Getting Connected and Staying Connected

Bradley A. Leger

I’m a big fan of understanding the fundamentals.  If I’m working on a certain initiative or trying to explain a certain issue to someone who may not be familiar with the topic, I always try to communicate what the bottom line is.  For instance, why do we change the oil in our automobile engines at certain times? Insulate our homes?  Wear ear plugs when operating heavy machinery?  Within the Extension realm, why do we conduct certain activities such as livestock show, pet care clinics, community cleanup days, and ag literacy days? What about summer 4-H camps? In terms of programming, what of nutrition programs? Organizing Junior Leader Programs? 

In other words, why do we do what we do?  Are we conducting activities just because “that’s what we’ve always done” or are we designing comprehensive programming which is relevant and timely?

As Extension professionals, I think that it is a good practice to sometimes take pause and consider the fundamental question, “why are we here?”   Let’s take a look at our mission statement:

“Extension education is an intentional effort to fulfill predetermined and important needs of people and communities.”

Well, how are we to know what these needs are?  As the LCES PS-22 states, “Involving people in program development is a fundamental philosophical tenet of the LCES.”  As we all should know, the mechanism through which we execute this is our Advisory Leadership System, better known as Advisory Councils.  I recall during my days as a high school agricultural educatio n teacher that my Advisory Councils provided great feedback and direction for my program, keeping me grounded to the needs of the community, and pointed me to some great resources.  I’ve also witnessed some great Extension Advisory Councils in action around our state.  Good stuff!

In short, we are all aware that the makeup of Advisory Council should be a reflection of the demographics of the community in which you work.  Through the voice of these valuable folks, you should hopefully be able to stay on the pulse of the community and to assess its needs.   In addition, there are other avenues to acquire this valuable data in concert with the work of your Advisory Committee, such as going straight to the community.

So . . . how do we collect this information?  How to stay (or get) connected? What are some effective methods?

I recommend starting here:

LSU AgCenterAdvisory Leadership System Manual

University of IllinoisNeeds Assessment Techniques: Using Community Meetings

 Well . . . what do you think?  What are some stories which you could share?

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