June 21, 2022
In recent weeks, I have had a couple of unexpected 'lightbulb moments' that illustrate the value of extension.
One was when I did a phone interview with Renata Goossen regarding her horticulture business. Without prompting from me, she told me about growing up in 4-H and about the positive impact her extension agents had on her young life, especially Larry Crouse in Butler County.
She continues to utilize extension resources and named Calla Edwards in Butler, Matt McKernan in Sedgwick, and Scott Eckert in Harvey County as key resources in horticulture today. Extension made a difference in this young person’s life and career. Lightbulb!
Many of us have experienced the value of 4-H and extension education first-hand, so this was not so unusual. The second example is more involved.
The KSRE Community Vitality Program Focus Team recently conducted a planning retreat. The program included briefings from such organizations as the entrepreneurship support organization known as NetWork Kansas. The speaker pointed out that NetWork Kansas began as a statewide clearinghouse and financing program for entrepreneurs. A call-in number was established and NetWork Kansas sought to identify the many partners that could help entrepreneurs in various ways.
As the leaders of NetWork Kansas continued to look for ways to increase impact, they developed the idea of creating a network of local partners to assist. They began a process of designating E-communities led by local folks who would handle loan-making in their region. This has grown to include 60 E-communities across the state.
The NetWork Kansas speaker described these evolving levels and nature of their activity, with the following in increasing levels of sequence and impact:
- First, statewide, described as transactional.
- Second, with greater impact, working with partner organizations, described as relational.
- Third, with greatest impact, when E-communities were designated, described as personal. This level was characterized by “hyper-local connectivity” and “focused strategy.”
In other words, NetWork Kansas found that its greatest impact was achieved when there were locally-based people and partners engaged in delivering the service. Lightbulb!
Does this sound familiar? This involves local boards and county-level plans. It sounds like a version of the extension model to me.
Extension has always had local leaders engaged in the educational process, identifying and utilizing those university resources that would benefit them locally. This is where extension has its greatest impact also – making a difference to people at the local level.
Sometimes seeing our organization through an external partner’s lens and learning how they came to emulate the extension model helps us appreciate the value of what we have. Thanks for all you do!