Fellowships News Newsroom

CRM for Extension – Wrapping Up

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.

Making a decision about using a customer relationship management (CRM) system for an Extension organization is a major undertaking. The decision can have long-range effects on your organization’s business processes, costs, and user satisfaction. Changing CRMs can also be a major project, so making a good decision upfront will help prevent additional cost and frustration later. Take time to critically analyze your existing business processes, goals, users and their needs, and the resources you have to invest in CRM. Ensure that the CRM you choose aligns with these goals, will be able to grow with your organization’s use cases, and will be be manageable with your technical resources.


  • Why are we evaluating? – What organizational goals do you think CRM will help you achieve?
  • Constraints – Budget, technical resources, organizational directives
  • Users  – Who’s going to be using the CRM? Create personas and refer to them throughout the evaluation process.
  • Use cases – Prioritize and define the use cases for CRM in your organization. Think about how business processes can or should change.
  • Functionality – For the CRMs you are evaluating, will their functionality adequately address your needs. If not, can the functionality be added, given your resources.

A valuable avenue we haven’t discussed is to talk with other organizations about their experience with CRM. With any CRM there are implementation and user adoption issues that are experienced during implementation and use. Understanding what others have experienced can help your organization anticipate these issues and determine if a particular CRM can help minimize, or will amplify the issues. (Note that I’m happy to discuss CRM with anyone who is interested.)

I welcome feedback and questions at 

Previous post: CRM for Extension – Digging Deeper

Fellowships News Newsroom

CRM for Extension – Digging Deeper

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.

Once you’ve evaluated your candidate customer relationship management systems (CRM) against the basic functionality outlined in my previous post, it’s time to dig a little deeper and see how the CRM addresses the needs identified in your use cases. You should also have enough information at this point to ensure that the candidate CRMs align with your resources (budgetary and technical.)

Use your use cases

In one of the sample use cases, I stated “Reilly would like to be able to accomplish this using a mobile phone shortly after the interaction or through an email application, without having to log in to a separate interface.” This raises the question of whether a candidate CRM system will enable this type of interaction. Does the CRM have a mobile app or interface? Does the CRM integrate with your existing email application? Is there an additional cost associated the mobile app or email integration?

Another use case stated, “Sam uses the CRM to keep track of current council members, their roles, and term on the council for Sam’s county.” It is unlikely that any candidate CRM will have been designed specifically for tracking Advisory Council members. How could the existing features of the CRM be leveraged to track this information? Would it require custom development work or is it something an administrator could configure easily?

Go through all of your use cases and using the CRM Implications section, identify the features and functionality you have identified a need for. For each of these, assess the candidate CRM systems for their ability to handle. Some prioritization of needs may be necessary if the candidate CRMs aren’t able to provide functionality for certain needs.

Understand costs

Given your budgetary constraints, it’s imperative to understand the costs associated with the candidate CRMs. Many CRMs use a software-as-a-service model where the company hosts and updates the application and charges you licensing fees, based on the number of users (staff) or per contact. It will be important for you to have an idea of the number of users (staff) you intend to use the system and an estimate of the number of contacts (people) you plan to track with the CRM.

Other costs:

  • Hosting – if the CRM is one that you will need to host on your own servers, waht is that cost to your organization?
  • Integration – Is there a cost to integrating with other systems (this could be development or licensing costs)?
  • Administration – people from your organization will need to administer the CRM – dealing with new users, permissions, configuration changes, etc. What will be the cost to the organization of those peoples time?
  • Training – What are the resources required to train staff in the use of the CRM?
  • Development – If you plan to develop a custom CRM or customize one of the candidate CRMs, what will that cost?

Documentation and Training

Implementing a CRM will require training users in its appropriate use. The candidate CRMs should be looked at through the lens of the user and how easy they are to use. Examining the CRM’s documentation and support resources is an important step to determine how much you will need to invest in training and documentation development. If you are considering developing a custom CRM, don’t forget to factor in the cost of creating documentation and custom training.

