Start at the Very Beginning in Program Planning

I love “The Sound of Music,” and one tune that always comes to mind when I think about Extension program planning is “Do-Re-Mi.” You know, “Let’s start at the very beginning.”

Determining target audience and clarifying educational goals sounds simple, but these are challenging first steps in program development. Too often we don’t start at the very beginning and instead jump to “Let’s create a video” or “We should do more social media,” but clarifying target audience and goals first makes program development easier and the results more effective – and who doesn’t want that!

Here’s a paraphrase of a recent conversation.
Me: Who’s your target audience?
Specialist: North Dakota producers.
Me: What kind of producers? A western North Dakota rancher’s needs are a lot different than an eastern North Dakota farmer’s needs.
Specialist: Crop farmers.
Me: What crop?
Specialist: Soybeans.
Me: Traditional? No-till? Organic?
Specialist: OK, I get it.

And a different conversation.
Me: What’s your goal?
Specialist: To get parents to come to our parenting workshop.
Me: Do you think the parents of at-risk children that you’re targeting will attend a workshop, or does that make them look like they’re bad parents to others in their community?
Specialist: Yea, we do have a problem getting some parents to come to meetings.
Me: Your goal is to get them to change their behavior, so what other avenues could you use?
Specialist: We’ll brainstorm where these parents already go and what resources they use.

The NDSU Extension Service’s eXtension Innovation Grant is to transition our in-person Communications Camp

NDSU Comm Camp Succession Planning Group
Comm Camp Succession Planning

into a virtual opportunity for educators across the country. The first step in our camp process – whether in person or virtually – is determining target audience and goals.

Many Extension educators across the country are doing a good job of planning and evaluating the impact of their educational programs, but occasionally we need to be reminded to “start at the very beginning” by clarifying target audience and change-of-behavior goals.