Extension gathers with a focus on collective impact

Conference Focus on Collaboration with a Collective Impact, Cultural Literacy and Community Engagement

Rebecca Kelley at the lectern
Rebecca Kelley, National 4-H Council, shared the effective ways in which collected partnerships can take shape within communities for optimal efficiency and impact

How can Delaware Cooperative Extension professionals adopt new ways of collaboration to more efficiently address the needs of Delawareans? Working toward a collective impact,  appreciating Delaware’s diversity, sharing innovative ideas, and serving as ambassadors of engaged institutions served as answers that commanded attention at the 2018 Delaware Cooperative Extension Conference held on Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Modern Maturity Center Dover.

The conference, a professional development event gathering Extension professionals from University of Delaware and Delaware State University, also continued its tradition to celebrate Friends of Extension honoring local partners, supporters and volunteers who contribute to the success of Extension outreach throughout the state.

Keynote highlights
Rebecca Kelley, Director of Development with National 4-H Council, shared the “Collective Impact” concept in her keynote speech before 100 registered attendees.

Kelley identified two forms of leadership; “Technical leadership,” which typically offers a rapid, clear cut response to an issue, and “Adaptive Leadership,” which embraces a nuanced, collective style that encourages multi-level partnerships to address not only a problem, but why it occurred in the first place. 

Kelley’s work with 4-H intersects with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and that organizations partnership with others, including extension, that concentrates on health and Well Connected Communities working on local health issues and examining PSE, Policies, Systems and Environment in place in local populations.

“Sometimes powerful people can make a play, but sometimes it takes a wide variety and a large group of people,” Kelley said. “As you move in the direction of collective impact, it often requires that we work in partnership.”

Leadership doesn’t always mean taking the lead role, Kelly emphasized. “While the answer to every question is not collective impact, sometimes you truly do need to work through a diverse cross sector of stakeholders, in coalitions, and networks. It requires an different aspects of leadership and different understandings of how to work together and for our organizations to show up a little bit differently,” Kelly told the audience.

Kelley sees extension’s brand as a ‘guide on the side.’ “Extension can use its leverage, its amazing abilities and its amazing depth in the community into the work of Well Connected Communities and help address the issues of not having a culture of health in this country.”

Cultural literacy and working as engaged institutions

Adam Foley speaking at lectern
Adam Foley stressed the importance of cultural literacy as a key component to successful communications

Effective partnerships require a full understanding of diverse populations and the experiences they bring to the table. Adam Foley, associate director of UD’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion encouraged his audience in the afternoon session to consider their own unique experiences  and develop cultural fluency. “Our audiences we encounter will bring different ways of thinking and ways of approaching a problem,” Foley reminded the gathering. ”As we begin to think about the programs we design and implement, the ways that we will reach out to the community in different capacities, there are different layers of culture that have an impact on how we interact.”

Foley emphasized that all communication is cultural. The ways in which we choose to communicate with each other and present ourselves, the times that we meet people and interact, reducing award moments, particularly meeting someone the first time, are all reliant on a powerful insight of cultural fluency.

Dan Rich speaking holding the Civic Action Plan
Dan Rich explains extension’s role in the Community Engagement Initiative’s Civic Action Plan.

Dan Rich, professor of Public Policy and director of UD’s Community Engagement Initiative spoke passionately about the rise and fall of America’s investment in higher education and what it means to be an engaged community. He shared UD’s Civic Action Plan and announced a similar plan for DSU was in development.  

Rich pointed to the post World War II era as a watershed moment for colleges and universities across the nation, largely due to the implementation of the GI Bill, which allowed institutions, then known as Cold War institutions, to grow and offer affordable education.“This investment literally created the middle class,” Rich told the audience.

“We had a massive public investment in education,” Rich said.  He further explained that a federal investment, along with governors and elected officials across the nation, grew in stature because they believed that the investment in education was the key to American prosperity.

That support began to erode in the 1980s and has waned since.  “Increasingly higher education was thought in terms of a private view,” Rich said. “Something in which you benefit, so you should pay.” This view grew to the challenge higher ed institutions face today–tuition costs. “This is an issue. It is a big deal.”

“What I think is missing, is a clear model of how to restore the broader public vision of higher education. You don’t get people to change by telling them not what to do. So, how do we do this?” he asked colleagues.

“I am here to ask you, to invite you to see the work that you do, already, is part something larger, more sustained, and we have an active coalition that projects the future that we actually want to have in place in our institution.”  

“We created the modern university systems and we built what we have today. The answer is no group is going to do it alone. As long as community engagement and public service is seen as something ‘they do’ we are not going to make any progress,” Rich said.

UD’s Civic Action Plan, Rich said, arose from a grassroots movement among faculty, students and staff and is a model to “be the change you want to see.”  