Existing Data

It is likely that your organization already has a lot of information about the people you interact with that you would like to have available in the CRM. You should assess the candidate CRMs to determine how this information can be imported in bulk. Since you’ll probably have information coming from multiple sources, the ability to identify and eliminate duplicate records will be an important consideration.


Determine how long it will take to implement the candidate CRMs. Like most projects, it will likely take longer than you initially think. Does your project have a deadline? Can the CRM be implemented in phases? Who will be responsible for the implementation?


I welcome feedback and questions at 

Previous post: CRM for Extension – Evaluating the Basics

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CRM for Extension – Use cases

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.

Armed with our goals and personas, it’s time to articulate what our people will actually do with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. At this point, we’re still not evaluating specific CRMs, but identifying its uses, so that we will be able to assess which features and capabilities will be needed for our organization. 

To accomplish our task, we will build up a library of use cases that will help us identify how our CRM should behave. These use cases will be based around the business processes where we believe CRM will be useful and will take the perspective of the personas we’ve created.

Description of use cases from

A use case is a written description of how users will perform tasks on your website.  It outlines, from a user’s point of view, a system’s behavior as it responds to a request. Each use case is represented as a sequence of simple steps, beginning with a user’s goal and ending when that goal is fulfilled.”

In our situation, we won’t focus on the individual steps of a process, but rather on the tasks associated with particular use cases. These tasks will help inform us of the CRM features or capabilities that we will want to be evaluating for when looking at specific CRM systems. We can assume that any CRM will be able to store the contact information (name, email, phone, address, etc.) for people. We’ll also be assuming that the people interacting with the CRM have the necessary licenses and/or permissions to accomplish their tasks.

Example use cases:

Use Case 1 Advisory Councils
Actor Persona – Extension Support Staff – Sam
Each county in our Extension organization has an Advisory Council, comprised of citizens and decision-makers that help guide the activities of Extension in that county. Sam uses the CRM to keep track of current council members, their roles, and term on the council for Sam’s county. Sam is often asked for a list of council members and their roles.
  • Lookup or create contact and contact info
  • Add contact to a list of Advisory Council members
  • Create or edit information related to Advisory Council membership
  • Create or run report of current Advisory Council members with specific information about them and their membership
CRM Implications
  • Duplicate person (contact) management
  • Way to create lists or groups of people
  • Custom information (fields) for certain types of lists
  • Customizable reports and filters


Use Case 2 Track interactions with people
Actor Persona – Extension Specialist / Agent / Educator – Reilly
Extension professionals have many interactions with the people we serve each day. Reilly would like to keep track of many of these interactions in the CRM, both to help as Reilly has subsequent interactions with the person and to assist colleagues that may interact with the same person. Ideally, Reilly would like to be able to accomplish this using a mobile phone shortly after the interaction or through an email application, without having to log in to a separate interface. Reilly also needs to be able to generate reports of these interactions.
  • Lookup or create contact and contact info
  • Record interaction with person
  • Create or run report of interactions for specified time periods
CRM Implications
  • Duplicate person (contact) management
  • Way to create and associate interactions with people (contacts)
  • Visibility of interactions for other users of CRM
  • Integration with email application
  • Mobile interface or app


Use Case 3 Government officials / decision-makers
Actor Persona – Extension Administrator – Pat
Part of the continued support and funding for Extension programs is based on the support of government officials and decision-makers. Pat would like to use CRM to maintain the contact information for these people and record interactions with them. Pat needs reports that can be shared with  others in the organization.
  • Lookup or create contact and contact info
  • Indicate that person is government official or decison-maker
  • Record interaction with person
  • Create or run report of interactions for specified time periods
CRM Implications
  • Duplicate person (contact) management
  • Way to create lists or groups of people
  • Custom information (fields) for certain types of lists
  • Way to create and associate interactions with people (contacts)
  • Visibility of interactions for other users of CRM
  • Customizable and shareable reports and filters

These three use cases are simplified, but could be made as detailed or complex as you’d like. Their purpose is to describe the way people will interact with the CRM and help identify the specific CRM features and capabilities that we should evaluate.

