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 feel like I'm not quite to the halfway point of a 20-day week. I'm attending a conference today and tomorrow. This morning's session focused on hunger as a health issue. That's not new information to me. My mother was a dietician and I remember reading her monthly subscription to the American Dietetic Association publication. I was pleased to learn that AARP has partnered with Feeding America and Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) to address food insecurity among older adults (over 50 years of age). This isn't an area that our nutrition programs address but I wonder if, assuming capacity were available and given the changing age demographics of the U.S., it wouldn't be a high priority for UC ANR efforts. The speakers talked about efforts to work with the medical community to equip medical professionals with information about health consequences, screening tools to identify at risk individuals and intervention options in addition to training for the health care professionals how to talk to their patients and overcome barriers such as embarrassment and guilt about taking advantage of nutrition assistance.
We discussed that living alone often reduces one's desire to prepare healthy food. I'm very guilty of that! What we didn't talk about but that I believe is as much a ‘risk' to the elderly is food safety. As the sense of smell weakens with age, the ability to distinguish fresh from rotten food is diminished thereby raising potential food safety concerns. The senses of taste and smell are tightly connected. Thus, the sense of taste dulls as people age, too. As a result, it can be difficult to get sufficient nutrient intake in some older adults. Nutrient dense supplements and food flavor enhancements are two strategies used to improve food consumption. Food intake, food access and food safety are all topics that are relevant to an aging population. There's no shortage of topics.
Similarly, there's no shortage of needs in any of the program areas. So it's key to focus on those areas where the greatest impact can be had that move us towards our 2025 Strategic Vision. At present, the survey is open to capture how the work of UC ANR academics align with the identified condition changes. The survey closes in about a week so be sure to search through your email and find one that was sent out last week requesting your assistance to complete the survey.
The 2018 position call process is open; there's no shortage of position needs but, of course, there is finite capacity to increase the footprint. Last week the REC and County Directors met to talk about their first draft of priority positions. At the end of this week, they will share their conversations with Program Team Leaders and Statewide Program and Institute Directors and talk through the process, to date, in addition to seek feedback from these other leaders within the division. Last week the REC directors met all day to continue efforts to identify how to balance available funds with supporting researchers and investing to keep facilities functional and attract more research and extension projects and programs. Again, no shortage of needs. And, no shortage of great ideas about what's possible.
Later this week I am headed to the south end of the state. It should be a great chance to connect with a number of staff and academics as well as, hopefully, partners and clientele. No shortage of exciting things going on across the state!
I think the last time I opened a fortune cookie my fortune was something along the lines of “you shall have many surprises” – not exactly the kind of fortune that puts you at ease but rather has you wondering what qualifies someone to write the fortunes that get stuffed into cookies anyways. A good friend and colleague sent me a text the other day that the fortune in her cookie read “A goal is a dream with a deadline”. Now that's a fortune that at least makes you stop and think. It is fitting for some of my meetings this week, despite belonging to someone else.
This morning a group of us met to talk about progress on the strategic plan, particularly the metrics we use to measure our progress. Much like condition changes, we need to really sit down and think what indicators can be used to document our success. The ‘big goal' is to have a positive impact on the lives of every Californian. Because that's so lofty we have other goals (15 of them, to be exact) that are much like condition changes in that if we realize these changes in condition we have greater confidence that we will achieve the big goal. Some of those condition changes include reaching more people by making our science-based information more accessible, increasing the number of people delivering that science-based information as a means of reaching more people, streamlining administrative efficiencies so that there is more time and financial resources to be directed towards programming, increasing partnerships to increase the capacity and financial resources that translate into reaching more people, maintaining and improving infrastructure to facilitate research needed to address current and emerging challenges, and so on.
Quantifying the success of our strategic plan is then much like quantifying the impact of an individual or team's program – we need to identify the correct indicators to measure the change in condition. For example, how do we determine that we have reached more people or streamlined administrative efficiencies? Can outputs be used as indicators of impacts? Can a single indicator be used for multiple condition changes? These are all questions that we are thinking through all across UC ANR, whether it be related to programs/research or administration. And, like many of the conversations related to quantifying condition changes resulting from programs and research, we are talking about the timeline for quantification – where can we quantify success in the short term and what needs a longer window in order to show incremental change? So this is where we need to put a timeline on our dream of having a positive impact on the lives of 40 million Californians. I can foresee losing some sleep over this!
The condition changes that will be coded into Project Board are posted on the Strategic Plan website. Many, many minds resulted in a strong, achievable list. That kind of thinking will translate the dream into reality so despite the lofty goal I am looking forward to the strategic plan annual reunion for the planning and implementation team that is scheduled for mid-January.
Time to get some sleep. I don't think it will be sugarplum fairies dancing in my head tonight.