Throughout the United States, Cooperative Extension professionals are living and working in an era of profound change. Never before has there been such a shift in how people work, think and conduct their daily lives that has occurred at such a dazzlingly rapid pace.
This point is made dramatically in a short — indeed rapid — video by New York University business professor Scott Galloway which has gone viral. In this video, Galloway documents the mind-boggling growth of the “Gang of Four” — Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple — in 2015. The multi-billion dollar gains he recounts in these corporations’ market capitalization are changing, not only the wealth of their investors, but the way everyone in all local communities throughout our country live and learn to live in the present and into the future.
These changes create huge challenges for Extension professionals and for eXtension Foundation, the internet-based learning platform that supports their daily work in advancing economic and social well-being in their local communities of service. In putting together our March 2016 National eXtension Conference focused on professional development and innovation, we found ourselves working hard to ensure that our professional development offerings would be at the leading edge of transferring the knowledge and technology insights that Extension professionals will need in the year ahead.
Descriptions of these offerings, proposed and presented by Extension professionals, present a wide-ranging selection of topics and workshop approaches that are rich in hands-on exploration and application. Also important will be the peer-to-peer learning opportunities for Extension professionals of all stripes — agents, educators, faculty, specialists, directors, and administrators — and from all areas of the country as they gather, meet face-to-face, and share their experiences, challenges and solutions for the changes rocking their communities.
Cooperative Extension professionals may not yet have a story to tell that is as sensational as Galloway’s “Gang of Four,” but their mission is the same: to lead innovation in their communities and create impact in helping their local clients benefit in the face of rapid, disrupting change.