The use cases should be based on what people will actually need to do with the CRM to conduct business processes that you’ve identified that fit with your organizational goals. Implications for how data may need to be structured and shared will be important when you are doing the actual evaluation of CRM systems.

Based on the use cases above, we can start constructing a list of CRM features for evaluation:

  • Duplicate management
  • Contact grouping or lists
  • Custom attributes for contacts or lists
  • Tracking interactions
  • Sharing and visibility between CRM users
  • Reporting capabilities, including customization, sharing, filtering, saving, etc.

Other use cases you may consider developing include managing mass email, event registrations, and volunteer hour tracking. The sky’s the limit, just keep them aligned with your people and the business processes that fit your organizational goals.

I welcome feedback and questions at 

Previous post: CRM for Extension – Personas

Fellowships News Newsroom

CRM for Extension – Personas

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.

As previously discussed, when evaluating customer relationship management software (CRM) for Extension it is important to understand how CRM fits with the organization’s goals and strategies. Perhaps equally important, is understanding the people who will be using the CRM. Throughout the process, you must keep in mind who the users are, what they need to accomplish, and how they’ll interact with the CRM.

A recommended approach, used in user-centric software design and marketing, is to develop user personas. From Wikipedia: “A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users.” Through the thoughtful creation of a handful (3-6) of personas that represent the broader groups of people who will interact with the CRM, an evaluation team can maintain a user-centered focus on the CRM, while also aligning with organizational goals.

The ultimate success of a CRM implementation will hinge as much on user adoption and satisfaction, as it does on the capabilities of the CRM. Users will enter and use data, create and use reports, and help identify new opportunities and obstacles.

Below are some example, abbreviated personas that can serve as a starting point for Extension organizations to build appropriate personas that represent their people and circumstances.

Example persona – Extension Administrator

Pat has been the Assistant Director of Operations and Governmental Affairs for Cooperative Extension for three years. Pat has worked in three different Extension organizations, starting as a community development specialist twenty years ago. Pat’s current responsibilities include maintaining and cultivating relationships with government and university officials throughout the state and encouraging their support for Extension activities.

Pat often meets individually, attends meetings, exchanges email, and has phone calls with decision-makers. Pat reports on these interactions to the Director and Leadership Team at their regular meetings. Pat keeps track of these interactions in a daily calendar and in email.

Example persona – Extension Specialist / Agent

Reilly has been a Plant Health Specialist with Extension for the past seven years. When a graduate student, Reilly worked in a diagnostic lab and enjoyed solving problems and helping growers address their issues. Now, in addition to doing diagnostic work, Reilly visits agricultural operations with the local Ag. agents for consultations and presents at workshops for growers.

Reilly has a local database to track plant samples, clients, and diagnoses and keeps track of farm visits and workshops in Outlook. Reilly also interacts with a number of colleagues around the country and at the Department of Agriculture to conduct research, brainstorm problems, and address emerging issues. 

Example persona – Extension Support Staff

Sam has worked as an administrative assistant in the county extension office for two years. It was overwhelming at first, trying to learn about all of the natural resources and agriculture programs that needed support, but Sam, as a former 4-Her, caught on quickly. It took a while to sort through Sam’s predecessor’s files and lists, but Sam now has a system that seems to work. Sam is adept with computers and enjoys keeping spreadsheets of participants from Extension events, creating event flyers and emails, and interacting with the clientele who pop by the office.

Sam’s day is never the same, varying from planning and promoting a big upcoming workshop, answering phone calls, preparing factsheets, coordinating meetings, designing flyers, posting to the website, etc. 

