Twice in the last week, someone has raised to me that I should be more active on social media. I have all the classic excuses: 1) no time, 2) don't want to be tied to my phone that much, 3) a Luddite-in-training (maybe a Neo-Luddist), 4) can't decide which platform, 5) can't be constrained to 60 characters, 6) nothing exciting to say, 7) don't like the idea of being followed, 8) I am better suited as a lurker. I wonder how long I can get by using those excuses. I may need to take some lessons from a few of the gurus, like Rose Hayden-Smith, Faith Kearns, and, of course, the Strategic Communications team. But, you know I don't like homework (very low on the Fun Scale).
If you are an Instagram user, be sure to follow Laura Snell and Dustin Blakey. They post incredible photos – clearly the benefit of living in some of the more remote areas of California. Dustin recently posted a fantastic night sky of Volcanic Tablelands #volcanictablelands. Rob Bennaton sent me a photo of a few of the Contra Costa 4-Hers meeting with their Board of Supervisors (thanks Rob!) in celebration of National 4-H Week. What an exciting day for the youth! The Board learned a bit about the program and the positive impacts the program has on youth, thanks to the 1-pager that Charles Go put together.
Fun Facts (compliments of Charles Go)
- 4-H youth are 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their communities
- 89% of 4-H youth indicate that they think about how their choices affect others
- 4-H youth are two times more likely to go to college
- 83% of 4-H youth are comfortable being a leader
- In Contra Costa County, 4-H youth participated in 229 projects ranging from cows to computers, public speaking, and financial management
- 262 adults serve as volunteers in Contra Costa County, and there are over 200 Junior and teen leaders
I haven't been out visiting counties lately (invitations welcome), so I appreciate the photo and facts. They are a nice departure from my odor facts.
Today was a full day meeting of Glenda, Tu, Kathy, and myself to talk about items that have been awaiting our decision as well as do some planning. You would think with all of the meetings we have, we wouldn't need an additional meeting, but opportunities are rare to focus on topics and plan or project, versus react. Everyone is swamped with meetings.
I became so engrossed in having a few hours of unscheduled time the other day that I ended up missing a meeting. I'm not sure when that popped up on my calendar, obviously sometime after I had last checked. The upside is that I did get a few things checked off my list. I'm still working on a presentation, but knowing I don't have to finish it until Sunday, I am likely to continue procrastinating.
Last week the strategic planning team for the communications units (Publications and Strategic Communications) met for the first time. As an ice-breaker, Nilofar asked each participant to share what they like most about autumn. Nothing too surprising emerged. The surprise for me was that its autumn and, 90° F today.
No surprise then that the Development Services team is gearing up for Giving Tuesday. Given the importance of the UC ANR work all across the state, I'm hopeful that many of our supporters will turn out. During Lorna's update to Program Council last week, we learned that giving to UC ANR was up 8% this past fiscal year compared to the previous year. Across the U.S., donations were up only 1.5%. Another 8% increase this year would be nice.
Since moving to California, fall equates to fire danger, and it seems that this will be a particularly windy week. Brian Oatman and his team have sent out PG&E power outage warnings, and there's a fire burning in Napa. Not the type of 'treat' anyone wants, especially the many still recovering from wildfires over the past couple of years.
I met with the UC Davis Specialists Advisory Committee today. The Dean's office has a door wrapped in brown paper with a question on it “What do you like most about fall?'. The responses written across the door were similar to those provided by the strategic planning team – intense colors, favorable temperatures, holidays, and food. While there were no surprises in the responses, it was a pleasant surprise to see Amanda Crump at the meeting. It sounds like her graduate class to teach students about Extension is going well. She mentioned that the students represent all program areas. I found it very encouraging that her enrollment has been strong. I attended the meeting to pitch an idea and gather feedback. It sounds like the idea won't work out as I had thought but a different approach may be feasible. I need to keep thinking (ideating) on it.
This week is light on meetings. I should have time to review e-book changes, develop a presentation for next week, and review of a staffing plan proposal. My Program Council homework is complete. The way the days fly by, the next meeting will be here before I know it.
A couple of weeks back, I had a chance to see the Hispanic Heritage Month video that featured DREC director, Jairo Diaz. I meant to find other videos, but I lost track of the thought. Today I had a chance to see those videos featuring Fe Moncloa, Maria de la Fuente, and Aileen Carrasco –Trujillo. They were as inspiring as any TED talk I have heard lately. I highly recommend you take the 12 minutes to review the four videos. Each of the featured ANR team members talks about their values and what brought them to UC ANR. Immediately I thought how fun it would be for people throughout UC ANR to have a similar video on their ANR portal page. Then I remembered that JoLynn Miller is working on something just like this for the County UCCE page (and that I owe her something). Perhaps this is a new trend.
Equally inspiring was a conversation I had with Devii Rao and Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty today. Devii is working on a vision for UCCE in San Benito County, to share with key County administration and perhaps a couple of Supervisors later this month. She has some great ideas, building off what peers have shared and her knowledge of what County needs and priorities are. I like the phased approach she is building and the connection to partners. I know Devii is putting much effort into this; hopefully, the prospects energize Devii.
