program funding. Nevertheless, I would be very interested to hear more from anyone who responded that way on the survey. Perhaps we could all learn how to effectively use public value messages during these trying budgetary times.


December 15, 2008

Best practices for talking about best practices

Last week I conducted a "Building Extension's Public Value" train-the-trainer webcast for Clemson University Extension. During the training, I made up a couple of public value messages that included phrases such as "best management practices" and "beneficial practices." As in: Participants in our program adopt best management practices for...

Among people with whom we share expertise, "best practices" can be shorthand for a set of behaviors or approaches that we are all familiar with. If you tell a group of Master Gardeners that participants in a program "adopted best management practices" for pest control, those MGs probably have a good idea of what the program participants are doing. The rest of us? Not so much. In fact, during the training, I tried to think of a specific practice to replace "best management practices" in a Master Gardener public value message. Being neither a MG nor an entomologist--I came up blank.

All of this is to encourage you, when you are writing public value messages, to review a draft message for shorthand language, such as the phrases above. Can you replace vague language with something more concrete? Can you replace "beneficial practices" with "built and maintained raingardens" or "stored food at a safe temperature" or "read to their preschool children every day"?

What do you think are Extension's best practices for talking about best practices?

November 9, 2008

Public value or stakeholder value?

Last week I gave a brief talk about "Building Extension's Public Value" at a meeting of the Outreach and Engagement Leadership Group of Oregon State University Extension. An interesting question came up with regard to the slide I use to describe the elements of a public value message (below):


I always describe the lower right box (the maroon/pink box) as including any of the sources of public value: narrowing an information gap, addressing a concern about fairness or justice, encouraging public benefits, and discouraging public costs. A conference participant asked if the schematic could be used to explain how an Extension program addresses a stakeholder's concern, even if that concern is not necessarily related to the common good. One would think of the maroon box as representing "stakeholder value," rather than public value, and it could include anything that the stakeholder cares about. For example, if an Extension program team is seeking funding for a program from a corporate sponsor, they could demonstrate that the behavioral changes and outcomes of the program lead to increased customer share (or profits, or visibility, or whatever the cponsor cares about) for the corporation. The message would be, "If you sponsor our program, you will enjoy a larger customer share."

In a sense, the public value approach already does this,whether our sponsor is in the public, nonprofit, or private sector. We try to determine what the sponsor cares about, and see how our mission coincides with theirs. By identifying and communicating the public value of the program, we are also showing how our program addresses the sponsors concerns. For example, consider a granting entity whose primary concern is local economic vitality. We use our public value message to explain how, when participants complete our program, they make behavior changes that enliven the local economy--which both generates public value (everyone in the local region benefits) and contributes directly to the sponsor's mission.

I would not go so far, though, as to replace the "public value" box in the above diagram with a "stakeholder value" box. As long as our programs are at least partially funded by taxpayer contributions, whether from state, country, or federal taxes, I think we need to focus on the value we create for the general public. We wouldn't want to alter our programs to serve the interests of sponsors at the expense of the public good. I think the focus should still be on how the public value that a program generates conincides with the interests of a potential sponsor.

What do you think?

October 24, 2008

Follow up to UM Extension Annual Program Conference

Thank you to everyone who showed up at 8:00 (!!) Tuesday morning in Duluth to participate in the UM Extension Annual Program Conference session on "Demonstrating Your Program's Public Value: The Key to Gaining Support from Stakeholders and Funders." In the 90 minute session, I was able to present only a very abbreviated version of the public value content, but the little bit that we were able to cover stimulated some great questions and discussion.

I wonder if, when I have only a short amount of time to introduce the public value concepts and lead groups in one or two exercises, if I should focus on one criterion for public sector action (one source of public value), rather than explain all three of them. To be clear, I typically cover all three of the criteria listed in this slide:


In a full workshop, I believe it adds a lot of value for participants to consider how their programs address the first (information gap) and second (fairness or justice) criteria. After all, most programs will need multiple public value messages to meet the concerns of multiple stakeholders, and the additional criteria can help a team develop a suite of messages. But, for an "Intro to Extension's Public Value" session, such as the one we had in Duluth, perhaps I should describe only third criterion: public value arises from creating public benefits or reducing public costs.

What do you think?

Did you attend the session in Duluth? What do you think we could have done differently?

October 13, 2008

Follow up to Minnesota Council of Nonprofits conference

On October 3, 2008, I lead a session titled "Making the Case: Articulating the Common Good in Public and Nonprofit Programs" at the annual conference of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits in St. Paul, MN. The session, described here, was based on the UM Extension companion program to "Building Extension's Public Value" that is directed to local government and nonprofit program providers: "Public Value of Public Programs." (Scroll down to "Educational Offerings.") The "Public Value of Public Programs" workshop is taught across Minnesota by UM Extension Community Economics Educators. If you want to read more about "PVPP," it was featured in a recent issue of UM Extension's magazine, Source. The article is here.

We had about 150 people attend the "Making the Case" breakout session at the MNCN conference. As with other short presentations, I had to leave out a lot of the PVPP content, and we didn't have time for small group work. However, there were some very good comments and questions from an audience representing a wide range of nonprofit organizations. One participant asked about the public value of research conducted at a nonprofit nature center, which can be addressed by thinking about what would happen in the absence of the program. Without the nature center's research, would the research agenda be advanced? By whom? Would the resulting research be in the public domain? Would research focus on knowledge that advances the public good? In short, the nature center creates public value by generating knowledge that creates public benefits; knowledge that would not have been created in the absence of the center's work.