About personas

In getting started with personas, it is important to remember that they are meant to be representative of a type or group of people – they can’t capture every individuality. They are a tool that will help maintain a focus on the people who will use the CRM. For example, instead of thinking of how all administrators will use the system, the evaluation team can ask how their persona, Pat, will use the system – what will Pat have to do to make the system useful and how will the system help Pat.

The example personas, above, are not completely fleshed out, but are intended to serve as a starting point for Extension organizations to create their own. The personas may even prove useful in projects beyond CRM evaluation.

In the next post of this series, I’ll discuss use cases and how they can get you down the path to figuring out what features and capabilities a CRM needs to have to adequately meet your goals and serve your people.

I welcome feedback and questions at 

Previous post: CRM for Extension – Step 0

Fellowships News Newsroom

CRM for Extension – Step 0

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.

Over half of the Extension organizations, recently surveyed, report considering the adoption of customer relationship management software (CRM). This post will describe the considerations that need to be in place before a CRM evaluation should take place – this is step zero.

CRM is not a goal, outcome, or strategy

CRM is one tool, among many technologies, and is not a goal, outcome, or strategy, in and of itself. Therefore, prior to even evaluating the use of a CRM, the Extension organization needs to have clearly stated goals and objectives. In examining these goals, you should ask yourself, “what strategies do we need to implement to achieve the goal?” Then, ask if CRM is one of the tools that might help you implement the strategy.

If an organization starts considering CRM without identifying how it fits with their strategy, they risk implementing a shiny new technology that creates extra work, with no relevant results.

Example: To better understand our reach: how many people (unique count) do we serve, how do they interact with our programs (do they access offerings from multiple programs/efforts?), and are we serving a representative portion of the population?

This example may lend itself to the use of CRM to aggregate the information about clientele, their participation in events, and their demographic profiles.

Current processes may need to change

Often, implementing a CRM drives changes to existing business processes. It is important to assess your organization’s willingness to change the way it does business before embarking on a CRM evaluation. It is highly unlikely that a successful CRM implementation can be done, without also evaluating and changing your current processes. This requires buy-in from across the organization and participation from a diverse set of stakeholders in the evaluation process. While there is a tendency to view CRM as just another IT tool, its impact will be widespread.

Example: How do you currently register people for your events, or do they just sign-in when they arrive? If you intend to use CRM to track participation, you’ll need to consider how that information will be captured in the system. Does your current registration system have the ability to integrate with other systems, do you need to change registration platforms? Will you use web-based forms to allow registration and bring the data directly into CRM? If you use paper-based registrations, who will enter the data into CRM?

One strategy with CRM implementation is to identify one or two priority areas to address first, and incorporate other processes later. Trying to modify too many business processes at once to fit with the CRM can doom a project to failure and create confusion and frustration.

CRM isn’t free

Even if a CRM is open-source and doesn’t have a licensing fee, it won’t be adopted by your organization without cost. Implementing CRM requires significant time and effort, both by those who support it technically and those who will be interacting with it. Before evaluating CRM, determine the resources your organization is willing to commit to an implementation, in the short-term and long-term. Unlike a business that may see a CRM as a way to increase sales and revenues, most Extension organizations will not be able to quantify monetary gains or savings from a CRM. 

Example costs:

  • Licensing / hosting fees
  • Technical support, configuration, integration, and administration
  • User training
  • Assessing and modifying business processes
  • Communication with internal and external stakeholders


While CRM is only a tool, it can have a widespread impact on how your organization gets things done. Part of evaluating a CRM is determining how it fits with your organization’s goals, how ready your organization is to change processes, and what your organization is willing to invest for those changes. The evaluation process should involve a diverse set of internal stakeholders who will be impacted to ensure that the impact is understood and that the CRM chosen fits the needs, goals, and capacity of your organization.