“Basically what we did is we documented what you [extension] do,” Rich exclaimed. “The Community Engagement Initiative is a way to sustain these efforts, an opportunity to go to the next stage.”  Rich called to attention the pages and pages of people listed in the plan, community leaders and organizations, who served on crafting the model. “They have to get involved, this is part of who they are.”

“My message to you, we can do this, but nobody can do it alone. No single unit can do it. Take this plan and make it better. I believe I think we are ready, two thirds of the way to implement what is in this plan,” Rich emphasized.  “People will come together. What they are uniting around, I think, is this larger vision of the public purpose and see the work that we do in that context.”

Friend of Extension Awards

Donna Brown, associate dean and director of Cooperative Extension at Delaware State University and Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of extension at UD, presented the Friend of Extension Awards which celebrated the non-extension person, business or organization and the partnerships formed to support of extension efforts across the program areas of agriculture, lawn and garden, family and consumer science and 4-H Youth Development.

University of Delaware

  • Luke McConnell  – Agriculture. Owner of McConnell Agronomics, McConnell’s work as a certified crop advisor intersects with and provides valuable resources as a scientific advisor and grower advocate to Cooperative Extension for several years. McConnell is essential member of of UD’s  lima bean/pathogen research team and played a major role in obtaining $1.6 million in funds to research lima bean pathogens from the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative program. He shares his experiences with watermelons, sweet corn, and other vegetable crops and his input has informed recommendations to growers in the Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations and extension’s IPM program. (Not present for picture).
  • Sussex Master Gardeners hold award
    L-R- Tracy Wootten, Master Gardeners Jessica Clark and Brent Marsh and Michelle Rodgers, UD director of extension

    Sussex Master Gardeners – Lawn and Garden. The Sussex County Master Gardeners, a large cadre of community volunteers were recognized for the development and continued success of “The Misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Garden” a puppet show performance that since 2008 has reached 11,000 Delaware youth.  Loosely based on the Beatrix Potter classic, the performance creatively touts the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Their effort received recognition from the International Society of Master Gardeners and is being imitated across three states. now has spinoffs in three other states.

  • Sussex County Health Coalition
    L-R: Nancy Mears, UD-FCS agent, Peggy Geisler, SCHC executive director and Lisa Coldiron, SCHC grant manager with Michelle Rodgers, UD director of extension

    Sussex County Health Coalition –Family and Consumer Science. A partnership lasting 15 years, and collaboration with more than 50 partnering organizations, including Extension, Sussex County Health Coalition (SCHC)  engages the entire community through collaborative, family-focused efforts to improve the health of children, youth and families in Sussex County. UD Cooperative Extension benefits significantly through this partnership. The SCHC provides meeting space for extension programming, financial support to expand Botvins Life Skills training to all Sussex County school districts, creates a scholarship program for “Dining with Diabetes” classes for Sussex Countians to attend free of charge and most recently, financially supports a pilot of the first ever Teen Health Ambassadors for Botvin Life Skills program as part of the national Well Connected Communities Initiative. In Seaford High School, this effort directly addresses opioid abuse through peer to peer education.

  • Delaware State Police and Camp Barnes. L-R, 4-H educators Kaleb Scott, Kaitlin Klair, DSP’s Sgt. Shawn Hatfield, Lt. Col. Monroe Hudson, Ernie Lopez, Delaware 4-H extension specialist and Michelle Rodgers, UD director of extension

    Delaware State Police – 4-H. 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Delaware State Police and Delaware 4-H State Camp at Camp Barnes, a facility owned and operated by the State Police in Frankford. Since 1948, a year after Camp Barnes was founded, thousands of Delaware 4-H youth continue to enjoy the peace, serenity, and beauty of Camp Barnes. While activites have evolved over the years, the goal of this 70-year partnership remains the same: to provide Delaware 4-H youth a meaningful overnight camp experience at a safe facility where youth feel welcomed, respected and valued. The Delaware State Police Camp Barnes staff serves as a vital part of the success of this partnership.  More than 20,000 youth have experienced this beautiful setting with camps such as the two-week Delaware 4-H State Camp, Environmental Camp and Younger Member Weekends.

Delaware State University

  • Dr. Hong-Wa

    Dr. Hong-Wa – Lawn and Garden. Curator of DSU’s Claude E. Phillips Herbarium, she oversees 220,000 plant materials in Delmarva. She is a vital part of Master Gardener advanced trainings

  • Crystal Thompkins

    Crystal Thompkins – Family and Consumer Science. Thompkins is a SNAP-Ed educator and strong advocate for youth education in reading, writing, STEM, nutrition and physical education.

  • Miriam and James T. Brittingham

    James T. and Miriam Brittingham – 4-H. This Kent County couple is recognized for 20 years of community service and seven years of direct involvement as leaders in the  4-H program.

Article by Michele Walfred. Photos by Michele Walfred and Monica Moriak






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