- Author: Wendy Powers
I think most of us, if not all, have realized that we need to do things differently in order to really achieve the intent of the Morrill Act; improving the lives of all state residents by providing access to formal and informal education. We're not alone. In talking with the Extension directors from a number of states last week, it seems to be a common theme. One of our Western neighbors has an upcoming annual conference where the theme is ‘fail fast'. This refers to the concept of ideation where you develop ideas and quickly test them on a small scale so that you can determine what may and may not work before making a large investment of time and/or money only to find that the idea doesn't work. UC ANR will be trying this out at an ideation workshop in late November. I look forward to seeing what ideas emerge to help us think about how we continue to provide the impactful programming and research we always have in a changing environment. To get a glimpse of some of the innovative approaches to Extension that are going on around the U.S. take a look at the current issue of the Journal of Extension.
I talked with the director in Iowa as well. I knew that Iowa had a standardized formula for county support of Extension, unlike many states, including CA. The formula is that each of the 99 counties directs 2.7% of collected property tax to Extension. That equates to $830k in support from Polk County (Des Moines) for FY18/19. The Polk County budget is $276M for FY18/19. Compare that to the numbers I heard when we were in LA a week+ ago ($475k for Extension out of a $28B county budget). I don't think LA is unusual for counties in CA. But Iowa is considering change. Following a 2009 budget reduction, all of the county contributions remained with the counties and all employees paid from those funds became county employees. As a result, the sense is that there is a weakened connection between the county and campus. That then weakens the ability to connect the general public to science; a pillar of what led to the creation of Extension.
I thought of LA County, among other counties, during conversations last week about urban extension. The general sense was that Extension is well positioned to do this around the country because we are grounded in our mission to serve the people of the state, aligned in vision and values with urban populations, and positioned to lead locally. Sound familiar? It should as these are the elements of the UC ANR promise. A key topic identified as relevant to an urban audience was green infrastructure was a focus. I envisioned Darren's demonstrations at the Orange County UCCE/SCREC that illustrate the principles of green infrastructure well. And, having just been back to the LA UCCE office I thought about Siavash and his program that works closely with the LA Housing Authority. My take away - we've got this as it's been a part of UC ANR for quite some time now. That doesn't mean we couldn't do it better. Given that continuous improvement is one of our core values, we must constantly seek better ways to do more, more efficiently and more effectively.
Now I really need to get to the position proposals.