It’s probably a good idea to think beyond the Extension organization, as well. Does your university use CRM, or are they considering it? Should you be part of the university’s CRM or independent? These considerations add to the complexity of the process, but thinking about them from the start can avoid potential deadends in the future.

I welcome feedback and questions at 

Previous post: What is Customer Relationship Management and why would Extension care?

Next post: CRM for Extension – Personas

Fellowships News

What is Customer Relationship Management and why would Extension care?

Stephen Judd is serving as the eXtension Foundation Customer Relationship Management Fellow. This post is an update on progress on this funded Fellowship from the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is used to keep a record of an organization or company’s interactions with a person or business, record information about the person or business, such as, contact information, and share that information with other users. The overall goal of CRM is to increase an organization’s knowledge and understanding of the people they deal with.

In a recent survey (June & July 2019), people (188 responses) from approximately 63 different Extension organizations responded to questions about CRM usage at their organization. When asked about current usage of CRM at their Extension organization, respondents reported 30 currently use CRM, 36 are evaluating using it, and 35 have no plans at this time. The numbers don’t add up to the 63 total organizations, likely because the usage is not uniform across each organization.

I’ll delve into the details of the survey in a later post, but consider that over 45% of the Extension organizations responding report currently using CRM and another 30% are currently evaluating using it. Approximately 20% of the Extension organizations represented indicated they had no plans to use CRM. This would seem to indicate that most Extension organizations perceive some value in the use of CRM.

Where’s the value?

If a company sells widgets, and they implement CRM, and profits or sales increase, then they may be able to attribute the increase to CRM usage. They may track metrics like lead conversion, time to close deals, opportunities won and lost, and more. In Extension, we rarely have similar metrics that we track. The widget company may be able to justify the cost (licenses, support, training) of CRM with the increased sales. Extension may incur similar costs, but since we tend to be less revenue-driven, the benefits may come in less tangible terms.

So if it isn’t, necessarily, about increasing revenue for Extension, what benefit is there? Here are some of the “biggest wins” that survey respondents listed:

  • People / Relationships / Marketing
    • better understand how people are engaging with us
    • streamlined categorization of stakeholders
    • working especially well for our government relations team
    • useful for volunteer management
  • Data
    • allow significant amount of data on individual or company
    • improved security of data
    • collecting info that quickly accessible on our prospects & clients
    • stable and sustainable system for documents, contacts, records
    • merge many lists and platforms into one list
  • Sharing / Consolidation
    • provide access to shared data that once was stored separately
    • consolidation and management of contact data in one place for remote access by multiple admins
    • allows us to track everything in one place
  • Marketing
    • coordinating marketing and public relations with programmatic work
    • data- driven decision making about marketing and ability to use data to describe impact (intro graphics and professional graphics backed up by real-time data)
    • having emails for campaigns to market upcoming programs
    • streamlining our communications, giving a consistent look to all of our email marketing, and quantifying the impact of our communication efforts
  • E-Commerce
    • ability to take payments and no longer need to handle cash/checks at workshops and events
    • leaving behind the “cash” culture in favor of online electronic payments

Given the diversity across Extension organizations and the large number of CRM systems available to choose from, how would one go about the process of evaluating CRM usage for Extension. That will be the thread woven through the subsequent posts in this series. I will forewarn you that there is no cookie-cutter template to pull off the shelf, but there are some guiding principles and processes that can be used.

I welcome feedback and questions at or in the comments section below.

Stephen Judd is serving as a funded eXtension Fellow this year to investigate and report on CRM applications in Cooperative Extension.

Announcements Community Content Events Fellowships Newsroom UPDATE

eXtension Job Opportunity: Innovation Facilitator Manager

eXtension Foundation logo

We’re searching for an Impact Collaborative Innovation Facilitator Manager. Join our virtual team from any location.

First round of application reviews: August 9, 2018.

