Perseverance and Patience Can Lead to Positive Partnerships

Youth enrolled in LEEP summer programming participate in 4-H conference judging of their group project with an Extension Educator.

As an Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota, I had the opportunity to experience the eXtension Diversity & Inclusion Issue Corp Designathon in February 2017.  My team’s project, Reaching culturally diverse volunteers to grow the 4-H youth development program in Southern MN, was an idea influenced by 4-H Youth Development staff across Southern Minnesota.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Designathon was the systems thinking instruction where we were reminded to break our project into smaller pieces to see how it all fits together.  Since the Designathon I’ve been reminded of the importance of breaking goals into smaller pieces as I’ve worked to develop a partnership with a local organization to start a site-based 4-H club.  My perseverance and patience eventually led to a very positive partnership.

My journey in developing a local 4-H club to reach youth with special needs began back in February 2016 when I met two staff members from LEEP (Leisure Education for Exceptional People) at a University of Minnesota Extension sponsored event (Southeast MN Youth Development Regional Forum).  During a brief conversation between sessions, I saw the potential for a partnership with LEEP and within a week of the conference sent a follow-up e-mail to the program manager I had met.

The need to persevere in developing partnerships became apparent when I didn’t receive a response to my e-mail and made a phone call to the LEEP office where I learned the person I had met weeks earlier had left the organization.  After giving LEEP enough time to hire a new program manager I contacted them again in June 2016 and introduced myself to the new hire.  Recognizing that it takes time to settle into and learn a new job, I waited until December to set up a face-to-face meeting.  That first meeting led to additional planning meetings every 4-6 weeks from January through June 2017 when we piloted the LEEP 4-H Club during LEEP’s summer program for youth ages 10-21.

The journey from February 2016 to June 2017 – from when the idea for the partnership first occurred to me until the 4-H club actually launched – required me to persevere and be patient.  It’s a testimony to the idea that developing partnerships takes time.  However, the investment of that time led to a very positive partnership which allowed youth not previously enrolled in 4-H the opportunity for a 4-H club experience.

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