Program Council produced some homework. For some reason I can't quite define, this month's meeting left me a bit tired. We spent a fair bit of time talking about needs across UC ANR (people, support) and how to prioritize and meet those needs. Lorna Krkich spoke to us about the nuts and bolts of working with the Development Services team (how, who's responsible for what, what are their goals, etc.). Jim Downing and Linda Forbes met with Program Council to talk about their strategic plan development for both the Publications unit and the Strategic Communications Unit. Jon Wilson joined them to talk about the vision for a much-needed overhaul of the web presence (Integrated Web Project). The Council welcomed the presentations as nice breaks from other topics.
Not unlike most weeks, it has been a 'learning week.' I am looking forward to the rest of the week.
I didn't get as much done las week as I had hoped. I had planned to find some time during the conference to sneak away and check some items off my 'to-do list.' I couldn't find a session I could or wanted to miss. Weather in Houston delayed my return on Friday but, I was able to get some things done in the airport. Then I spent Friday night in the ER with a family member. So much for getting up early on Saturday. Somehow things worked out, and I'm not too far behind where I had hoped to be on tasks. Funny how that goes.
While in the ER, I recalled the story that one of the presenters, Kathryn Segovia, told us on Tuesday, a story about Doug Deets. I recommend you look into his TED talk. Much of Tuesday' meeting last week revolved around Design Thinking. The presenter, Kathryn Segovia, a former 4-Her from Nebraska, is a faculty member at Stanford. While the day was much like a day we spent two years ago when we worked with the Adobe Kickbox and talked about Ideation, Kathryn's interpretation of Design Thinking has an added component of empathy. Doug Deets discusses how the addition of empathy in his creative process improved the success of his design.
This week is Program Council week. We will review the nominations for the two open at-large positions on Program Council. I haven't seen the list yet. I hope several people have indicated interest, but given the time commitment that Program Council requires it is understandable if few can make the time. Friday is the monthly call with County Directors and REC Directors. It's good to be out of airports for a couple of weeks.
On Tuesday, Mohammad Safeeq starts as a CE Specialist in Water and Watershed Sciences Specialist at UC Merced. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Safeeq.
It sounds like things are going well so far with UC Path. The Beehive Team has worked hard to make sure things go smoothly. They have spent many hours preparing for this week, designing the system and thinking through any problems that might arise. Please be sure to thank them for their efforts.
A high point this week is learning that John Bailey was appointed to the USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers! The appointment was made by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. This is quite an honor so be sure to congratulate John on this recognition!
I am in Nashville most of the week, attending the annual meeting for Experiment Station and Extension Directors. There are a few other participants as well, but it is primarily the first two groups I mentioned. Monday I spent the day attending an ECOP meeting, as one of the three representatives from the Western region. After checking off the business meeting items, much of the conversation revolved around justifying getting together even annually when we all have much to do back home. Meeting value depends on whether or not we can leverage what we have and get back more than we put in.
Much of what ECOP has addressed over the past few years is a strategy to increase federal support of Cooperative Extension (formula or capacity funds and competitive grant funds). If you aren't familiar with the term 'formula' or 'capacity' funds, these are the funds that likely pay a portion of your salary. The funding source has been a cornerstone of support for Cooperative Extension over the last century. However, costs outpace increases in capacity funds. And, with a pending downturn in the economy, there is a risk. So, how do we position ourselves to mitigate the risk of further erosion of capacity funds? ECOP talked about the fact that Cooperative Extension has not sold our value well enough to justify an increase in funding from Congress. The conversation sounded familiar to me. While a bit reassuring that other states face the same challenges as California, it doesn't change the fact that we all need to act.
Areas that ECOP identified as topics that would resonate well with Congress when faced with an economic downturn included: family financial literacy, health, and well-being, food security. Much like our conversations throughout UC ANR, the idea isn't that we do more in these areas. Instead, we frame our work not as activities but as impacts that highlight how our work makes a difference (changes conditions). ECOP discussed the benefit to all of Cooperative Extension if we increased our capacity funds if only for work related to the above topics. The idea is that all of our programs will benefit as a result of increased resources, even if directed at targeted outcomes. 'A rising tide lifts all boats' was the phrase used by someone in the group. That phrase was familiar, too.
NIFA Director, Scott Angle, met with us Tuesday afternoon. The update was far from uplifting, and I don't envy him. NIFA is down to approximately 50 employees from D.C. who plan to relocate next week plus five already hired in Kansas City. What's odd is that even Director Angle doesn't know the physical work location yet because of a secret bidding process. Director Angle suggested that states focus on increasing state funding and not rely on increased capacity funds. He also spoke about plans to change the formula for capacity funds with winners and losers in the process. It will take a couple of years to get to that point, but I would prefer to plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised than to have it go the other way. Director Angle did mention a proposal to increase capacity funds 5% per year for five years; we will have to watch where that goes. Director Angle declared a need for Cooperative Extension and the Ag Experiment Stations to put forth audacious goals, on the scale of NASA's commitment to put a man on the moon or NIH's intent to curing cancer. Perhaps funding would be more accessible if we clarified that more significant resources are necessary to eradicate hunger.
The conversations these past two days have all the makings of a country music song. There is one more dinner meeting to attend yet tonight followed by two more days of meetings. Who knows how the tune will end.