Impact Collaborative Innovation Facilitator Manager, eXtension Foundation

We are seeking an expert facilitator and experienced innovator to join our team and help lead innovation capacity-building for our members of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System. Innovation is critical to eXtension and the Cooperative Extension System and other eXtension partners across the nation. eXtension is known for technological leadership over the past several years and now for our Impact Collaborative. The six-phase Impact Collaborative process is creating measurable and visible impact at the local level through various strategies including our current products: Innovation Kit Workshops, Designathons One and Two, a Virtual Bridge, an Impact Collaborative Summit and Facilitator Trainings. In partnership with our members, we are fostering strategic innovation and organizational change utilizing a growing cadre of trained innovation facilitators. This new role on our team will continue to build this capacity and collaborate in the design of our products and services in support of our member institutions.

The Impact Collaborative Innovation Facilitator Manager will lead in the following areas:

  • Work as a member of the Impact Collaborative Leadership Team to strategically integrate innovation and organizational change models and methods into the work of the Impact Collaborative and to continuously improve our design and delivery.
  • Catalyze and support innovative practices in partnership with our member institutions through the practice and products of the Impact Collaborative.
  • Serve as the lead eXtension facilitator for the Impact Collaborative product events nationally and across the country at member institutions (currently Innovation Kit Workshops, Designathon Ones, Impact Collaborative Facilitator Training and Summits).
  • Train, schedule and evaluate institutional Innovation Facilitators to serve our growing schedule of national and institutional events. Current schedule includes facilitator training January 2019 (planned for twice a year), up to 37 Innovation Kit Workshops or Designathon One events per year, and two national summits per year.
  • Grow and strengthen the IC Innovation Facilitator role in institutional capacity building, and continually expand and deepen their knowledge and skills.
  • Evaluate facilitator skills and abilities and results of their events using the Impact Collaborative Evaluation Protocols to make recommendations based on results, feedback, and needs.
  • Provide mentoring and coaching to IC Innovation Facilitators, maintain an updated database and be in constant communication to assist them in their professional development and certification process.
  • Lead a variety of planning teams to contextualize Impact Collaborative products for local institutional needs (up to 37 planned per year).
  • Share expertise and experience with the Impact Collaborative through a variety of presentations, webinars, social media and publications.


  • An experienced innovator within an organization who has taken ideas to implementation and demonstrated experience in co-creation/co-innovation of projects & programs. Community-based projects/programs with measurable impact preferred.
  • Strong public speaking and facilitation skills required.
  • Master’s degree preferred in community development, organizational development, or related field.
  • Ability to work in a fast changing environment with multiple priorities. Willingness to evolve with the needs of the organization.
  • Knowledge of, or experience in, the Cooperative Extension System and the audiences they serve preferred.
  • Knowledge and experience using innovative methodologies, design thinking strategies, concept mapping and Adobe Kickbox preferred.
  • Experience managing programs, managing people and managing organizational change required.
  • Experience in effectively working with, and managing, several projects at once and working with a virtual team.
  • Personal computer and social media skills required.

This is a 1.0 FTE  employee position with eXtension.  The position reports to the Impact Collaborative Program Director. Travel nationally, possibly up to 70% time. We are a virtual organization and require the use of G-Suite, Zoom, Slack and your own computer, internet and work space during business hours.

First round application review will be August 9, 2018.  Position will be advertised until the position is filled.

Please send your letter of interest and your resume to by August 8 for first round reviews.  For more information on the position contact:

Dr. Beverly Coberly
Chief Operation Officer
eXtension Foundation


Announcements Extension Fellowships Innovation News Newsroom Technology UPDATE

eXtension Fellowship Opportunity – Customer Relationship Management Sandbox

This opportunity is open to all Land-Grant Universities regardless of membership with eXtension as part of our cooperative agreement with USDA-NIFA.

eXtension is funding an opportunity for a Fellow position to lead a process with a national committee and eXtension to explore and document needs and potential solutions for Customer Relationship Management functions in Cooperative Extension across the country. The Fellow will conduct and create needs assessments, user journeys, personas, and use cases as well as review and provide a landscape summary of potential solutions. Proactively managing multiple customer relationships, with multiple products, services, events and programs is a challenge for Cooperative Extension.  eXtension is requesting names of those interested in serving on the CRM Sandbox Committee working with the Fellow. eXtension is seeking a Fellow to work with eXtension and a national committee to explore what is needed by participating institutions, to review potential solutions and to create a “sandbox” with eXtension to test up to two solutions with participating institutions. A final report summarizing the process and the findings is due by July 31, 2019.

