Mesmerized is the word that comes to mind to describe my visits across the state these last few months. There is no substitute for actually seeing and engaging in the work of Extension at its very roots. Simply driving across our great state and taking in its beauty and diversity has been quite breathtaking; but what is really stunning is hearing about and witnessing the magic that is happening in the communities and within our offices. Each county is clearly identifying local needs and designing programs and offerings that best meet those needs, but some common themes for the recipe of success have been evident:
- Community partnerships – We can’t and we shouldn’t do this work alone. The breadth of partnerships and the collegiality is key for meeting the needs of the community while reinforcing our strength, energy, and resources.
- Innovation – Trying new approaches, programs, and applications is valuable. It may not always pan out immediately (or at all), but there are always lessons learned and progress toward the future gained.
- Spin clubs – As we strive to reach more youth across the state, SPIN clubs offer great flexibility and provide important opportunities to meet member and advisor needs.
- Farm/site visits – As we get busy, these important connection sites begin to lag or fall off the schedule. It is important to make the time to be out in the community with our clientele and partners. This is where much of the magic happens and relationships are built and ideas and needs are shared.
- Volunteer development and utilization – Our volunteers are our arms and legs (and heart) that help us effectively engage in the community and expand our reach. When we recruit well, train them up, and give them some authority, we not only create room for ourselves but we also gain amazing ambassadors.
- Youth leadership – I have been so impressed with our teen leaders across the state. It gives me so much faith in the future.
- Advisory committee advocacy – Our advisory committees help identify community needs, provide support for the work we do, and are amazing advocates on our behalf. If you haven’t already engaged your program and/or Extension advisory committees, you are missing a key factor for success.
- Commissioner support – It has been a true pleasure getting to meet and partner with the commissioners across the state. Whether it is sharing our impacts, discussing local issues and opportunities, or identifying what we can do through our organization to help them meet the needs of their constituents, we have some great potential for collective impact when we nurture these relationships.
I have already witnessed so many amazing things happening as a result of these approaches and efforts. I hope that you will all feel encouraged to build those local relationships and partner to identify local needs that we can truly impact; you know you can take chances and try new things without worrying about whether it is perfectly successful; you are encouraged to be out and about engaging with your community partners and clientele; and that you have the support for doing your work well – in the way that makes sense – where you are and how you need to do it.
Keep up the excellent work! You are truly improving the quality of lives in your neighborhoods.
And don’t forget – If you are able, get out to Farm Science Review this week to celebrate its 60-year anniversary! Check out the schedule and come visit; more info is posted at fsr.osu.edu.
Grateful for you, Jackie