It is federal reporting time. Katherine and her team are hard at work assembling the reports based on stories a group of academics gleaned from Project Board. I had a chance to take a quick peak. Here's a sample of the great stories you will find on the Condition Changes webpage:
Change in condition: Participants saved money.
Program evaluation findings from 2020 indicate that EFNEP adult graduates reported an average monthly food cost savings of $58.10, which collectively saved California EFNEP families $1,532,445.
- Families in Los Angeles and Orange County saved an average of $80 and $95.40 a month on groceries, respectively, after participating in EFNEP's ESBA workshop series.
- Families in Tulare County saved an average of $44.50 on groceries per month after participating in Eating Smart Being Active.
Change in condition: Jobs created.
The French Meadows watershed restoration project partners have appeared on various forums highlighting the role of UCCE research in changing the pace and scale of forest restoration in California. UCCE's continued engagement with research, education, advocacy, and fundraising resulted in 3,100 acres of forest restoration within the 28,000 acres of federal and private land. In the year 2020 alone, the project generated jobs for over 100 contractors. In addition, it removed 1.4 million board feet of timber to a local mill and more than 1,200 tons of biomass to local renewable energy facilities to help offset restoration costs, and contributing to the local economy.
Change in condition: Improved productivity.
Through conversations and on-farm observations, it has been noted that those who attended the UCCE Watermelon Grafting Field days in 2019, have either increased their acreage of grafted watermelon in 2020 or plan to increase in subsequent seasons. Currently, the estimated total acreage of grafted watermelon in the northern San Joaquin Valley, the biggest watermelon region of California, has at least tripled from less than 200 in 2019 to over 600 in 2021. Growers mentioned that successful grafted fields can produce 15-25% more watermelon fruit than the non-grafted fields per acre on average, and the average plant population per acre in grafted fields is about two-thirds that in non-grafted fields.
Thanks to everyone for their great effort and contributions to Project Board. I will share more stories in the coming weeks. And, as we head into our long weekend, let's thank farm workers and their families for all that they do to ensure a safe, abundant food supply. The public value of their efforts is unrivaled.
Despite taking a vacation, I'm tied to the clock this week; a tidal clock. Activities revolve around the water level. While a bit frustrating to have to plan so carefully even on vacation, without attention to the clock, we would have missed the fowl fly ins and boating with the dolphins. We'd also find ourselves stuck in the mud with the gators, or waiting out in the river for the marsh to fill. I find it normally helps to know what the desired outcome is in order to adequately plan the strategy to achieve the outcome. That's not to say there weren't surprises along the way. We went looking for the brown pelican, and unexpectedly encountered the roseate spoonbill in addition to the pelicans. En route, we went off the beaten path, on an unplanned path, and came upon what claims to be the smallest church in the U.S. (non-denominational). It only seats 12 and there's no A/C, but cute nonetheless, and a nice stop along the way. We're out of season for the manatees in the rivers, but otherwise this is a great place for a Master Naturalist.
The Cal Naturalist program was recently reviewed. Thanks to Cheryl Wilen for leading the review committee and Jennifer Caron-Sale for her work organizing and facilitating the committee's work. Cheryl presented the committee's findings to Program Council during the July meeting. Program Council's recommendations to VP Humiston are almost ready to share with her.
Tomorrow's activities will be brief and perhaps limited to gator watching in our back yard/marsh. I'm hoping the internet connection is strong enough that I can participate in the WebANR about condition changes and using targeted outcomes to focus one's efforts. The ANR condition changes serve the purpose of providing a sense of structure to allocation of effort to the public value of ANR work. Of course, there's flexibility in the path to reach the goal. One just wants to be aware of the tides.
This week I am up on the 46th parallel. It seems much further from Sacramento (38° N) than the coordinates suggest. The snow is gone as is the lake ice. Some damage that resulted from a hard winter has been left behind. While I'm sure the soaring eagles, lake loons and daffodils just coming into bloom are a welcome sight for many, we've lost the ice caves and the Northern Lights for at least a few months. You can't have everything – at least not all at once.