The NTAE-CRM Fellowship will begin by October 1, 2018 and will conclude July 31, 2019.  eXtension is a virtual organization and work will be conducted virtually.

The specific requirements of the fellowship include:

  1. Expertise with workflow and technologies supporting customer relationship functions.
  2. Knowledge and experience designing and implementing relational databases.
  3. Understanding Cooperative Extension and the unique audiences and relationships among those audiences, programs, evaluation, funding, and communication.
  4. Ability to work with all levels of expertise and positions.
  5. Experience conducting user needs assessment and analyzing workflows.
  6. Experience creating user journeys, personas and use cases.
  7. Experience writing recommendations for solutions.

The Fellow will report the results via eXtension’s web site. The Fellow is encouraged to develop a peer-reviewed paper for publication in an appropriate journal. The Fellow will use eXtension’s Zoom, Slack, and G-Suite to conduct the work of their fellowship.

Funding for the Fellowship comes through a cooperative agreement with USDA-NIFA to eXtension and includes: paid travel to one eXtension Impact Collaborative Summit planned for April 2019; and buyout of time from their current positions of up to $25,000. Additional funding may be available for testing up to two solutions.

Application Process

To apply please submit the following information in a PDF document to Beverly Coberly (

  • A maximum 1-page letter highlighting your areas of expertise in CRM, technology and knowledge of Cooperative Extension.  
  • A copy of vitae/resume focusing on your expertise in technology and databases, educational or experience background working with CRMs.  Limit of 2 pages.
  • Letter of support from your institution Director/Administrator for Cooperative Extension

Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee.

Questions regarding the application process should be directed to:

About the eXtension Foundation

The eXtension Foundation is a membership-based non-profit designed to be the engine fueling U.S. Cooperative Extension advancement in making a more visible and measurable impact in support of education outreach from land-grant universities/colleges located in every state and territory. eXtension provides an array of opportunities for Extension professionals that foster innovation creation, the adoption of innovations at member institutions, and increased impact of Extension programs.

Fellowships Food Systems Innovation Issues

Community Video Can Build Capacity in Extension

This article was written by Jennifer Cook, Digital Green fellow for eXtension

Digital Green is a global non-profit development organization that empowers smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty by harnessing the collective power of technology and grassroots-level partnerships. They partner with extension actors in developing countries to solve problems like market access, farmer training, and rural nutrition education using digital technology. Digital Green developers build cutting-edge software, such as mobile apps and online data collection and analysis, to benefit farmers worldwide.

Community video approach

One solution offered by Digital Green is the community video approach, using peer learning and human-mediated discussion to help disseminate farming or other skills. In this approach, a community member is trained in video production and facilitation skills. Once trained, videos are produced staring local farmers, on topics needed in the community.

The magic of this approach happens in the dissemination. Local farmers or others come together to watch the video. The new practice or idea is more accepted because it is explained by their peer in the video. The video is paused frequently and a facilitated discussion engages the group, allowing time for the idea to become clear. This solution enables consistent and quality information to reach farmers, many of whom are illiterate, in a cost-effective and scalable manner.

Finally knowledge gained and behavioral changes are collected and maintained on a database called CoCo (Connect online Connect offline). CoCo works well in areas where internet connectivity is a challenge, and enables near real-time data analytics on farmer behavior.

Where might this solution work in the US?

