Impact Collaborative

The flagship program of the eXtension Foundation is the Impact Collaborative – a proven process to innovate, accelerate and amplify local impact. Extension professionals at member institutions are eligible to form teams around an idea that will make a visible and measurable difference in their local programming.

The teams experience our proven process, including a catalyzing design-thinking event, tailored online professional development, and virtual and face-to-face consulting time with key informants, coaches, innovation fellows, external partners and innovators across the Land-Grant system. Check out the results to date…

In 2018, Collaboratives are being formed around the topics of Food Systems, Behavioral Health, and Diversity & Inclusion. These topics were chosen with the help of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), Directors and Administrators throughout the Cooperative Extension System, and USDA-NIFA.

[View a full-page PDF version of the infographic below]

impact collaborative infographic

two people talking about their concept mapPriority topics for regions and multi-state collaboration can be addressed as sub-themes or as region-specific Collaboratives.  It is our goal to work with 35+ professionals at every eXtension member institution as part of Impact Collaborative cohorts in 2018. Fund development is underway to leverage the investment of member institutions and increase the visibility of CES among those we serve. Premium Members will receive significant discounts on registration fees for the Designathon events.

The Impact Collaborative has built the only national network in the Land Grant University System that uses a proven process to accelerate capacity for projects with problem-solving teams so that significant local change happens. See the Impact Collaborative story. . .

Impact Collaborative Background

Since early  2016 eXtension has successfully engaged hundreds of  Cooperative Extension professionals in the development of impactful projects addressing topics such as local food systems, climate, small business development, enhancing rural capacity, equine biosecurity, financial management, backyard poultry, women in agriculture and diversity and inclusion. These efforts were part of the eXtension Issue Corps program.  In 2017, the eXtension Foundation rebranded the Issue Corps as the Impact Collaborative.

diversity & inclusion issue corps designathon december 2016The Impact Collaborative members reported working differently as a result, including:

  • 93% believed the Impact Collaborative participation was a positive experience.
  • 86% gained awareness of, access to, or training in the use of new tools.
  • 83% were exposed to new or different ideas and/or viewpoints.
  • 82% interacted with other Extension professionals outside their normal professional circle
  • 68% feel they can influence either their institution and/or their professional field in new ways after participating in the Impact Collaborative.

The majority reported improved ability to participate in professional discussions, developed confidence in sharing resources, gained comfort in recommending alternate approaches to ideas, and are working differently because of their Impact Collaborative participation.

The Impact Collaborative Process

The Impact Collaborative is constructed around four essential elements: Design thinking, key informant expertise, a growing base of evidence-based practice and a dynamic synergy that happens when colleagues passionate about solving the same issues network face-to-face and online.

impact collaborative process version 5 oct 2017

Access to Key Informants

A Key Informant is a recognized expert from either a land-grant university, non-profit organization, or private industry, willing to share the latest research and innovations in Extension and related practice to help Collaborative members accelerate their project impact and scale. Key Informants include our cadre of eXtension Fellows funded in partnership with organizations such as USDA-NIFA, Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), Digital Green and organizations of the Joint Council for Extension Professionals (JCEP). Locally-identified and willing Key Informants are also a critical part of the Impact Collaborative process.

Designathon One and Designathon Two

Two catalyzing events in the Impact Collaborative process are Designthon One and Designathon Two. These 2 1/2 day events each serve a specific purpose. Designathon One provides an empowering process and time to focus on ideation, validating ideas, and pivoting and iterating as needed to ensure high-impact ideas are developed into projects.  Designathon Two (~90 days later) introduces concept mapping and identifying gaps and opportunities for greater impact and greater scale. Access to Key Informants help incorporate the latest relevant research and innovations so that participants walk away with an action plan and prototype. The Designathon aids Collaborative members and their projects by providing education and skill building tailored to specific needs, leveraging resources by networking and forming partnerships and leveraging innovative approaches and processes to generate new resources needed to fulfill project goals.  

Dynamic Networking Synergy

While there are myriad conferences that focus on professional development, an eXtension Designathon takes action toward creating greater measurable, visible local impact by local community Extension educators and agents. Designing a project as a part of the Impact Collaborative empowers, advances, and accelerates results. Bringing like minds together to network creates a synergy of creativity, innovation, and success. Collaborative alumni attest to enhanced project outcomes, the creation of new social and professional networks, and dynamic relationships that create systemic change in how Cooperative Extension professionals address local problems.

Growing Evidence Base

Photograph of a vendor and a customer at the Boise Farmers' MarketThe Impact Collaborative experience is designed to foster the evidence of local impact and to document solutions that work in a way that can be shared across the Extension system. Throughout the process, eXtension provides access to Key Informants and other critical eXtension tools and resources while projects move from preparation to implementation to impact.

As we begin to learn from our first cohorts in 2016…results happen! Stories about Impact Collaborative projects are found on the eXtension website here.