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.
If you looked at the photo first, you might think I was back in Guam or Oahu. Not so. I was able to attend the Intermountain REC field day today. And that's Dan Putnam updating the participants on the alfalfa variety research he has been conducting there. The event was full of excitement and all kinds of good information, from hearing for the first time about onion smut to watching David Lile leap off the people mover so that he could make an unscheduled stop to check out some of Dan's plots. Then there was Rachel Long teaching us about the clover root curculio, an alfalfa pest, and demonstrating the proper way to sweep an alfalfa field for weevils. This was all new to me.
Some of the projects discussed had been the work of Larry Godfrey or Steve Orloff, two of our strong researchers that we lost in the last year. Not surprising, others, such as Rob Wilson, Rachel Long, Dan Putnam, stepped up to continue projects. There's clearly tremendous teamwork amongst all who work at the Intermountain REC, including the staff, campus and county-based researchers, and the many local partners.
Also new, was the multipurpose building with a conference room dedicated to John Staunton, an important community figure and partner to IREC (@UCANRpam). I remember my first trip with Lisa to Intermountain REC and looking at the building plans. Now it's real! But not without teamwork, which apparently extended to even the paint color selection. Well done! Again, 2 years can make a huge difference.
The Intermountain REC isn't the only one making headlines this week. John Bailey has agreed to serve as the Interim Director at the Hopland REC. He brings much experience already as the Superintendent at Hopland. Be sure to thank John for his support of Hopland and his efforts.
And Kearney REC made the NIFA Update when a UCAN piece was picked up by NIFA. Take a look. Congratulations on the callout! Be sure to read through the entire NIFA Update. There are several topics that might get the ideation wheels turning, particularly around the idea of funding to support undergraduate experiences in Extension.
The trip up to Intermountain REC was a bit long, particularly after a long, yet productive Program Council meeting (more on that later) but it was well worth it. While I'm here, Glenda, Tu and Jan are meeting with the ANR Advisory committee – so that's on my mind a bit. But tonight we are meeting with partners in Alturas and will see some of our friends and colleagues from the field day. It may be a bit smoky but it's a good time today and tomorrow in California's northeast corner./span>
The new Public Value Statements (PVS) have been posted. While I certainly wouldn't state that these are ‘forever final' they are what we are going to work with for the foreseeable future. This version is markedly improved over the first draft, which were an impressive product given the timeframe provided to develop (a single 2-day meeting with no follow-up editing) and the fact that this was the first time leaders across the division were asked to come together and craft a set of PVS that reflected the breadth of ANR. If you think about it, that first draft was really a remarkable accomplishment! The most recent version of statements are a reflection of considerably more time to contemplate the draft statements, followed by several rounds of editing. The process as a whole resembles an ‘ideation' activity whereby the original brainstorms are improved upon in an iterative process. Had we been committed to the original draft statements, and unwilling to change, we would have missed the opportunity to use these improved upon statements.
When I think about change I am often drawn back to a conversation with a sibling and Bank of America's business model that embraces change. But it's not just Bank of America that seeks change as a key element of continuous improvement. Should you happen to be on a Southwest flight over the next week, take a look at the current issue of the magazine and see how the concept is embodied in the philosophy of Google as well. Heidi Zak's husband, a former Google employee, reflects that "this is how Google works. It's all about change; they're constantly changing the way they work because it creates room to innovate". A colleague sent this to me yesterday. As difficult as change can be, it's heartening to see that it can be effective (as well as a bit scary!).
The value of the PVS extend beyond the intended goal of helping us see how we can focus our efforts by spending time where we can derive the greatest impact. When Nancy Franz joins us in June for the WebANR, she plans to share with us success stories of how PVS have been used in Extension, to help us all better understand the opportunities before us now that we have 7 remarkable ‘elevator pitches' to share with those who don't really know the work and impacts of ANR. Our listeners might include ourselves (those of us who haven't had the chance to really get to know all of the work of ANR because we are so busy with our own work), prospective ANR colleagues, potential partners and allies in our efforts, and supporters who share our values and goals.
I think we are on the edge of something that is more powerful than any one of us could have imagined. So take a look at the PVS and find your own story in them. In the near term, we'll be sharing how the PVS connect to the 24 condition changes. Academics have provided feedback how their work connects to the condition changes and we know that programmatic staff connect to them as well. We're working to close the loop and determine how best to capture staff and academic impacts that move the needle on the condition changes.
Thanks to all for the contributions and feedback!
I haven't fully adjusted to California's climate. Or perhaps it is just that I don't understand it. How is it possible that the lawn was mowed yesterday and then we went under a freeze warning for the overnight? Hearty grass?
