During challenging economic times, the value that decision-makers place on Extension from a public value stand point is critical. In a recent Journal of Extension article entitled Advancing the Public Value Movement: Sustaining Extension during Tough Times, Nancy Fraze suggested several steps necessary to advance this movement. Some of these steps that are fundamental in advancing public value outlined in this article include (Franz, 2011);
- Understand the differences between Public and Private Value- Many Extension faculty and administrators have difficulty envisioning and communicating how Extension work translates to public value for non-program participants. The goal becomes not simply changing clientele behavior, but showing how this behavior change leads to outcomes that benefit the general public by generating public value (Kalambokidis & Bipes, 2007)
- Create the Case and Urgency for Public Value- Extension faculty and staff must embrace that we can’t continue in a “business as usual” mode. Extension must recognize that it is imperative to be able to demonstrate and communicate that our program benefits more than the individuals participating in the program. One of the methodologies that could be utilized in assisting staff to think in terms of continually thinking about how this program has public value is to have agents provide public value stories during annual performance reviews.
- Move from Embracing Private or Personal Value to Embracing Public Value- According to Franz (2011), Extension faculty, staff , and administrators should reexamine the way they describe Extension programmatic outcomes. The table below shows several examples of reframing learning.
Comparing Extension’s Private and Public Value (Franz, 2011)
Private or Personal Value
|Youth and Adults develop leadership skills||Increasing civic participation|
|Homeowners conduct tests for septic tank leaks.||Decreasing water pollution or drinking water contamination|
|Youth and adults increase their intake of fruits and vegetables||Decreasing health care costs|
|ServeSafe certification by restaurant workers||Reducing food-borne illnesses and related health care costs|
|Youth serve on teen court||Reducing juvenile recidivism and court costs|
|Reduced use of pesticides||Improved water quality|
Embracing the public value of Extension means repositioning the manner that Extension faculty describe what clientele learn/behavior changes/ adoption of technology (programmatic outcomes) to what economic, environmental and social condition change as a result of programmatic outcomes.
- Develop Public Value Story Telling Template- If Extension is successful in enhancing public value in Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s interpretation efforts thru the incorporation of public value statements templates must be created for utilization in interpretation documents (Making a Difference Quarterly email stakeholder updates, Making a Difference Animoto videos, Making a Difference annual reports, etc.). These templates include a title describing the public value gained from the educational effort, information on the relevance of the issue being addressed, Extension’s educational response, and results which include the public value of the program.
Lessons Learned from Public Value WorkAccording to Franz (2011), Extension programs embracing the public value movement have discovered that changing the culture of a Extension system to embrace public value isn’t easy, but is possible and effective. Franz (20110 reported that the following may be helpful in implementing public value;
- Be proactive with public value stories rather than waiting until decision-makers cut Extension funding or programs.
- Start the movement with early adopter, and nurture the mid-adopters.
- Build urgency with faculty and staff by using real stories about lack of understanding or misunderstanding of Extension work.
- Provide a wide variety of professional development opportunities for Extension staff to enhance their public value thinking, skills, and story development.
- Secure public value champions in the organization at all levels to help catalyze change.
- Don’t underestimate the ability of clientele to determine, measure, and share public value of Extension programs (Franz, 2009).
- Encourage researchers to conduct research and share results connecting the private value of Extension with public economic, environmental, and social condition changes.
- Create a strong statistical base for the relevance section of public value stories to make them more convincing and make it easier to measure actual change due to Extension programs.
- Bridge field and administrative visions and actions around public value efforts through middle managers.
- Determine which programs should be supported solely by public funds and solely by private funds by determining the public value of each program.
- Involve economist, program evaluators, communications staff and stakeholders in developing public value stories to more deeply and authentically tell the story.
The public value steps outlined in this article and piloted with several Extension systems and national work groups can be informative for District 11 agents as we begin to determine how this concept can be utilized to enhance current interpretation efforts.
District 11 Agents received some preliminary training related to Extension public value at our 2011 Spring Conference. Agents are encouraged to review the following articles and websites to become more comfortable with this concept;
ReferencesFranz, N. (2011). Advancing the Public Value Movement: Sustaining Extension During Tough Times. Journal of Extension [On-line]. 49 (2) Article 2COM2. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2011april/comm2.php.
Franz, N. (2009). Promoting organizational sustainablity: Engaging volunteers to tell the program impact story. The International Journal of Volunteer Adminstration, 26 (3), 3-11.
Kalambokidis, L. & Bipes, T. (2007). Building Extension’s public value: Presenter’s guide. St. Paul: University of Minnesota Extension.
Dr. Darrell Dromgoole, Associate Director-County Programs, Texas AgriLife Extension Service.