In the summer of 1986 as a graduate student, I took the hardest class in my educational career. Dr. Patricia Duffy was teaching for the first time duality theory in economics. Today, I don’t remember the math, but I do remember reaching different but “right” conclusions by using different methods. These different conclusions ended up being the limits for possible solutions.
After almost 30 years, I am reminded of the hardest class I have ever taken—duality theory in economics—and the confusion I had when we worked through different methods and coming to different conclusions. The notions of this mathematical class applies today in complex problem solving. There are many solutions and those solutions are bound by the physical, environmental, societal, and economic constraints, We have to understand the different perspectives to understand the different constraint dimensions. To make sure we have the best range of solutions, we need to seek many different potential perspectives and try some of those possible creative solutions. There is no one absolute answer.
eXtension, like Cooperative Extension, has always been caught in a quandary of staying true to our traditional clients and methods while changing to adopt new research and technologies. This duality—great possibilities within constraints—however also presents seeming conflicting thoughts. We know Cooperative Extension needs to do more and work differently to connect with potential community members who don’t know us. The duality is that for eXtension and Cooperative Extension to continue we must change but also to continue we must stay true to those who know and support us—who may or may not realize the technological, behavioral, demographic, and societal changes. We are bound by our traditional clients who support us and by what we know is changing.
eXtension is changing. To meet the demands and requirements of Cooperative Extension, we are focusing on serving and providing professional development for Cooperative Extension educators in order to provide greater impact to their programs. We are looking for tools—some of these tools are technological and online. And, some of these tools are talents, connections, and networks that can enhance local programs—beyond local dynamics.
In our first phase, we are depending on a subset of Cooperative Extension professionals to tell or show us where they need help and to help us shape eXtension (and possibly a Cooperative Extension) path. In this process, this subset will develop short burst experiments and some lab experiments to test ideas and to provide a safe way to be creative and try new ideas for connecting and reaching new audiences in order to have a greater impact.
The duality is that we do not intend to forget our past and present and yet we know we need to realize the potential of a different focus. We are not abandoning our current communities of practice who have built eXtension and who have served the public. We are committed by our past—the collection and the networks of the communities of practice—and by our future—new audiences and greater impact through innovation and developing and advancing our own workforce. We will be depending on existing communities of practice to add value and to shape our future.
eXtension’s goal is to increase visibility and measurable impact of Cooperative Extension through its greatest resource its own Extension’s professionals. Our goal may be a bit lofty. Can eXtension help individual Extension professionals have greater reach and impact? We will be trying by providing a safe-fail place for new ideas. We want individuals who want to try something different in their existing programs, who want to connect with others who are working in the same areas, and who know there is something else we can do and achieve greater impact in our local Cooperative Extension programs. While Cooperative Extension can show public value throughout our system, we also know that increasingly fewer people know who Cooperative Extension is and how we might affect their lives and communities.
Starting in January, eXtension wants to enable the 200 Extension professionals in the i-Three Corps in the work that they are already doing, who are seeking ways to enhance their work, who want access to talents they don’t have, and to be willing to work in a process that can generate creative and innovative ideas.
eXtension’s new mission provides exciting opportunities for Extension professionals and for Cooperative Extension.
We want to know:
- What you think of eXtension’s new mission and path?
- Who do you think in your organization can be part of the first 200 i-Three corps working in Climate and Food Systems? For example:
- Climate variability mitigation for agriculture production, forestry, home ownership including gardening and yards, and communities.
- Food systems including production to consumption, rural and urban, big production, small production, local, backyard, and community systems.