Videos and YouTube are plentiful in the US. The community video solution has created a formula for video production, facilitation, and dissemination of educational material. We are all so busy and many times asked to do more with less. This solution can be a tool to build capacity at scale, as the videos can also be used as training material for extension agents as well as farmers.

Digital Green’s video-enabled approach might work in places where language or cultural differences create a challenge for disseminating new ideas. For example, the community video approach has been proposed to be used to teach refugee farmers about food safety practices at an incubator farm in Northern California.

Interested in working with Digital Green on implementing this solution in your area? Contact Digital Green eXtension fellow Jennifer Cook

Fellowships Food Systems Issues

The Business of Farming

This article was written by Jennifer Cook, Digital Green Fellow for eXtension. 

For the past nine months, I served as the Digital Green eXtension fellow, interviewing many small and beginning farmers, farm groups, and farm partners from across the US, to understand the challenges small farmers face. Representing Digital Green, a global non-profit development organization, I was looking for gaps in the ways in which farmers are supported by both public and private actors.

A topic that kept coming up in interviews and in my research is the economics of farming. Small farms, defined as those making less than $350,000 gross farm income, are more likely to have an operating profit margin in the red zone, 59-78% of them according to USDA, ERS (2016). It is the passion for farming that drives farmers to continue farming, often not income.

Perhaps it’s this economic challenge that has reduced the number of beginning farmers in the US? In 1982, 38% of farmers were beginning (less than 10 years in operation), in 2012 only 17.2% were beginning farmers (USDA, ERS 2012). We need a new generation of farmers to support local and sustainable food systems, provide jobs, and maintain open space and wildlife habitat in our communities. New farmers and farmland should be encouraged and supported.

Beginning farmer story highlights challenges

Chris and her husband Shawn have always wanted to be farmers. They learned how to grow mushrooms and vegetables and began selling at their local farmers’ market. A few years later they bought some farmland, expanded their production, and diversified to berries, honey, vegetables, and more varieties of mushrooms.

Chris and Shawn’s farm products are now in high demand, but they both work off-farm jobs and can’t afford to quit to be full-time farmers. Finding dependable and proficient farm labor has been a challenge so they continue to do all the work themselves.

They are at a crossroads, having invested a lot in land, equipment, and infrastructure, but still not seeing much profit when they consider all their own labor and transportation inputs. Chris and Shawn need to earn a profit by either cutting costs or increasing revenues. Are there ways that they can find inexpensive and proficient labor? Should they rework their business plan to explore other profit avenues? Should they cut their losses and quit farming or continue to invest in their business?

How can Extension agents support the business of farming?

Small farms, such as Chris and Shawn’s, make up 90% of farms in the US (USDA ERS, 2016). How can farming be more economically sustainable for small and beginning farmers? What solutions (tools, technology, resources) can help mitigate some of the major challenges that beginning and small farmers face in the US?

  • Farmers must be market savvy. What tools and resources, such as enterprise budgets and price points, are available, or could bedeveloped to help farmers make informed business decisions?
  • Farming has a lot of risk. What risks, such as investment of land, water, and equipment could be mitigated to encourage farming? Incubator farms and food hubs are models that have worked.
  • How can farming be more economically sustainable for small and beginning farmers? The solutions are often situation-specific. Options include sharing assets in the community or decision-making based on understanding of individual farm budget and hidden costs of transportation and labor.

How can we as Extension agents guide new farmers toward being more business savvy? In Colorado, we offer a Building Farmers Program where farmers are guided to develop a business plan and understand wholly the economics and business of farming. The program is helping new and beginning farmers assess their ability to start and maintain a new farm or expand and improve an existing one. What programs and types of assistance are working in your state?


USDA, ERS. (2016). America’s diverse family farms. Economic Information Bulletin Number 164. Retrieved from

USDA, ERS (2012). Beginning farmers and age distribution of farmers. Retrieved from