Technically, I'm on vacation. But with only 17 merit and promotion packages completed and 75 to go, making a dent on the 63 packages I downloaded before I left seems like an obvious thing to do when phone and WiFi signals are weak and my other options include power washing, painting, yard work or other repairs during an unseasonably warm week (up to 75° F).
As I read through the dossiers I continue to learn more about the work of UC ANR. While I previously wondered if we should be doing more to address the aging population (eating to live), I read about the inspiring work that at least one of our academics is doing to address the needs of this group. In a different dossier I learned more about the work of an academic whose efforts address, almost exclusively, the needs of underserved audiences.
Most, if not all, of the work we do is important. Having sufficient capacity to have a meaningful impact as opposed to being spread too thin is the challenge. With so many needs and opportunities in front of us, how do we decide what to do and what to not do? We can't do everything with finite resources, and do it all well. So as I read through dossiers, I can see how decisions have been made to shift and, often times, focus efforts towards the greatest need or the opportunity or the greatest impact. After all, the goal isn't to have individuals contribute to as many condition changes as possible, but to have individuals focus their efforts such that their work contributes to meaningful change in conditions. In order to direct sufficient effort towards a targeted change, one has to pass up other opportunities so as to avoid becoming stretched too thin.
Though I really need this vacation, if only to have time to read the bulk of the dossiers, I am missing, for perhaps only the first or second time, a MultiState Research Committee meeting that I have attended since 1997. Another example, that you can't do everything. Hopefully the group is having a productive meeting. Given all the new, young talent within the committee, I have no doubt they are planning great things. Perhaps I can catch up next year.
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 was caught in the rain yesterday. That's not something I can say too often in California! And despite the fact that I don't much care for rain (snow is much preferred!) I don't dare complain. It sounds like we have quite a ways to go to achieve the desired state for moisture and snowpack, though we are making progress (70% in the Sierra).
For some reason a number of things are ending up in my junk mail these days. My understanding is that this is the result of stricter security measures with the host server. Three quarters or more of the travel reimbursement submissions I approve are landing in the Junk folder. Fortunately I check that folder when I am working on a laptop or desktop. However, I don't have that folder in the mobile version of my email and I tend to approve both timesheets and travel via my phone. My apologies to those who find their travel reimbursements held up by me. I don't think it is happening often, but my apologies, nonetheless.
I hear the email that went to academics about completing the ‘condition change' survey went to the Junk or spam folder for many as well. If you haven't completed it, take a look in those folders and see if it might be there. The purpose of the survey is to see how current effort is directed towards the 24 condition changes identified as key to achieving our UC ANR desired state (the 2025 Strategic Vision). The goal isn't to check every box but rather, for individuals to think about what condition changes they will measure from their work, over time. Additional condition changes may result from their work, but, if no one is measuring the change we won't have the data to support that our work makes a difference. Rather, we can focus on what we are measuring and convey that message. I have no idea what to expect from the survey but we plan to share the results in a poster at the upcoming Statewide Conference so that everyone can see the distribution of effort across the academics who participated in the survey.
The survey will get us thinking about how we, as individuals, are using our time and collecting impact data and then allow each of us to make adjustments to our efforts. I've heard concerns about how the time needed to realize change in conditions; the intent is to focus on change at the programmatic level and not at the project level. For example, I wouldn't expect a change in water quality to be the result of a publication or a workshop I delivered but rather as a result of the sum of things I do in my program (multiple research projects, several publications, regular meetings, perhaps implementation of a tool I co-developed) that has a targeted intended outcome (water quality).
The other message I hear went to the Junk folder was an update on the RECs and recharge rates. There's been much effort to position the RECs on a course of meeting research needs, long-term. We're looking at costs differently and looking at opportunities differently. It's not easy and the answers aren't obvious. But the conversations have been thoughtful and thought-provoking. Rates for the upcoming fiscal year should be available soon and while the approach may be tweaked in subsequent years, the time-consuming work undertaken over the last 6+ months will remain the basis for years to come. There's more work to do and things to consider, then reconsider. The effort is far from junk and allows the REC system to move towards its desired state.
Many more conversations with County Directors yet to be had during the annual evaluation process. Once I wrap those up, I hope to take some time to reflect on what I have heard; common themes and recommendations. In between, I need to work on my own annual review documentation. Tips and suggestions welcome!