Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Danny Nusser, Regional Program Leader for Agriculture and Natural Resources/4-H and Youth Development, North Region, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Extension’s program development model is based upon a philosophy of social change (Boyle, 1981). In order to realize such change Extension must mobilize and develop human resources in a manner that enables programs to be implemented most effectively (Boyle, 1981). Boyle (1981) described three major reasons to involve clientele in program development:
According to Seevers and Graham (2012), the Extension educator should purposefully include clientele in the development process by creating situations that captures their attention and interest. Committees, task forces, coalitions, and 4-H and youth boards are commonly utilized in Extension to involve clientele in program planning, design, implementation and evaluation and interpretation. These groups not only help develop effective programs, but they also serve as advocates for programs (Ripley, Cummings, Lockett, Pope, Wright, Payne, Kieth & Murphrey, 2011).
A Program area committee is a long-term group that assists Extension educators develop, deliver, and evaluate and interpret programs related to a specific subject-matter area (Ripley et al., 2011). Members of these groups have a variety of interests and diverse areas of expertise. Members are selected to represent clientele who are similar to the demographics of the community (Seever & Graham, 2012). It is paramount that a committee has a purpose (Seever & Graham, 2012). Without a clearly defined purpose, a committee may create its own purpose, which could be in conflict to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s mission and goals. Figure 1 illustrates some to the functions of committees (Seever & Graham, 2012):
Some examples of Program Area Committees include livestock and forage committees, family community health committees, row crops committees, horticulture committees, etc.
The utilization of task forces is another means of involving clientele in the Program Development process. A task force is a short-term group that is usually organized for one year or less and that is established to assist Extension educator with a specific program or address a narrowly defined issue (Ripley et al., 2011). The members have expertise directly related to the issue being addressed or the program being planned.
Some examples of task forces include a Walk Across Texas task force, Plant Clinic task force, Herd Sire Performance Test task force, etc. (Ripley et al., 2011).
A coalition is defined as a grouping of interest groups who are committed to achieving a common goal (Bacharach & Lawler, 1981). A coalition may also be short term but that generally works for at least two years (Ripley et al., 2011). Members are professionals in the issue or field (Ripley et al., 2011). The member of a coalition usually represents a particular organization and participates on behalf of that organization (Seever & Graham, 2012).
Coalitions are also utilized in the program development process (Seever & Graham, 2012). The role of an Extension educator may be to organize and facilitate a coalition concerning a particular need or problem (Seever & Graham, 2012). Coalitions may be private organizations, public organization or both (Seever & Graham, 2012).
As Extension educators organize a coalition, several key questions should be considered (Seever & Graham, 2012):
An example of a coalition is health coalition that is comprised of health care workers, county health department professionals, county officials, etc.
Another committee that is critical to successful program is the Leadership Advisory Board. This group is utilized to primarily identify broad issues (visioning), and are advocates for Extension with key stakeholders. Because this group is not subject-matter specific, it is not as involved in developing specific educational programs, but is involved with all program areas (Ripley et al., 2011). We will provide more detailed information regarding the Leadership Advisory Boards in future Next Step to Success blogs.
The basic structure in a two- or three-agent county includes a leadership advisory board, program area committees, and a 4-H and youth advisory board (Ripley et al., 2011). Other options should be considered in counties with more diverse populations and agricultural production systems (Ripley et al., 2011). Some counties may need several program area committees within a discipline, such as a row crops committee and a livestock committee. Or, a broad committee may be needed that comprises several task forces or coalitions, such as a family and community health committee, a Better Living for Texans task force, and a diabetes coalition.
Some counties may require only a few groups to assist in implementing the program development model (Ripley et al., 2011). More groups are required where there are multiple educators or a larger number of diverse issues. Each Extension educator should oversee at least one planning group.
Extension educators should not create structure that limits the oversight of individual planning groups (Ripley et al., 2011). An example is an agriculture agent who works in a county with diverse production, including row crops, beef cattle, small ruminants, and commercial horticulture (Ripley et al., 2011). This county could have many program area committees—one each for corn, cotton, beef cattle, small ruminants, grapes, and tree fruits, vegetables, and others (Ripley et al., 2011). A more manageable structure might be to have three program area committees—livestock, row crops, and horticulture—staffed with experts in the commodities produced (Ripley et al., 2011).
In future Next Step to Success blogs we will provide information related to recruiting and training for planning group members.
Bacharach, S., & Lawler, E. (1981) Power and politics in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Boyle, P. (1981). Planning better programs. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Ripley, J., Cummings, S, Lockett, L., Pope, P., Wright, M., Payne, M., Kieth, L., & Murphrey, T. (2011). Creating Excellent Programs. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Publication. E-345. Retrieved from http://agrilifecdn.tamu.edu/od/files/2010/03/E345.pd
Seevers, B., & Graham, D. (2012). Education through Cooperative Extension. (3rd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Bookstore.