Connecting Experts with Experts to Create Impact: i-Three Issue Corps Track at NeXC 2016

IssueCorpsThe eXtension i-Three Issue Corps cultivates innovative thinking to apply strategies that deliver greater measurable impact in Cooperative Extension programs.  The 2016 i-Three Issue Corps includes 126 Extension professionals from 33 institutions working on 69 projects. An important element of the i-Three Issue Corps strategy is building connections: between Corps members, with collaborators and constituents in local and broader communities, and with experts across the Cooperative Extension System. The Corps design-a-thon at NeXC2016 in San Antonio will offer a rich environment for making connections and developing innovative strategies to increase the visible and measurable impact of the Corps projects in climate and food systems.

The design-a-thon experience begins on Wednesday March 23 with three dynamic group activities that will inform, energize, and build “esprit de Corps.” The day starts with a workshop by keynote speaker and author John Stepper on Working Out Loud…making work visible so it might help others. Renee Pardello, University of Minnesota, will broaden Corps members’ thinking and perspective through a lively introduction to Global Dynamics and Cultural Knowledge. Then on Wednesday afternoon design thinking expert Paul Pangaro hosts a “Design Studio” in which he will model and guide the Corps through several exercises to sharpen their design thinking which is a vital process for innovation.

On Thursday, more than 30 experts from 18 institutions and private industry will interact with Corps members during the day-long “design-a-thon” experience. Experts in climate, food systems, social media marketing, communication & storytelling, evaluation, community engagement, global dynamics & cultural knowledge, innovation, funding strategies, working out loud, and design will visit with Corps members at conversation stations located around the room. Their interactions will help to spark innovative thinking that can be applied to existing Corps projects to increase measurable and visible impact.

By the end of Thursday, every Corps project will have at least one new and innovative design component or strategy ready to implement between April and August. The group then moves to a reception venue where their project plans will be shared in conversations with other conference attendees.

The design-a-thon is just one part of the i-Three Issue Corps’ work. Prior to the conference, Corps members have been progressing through a “boot camp” experience that includes: consultation with eXtension staff and key informants, weekly meetups with other Corps members, interaction in the chat platform Slack, project management in Basecamp, a Moodle course in Impact Statement Reporting, and work on evaluation plans.  Leaving Texas, Corps members will be taking their projects to the next level working toward completion. You will be able to follow the progress of the Corps via their stories shared in blog posts at https://www.extension.org/blog/. The Corps’ work will be shared broadly with Extension directors and administrators at their national meeting in September.

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