Last week I spent part of a day at UC ANR's ‘friendly office with the best birthday parties'! And it was fun! I wasn't there for a birthday party but Karrie Reid (@Reid_Karrie)still put out quite a spread for my visit to the San Joaquin office. Her baking skills inspired me to try some ideation in the kitchen over the weekend. I must admit, there were some failures but no one was injured. The UCCE San Joaquin program and facility is truly a reflection of a strong and long-standing partnership with the County. I am really proud to be a resident of that county. And apparently once you are, it is difficult to leave. I was surprised how many of the UCCE personnel in that office were born and raised in the county. In addition to discussions, I had a chance to walk through a bit of the demonstration garden. Because it is so close to home, I will definitely return there as I look for ideas.
Emma Fete participated in the meeting despite having arrived from Ohio only 2 days earlier. Today is her first day as the new CE Advisor in 4-H Youth Development, housed in San Joaquin County with program responsibilities in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties. Welcome Emma! It was really thoughtful of her to come in during what was surely a hectic week. She is going to fit in well with the office group!
Last week I spent a day down at South Coast REC to attend a meeting intended to think through how the facility could house a public-private partnership to advance Controlled Environment Agriculture. The day was packed with good information and some really exciting stories about growing food on Mars, developing South LA, and the differences between greenhouse production and controlled environment production. No doubt there are both successes and some failures in the making, but it's all progress.
A couple weeks ago I met with David Slaughter to learn more about the Big Ideas Smart Farm project he is leading at UC Davis. It was a fascinating discussion, full of opportunities for UC ANR to be a partner in the effort and promote the intended hub. Controlled environment agriculture is just one element of the Smart Farm hub. From the whitepaper that lead to UCD support for the project, “SmartFarm will take an integrated systems approach to develop superior plants, smart machines, more efficient farming methods for crops and animals alike, and a highly trained workforce that together will provide a path toward food security in the year 2050 and beyond”. While there is a ‘place' identified to showcase smart farming practices and advancements, the idea is that, as a hub, there is coordination amongst the different components of a ‘smart farm' that aren't necessarily co-located. It's really exciting and I can envision how UC ANR, across the state, could be very much connected to the effort.
Off to a day trip this morning and then Program Council tomorrow and Wednesday. I haven't looked much beyond that for the week but anticipate some learning opportunities and perhaps some successful ideation.
The hard part about taking time off is getting back into the ‘work' mindset. I'm not sure I am fully back yet. Of course, some argue that we should bring our Saturday selves to work on Monday so this may work out well. Either way, this week is primarily phone calls and meetings by phone. On Wednesday I visit the San Joaquin office, my home office! Then on Friday I head to the South Coast REC. And even next week I don't have any overnight travel.
Program Council has completed its work for the grants cycle. VP Humiston should announce her decision soon. Next week it's time for Program Council to meet again (already!). I need to start preparing for that meeting. And if anyone has suggested improvements for the position call process, please share by the end of this week. We will be discussing the process and reviewing suggestions at the meeting next week.
Thanks for the feedback on Dan Foley's TED talk that I mentioned previously. A keynote speaker for the April 2018 UC ANR Statewide Conference has not been finalized. A few weeks back, Glenda and I heard a talk by Regina Dugan, VP Engineering at Facebook. We agree that she was impressive – perhaps we can land her for the statewide conference. We would need to identify a topic. A couple of things VP Dugan said really stuck with me. One was that, by 2030, 80% of current jobs won't exist. That has me wondering whether or not we are thinking around the corner far enough to prepare our students, our clientele, and our organization to be successful and relevant? How will Cooperative Extension do business in 2030 and how do we prepare for that? VP Dugan was referring to robotics, advanced instrumentation, and artificial intelligence replacing human labor and while it isn't immediately obvious how that eliminates the need for discovery and research dissemination, no doubt there will be some impact on CE roles and responsibilities.
The other comment VP Dugan made in her talk was that the “risk of failure is the price we pay for the privilege of making something great”. I can only imagine the number of great things that haven't happened because someone was afraid of failure. The principle of risking failure in order to do something great ties back to the ideation, that I learned about in early October, where you throw out many ideas and test them early on in the idea development process so that failures, while potentially many, are small. This conditions one to accept failure as part of the creative process rather than fear failure. How does one retrain themself to embrace failure in order to make an exceptional contribution? And how do we reward the attempt to succeed in spite of failure or even measure/value the attempt?
I'm still suffering from ‘time off brain' so I won't solve this today. But I'd love to hear ideas. Until next time, welcome back and good luck getting back into the swing of things.