Even with the tight session time, one participant at the MNCN session drafted and shared a compelling public message for a program that assists older foster kids in finding permanent homes. She named public benefits, including the greater likelihood that adopted kids will succeed in school and alleviating the burden on the foster care system. But, as an adoptive parent herself, the private benefits she named were equally compelling: the privilege and pleasure of adding a new, cherished family member and new face in family photos!

Did you attend the MNCN public value session? What did you think went well? What should I have done differently?

October 6, 2008

Follow up to Galaxy III conference presentation

Given that the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Galaxy III conference ended September 19, I am a bit late posting my follow-up thoughts. Let's just say I wanted to give myself a chance to think things over...

*I presented a very mini (90 minutes) version of the BEPV workshop for about 49 attendees in a breakout session on Tuesday, September 16. I was able to present the basic principles of the public value approach--a "taste" of the full program--for people who are unfamiliar with it. Thank you to everyone who attended, and especially those of you who added to the discussion or asked questions.

*I could tell from the commentary that a lot of different states were represented among the attendees, but I wish I knew which subject areas folks were from. I wonder if Extension professionals in some subject areas (youth development? natural resources? farm management?) are more drawn to the public value approach than others. What are your thoughts?

*When I have such a limited amount of time to teach BEPV, I usually convert the small group activities into open-ended questions to the full group. At a couple of points, I did allow a few minutes for participants to discuss questions with neighbors and report back. But, I miss the interaction and productivity that the activities allow. I am open to suggestions about how best to capture the small group benefits in a shortened program.

*Many of the modules in the BEPV curriculum were included specifically to address questions or challenges I heard when teaching early versions of the program. For example, I drafted the module on "Types of Public Sector Actions" after being challenged that the early program explained the conditions under which public sector action was warranted, but not which kind of action. So, each module addresses an issue that I expect someone in a workshop to bring up. Teaching an abbreviated version of the program can be frustrating, because questions inevitably arise, the answers to which are in modules that I had to cut out! For example, one participant at Galaxy asked a good question about assembling the research she would need to substantiate the claims she wants to make about her program. I sure wished I could have responded by going more fully into the BEPV module that leads small groups to draft a research agenda for their programs.

*Thank you to the Galaxy host at my presentation, who handed out end-of-session evaluations and counted attendees. I had brought some of my own evaluation forms, but the short Galaxy form was quick and easy for people to complete, and I was able to bring the completed forms back the office to be tabulated. (One frequent comment: the room was too cold! Did anyone else attending Galaxy find the rooms at the Indy Convention Center to be chilly?)

*I stayed in the same presentation room to attend the session following mine, "Cost Benefits of Extension Programs — So What?" by Sharon Hoelscher Day from Arizona Cooperative Extension. Measuring the costs and benefits of Extension programs can be a crucial step in substantiating claims about a program's public value, particularly if you can quantitatively differentiate between private and public benefits and costs. Did you attend any other sessions at the Galaxy conference that presented tools or information that would be valuable to a team working on communicating their program's public value?

*Did you attend my session at the Galaxy conference? What do you think went well? What should I have done differently? Go ahead, I can take it!

August 29, 2008

What does building public value sound like?

This week, the Extension 2.0 web course is focusing on adding audio to our blogs by embedding podcasts. I searched through iTunes for podcasts that might be relevant for the "Building Extension's Public Value" blog, and I didn't find much. I did find podcasts for hearings held by committees in the MN House of Representatives, and I imagine some hearings that are related to Extension would be interesting to link to here.

I do think it could be helpful to include in the blog some recordings from public value workshops. People who have taken my online train-the-trainer course, but who have not had a chance to present a public value workshop themselves, might benefit from hearing some of the workshop modules presented by an experienced trainer. Perhaps, too, a recording of workshop participants delivering their own draft public value messages would be helpful here.

What other audio files would make this blog more useful?

August 13, 2008

Mini Public Value workshop at 2008 Galaxy III conference

Are you attending the Galaxy III conference, September 15-19, 2008, in Indianapolis, IN? I will present a short version of the "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop as a "Skill Building Session" at the conference. Join me Tuesday, September 16, 3:30-5:00. If you've never attended a public value workshop, this will be a good introduction to the program. If you have attended one in the past, it can be a refresher course and a chance to see and use the new program curriculum.

Also, in the spring of 2009 I will offer the third online training for Extension professionals interested in learning how to use the "Building Extension's Public Value�? curriculum to conduct workshops in their own states. Participants in the Galaxy III session will have enough information to decide whether they would like to attend the upcoming online training.

August 9, 2008

Public Value Workshop at University of Minnesota 2008 Fall Program Conference

Are you with University of Minnesota Exension? Would you like to learn how to use the public value approach to secure support for your Extension programs? Consider attending the session at the 2008 UM Extension Fall Program Conference that I will co-lead with Aimee Viniard-Weideman. The session is Tuesday, Oct. 21, starting bright and early at 8:00. Grab a caffeinated beverage and join us! Here is the session description:

Demonstrating Your Program's Public Value: The Key to Gaining Support from Stakeholders and Funders
Laura Kalambokidis, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota
Aimee Viniard-Weideman, Asst Dean & Dir of Comm & Pub Relations

Given today's growing pressures to demonstrate accountability and attract scarce resources, it is more important than ever that your programs demonstrate public value. That's the benefit Minnesota communities receive because others are participating in your programs. If you develop, deliver or seek funding for programs, this workshop is for you! During this dynamic 90 minute session, you will: 1) understand public value and how it applies to your program, 2) discuss, develop and refine your program's public value messages, and 3) discover new ways to communicate your program's public value to get the support you need.