A Perspective on the eXtension Foundation Impact Collaborative Experience
by Marlin Bates, County Extension Director and Community Development Extension Agent
Kansas State Research and Extension – Douglas County
As a participant in the 2015 i-three issue corps and in the October, 2019 Impact Collaborative, I have developed a full-scale perspective of the value of this program development offering. I have appreciated the opportunity to participate in these events and I know that I have become a better Extension Professional because of that participation. Furthermore, I believe that I have become a better teammate because of this involvement. And although it was never an explicit component of the experience, I feel as though I have become a better leader through these experiences.
The eXtension Foundation introduced this novel approach to program development with some innovative components that remain integral in their design today – namely, the concept of key informants. However, what I appreciate the most is seeing the evolution of this effort through the years. Taking a step back and comparing my two experiences leads me to think that perhaps the most impressive quality of the eXtension Foundation was their willingness to put forth an imperfect offering, learn from it and continue to reiterate it to satisfy the needs of the audience – a lesson in risk-taking and development that all Extension Professionals would do well to emulate.
My most recent experience with the Impact Collaborative was simply brilliant. Having the opportunity to develop a program idea into an achievable project through numerous interactions with subject matter specialists – not programmatic subject matter specialists, but soft-skill subject matter specialists, teams of colleagues from across the country, identified coaches and my team from home was priceless. Our interactions not only gave us a more global perspective on our project – and our National mission -, it also provided us the opportunity to become a more cohesive team.
We didn’t participate in the Innovation Skill-Building Experience, but I was impressed by the inclusion of a curriculum that was aimed at getting teams started off on the right foot. Knowing that there are some teams that need that and others that simply need the space to put their heads down and get to work is a demonstration of the eXtension Foundation’s mastery of determining how best to help the teams that they intend to strengthen.
In short, my experiences with this program – and all of my experiences with eXtension, quite frankly – have led me to develop a great appreciation for the Foundation, the people who serve it, and the national network of colleagues that they have developed.