In May 2019, eXtension’s Impact Collaborative program launched its Engage and Empower Online (EEO) platform. EEO is a social intranet platform powered by LumApps that has been customized for eXtension members and partners to deliver strategically-themed professional development and networking opportunities that allow participants to discover opportunities, scale their talents, multiply ties generating positive change, and leverage their time efficiently at the pace of change. Included in the EEO platform are opportunities to take advantage of exclusive publications, virtual events through the Impact Collaborative, webinars, and Learning Circles.
In November 2019, the Impact Collaborative hosted a Learning Circle series, Creating Thriving Family Farms, as one of its EEO offerings. This Learning Circle was led by Bonnie Braun, Professor Emerita, University of Maryland School of Public Health and Extension; Maria Pippidis, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension; and Dr. Jesse M. Ketterman, University of Maryland Extension Educator.
The Creating Thriving Family Farms Learning Circle explored frameworks, assessment and teaching tools for professionals to use for managing their own stress and for working with their clientele. It enabled participants to explore an integrated approach to physical, mental, emotional and financial health and well-being of individuals, families and farms with the end goal of building farm enterprises that can face and address change, with accompanying stressors, effectively. For four weeks, Braun, Pippidis, and Ketterman met once per week for a video conference with Learning Circle participants, and maximized the social intranet features of the EEO platform to deliver assignments, solicit feedback, and engage more deeply in the content between those meetings.
Braun, Pippidis, and Ketterman leveraged the experience of the participants in the Creating Thriving Family Farms Learning Circle to assist with the review and development of a Farm and Farm Family Risk and Resilience Guide for Extension Educational Programming. The guide and three additional tools in a toolkit were shared through the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and the Northeast Region Extension Risk Management Education websites. This guide was created to provide a framework as a starting place for programming that not only informs but moves individuals, families, professionals, and public policy makers to take action to prevent or mitigate sources of stress (Braun & Pippidis, 2020). According to Ketterman, “the Learning Circle platform (EEO) allowed participants to engage in meaningful discussions which contributed to the final product.”
This Learning Circle was grounded in adult education and ten of the participants took time to review and provide feedback on the first edition of the guide. These participants were listed as reviewers in the final product and include:
- Leslie A Forstadt, Ph.D., Extension Associate Professor, Human Development Specialist and Director, Maine Agricultural Mediation Program, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
- Erin Kimbrough, Program Manager, Texas A&M University
- D. Elizabeth Kiss, Ph.D., Extension Specialist Family Financial Management, Kansas State University Extension
- Sonja Koukel, Professor/Extension Health Specialist, New Mexico State University Extension
- Teresa Matteson, Soil Health Coordinator, Benton Soil and Water Conservation District
- Makenzie McLaurin, Program Coordinator, Texas A&M University
- Heather Neikirk, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University Extension
- Anu Rangarajan, Sr. Extension Associate, Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator, Livestock & Director, Rural Stress Task Force, University of Minnesota Extension
- Lorna Wounded Head, Family Resource Management Field Specialist, South Dakota State University Extension
According to Braun, “Learning Circle participants were at once both learners and co-creators. Their questions and critiques helped us improve the guide.”
For 2020, the Impact Collaborative is continuing to host Learning Circles and other professional development opportunities for eXtension members through the Engage & Empower Online platform. Members can register for a free account at eXtension.org/register or learn more here. Included with the 2020 offerings is a ten-month series in partnership with the Scattergood Foundation on Investing in Community Resilience and Deploying Trauma-Informed Practice. The first part of this series begins on March 11th, 2020 with a webinar. Interested members can learn more here.
About the eXtension Foundation
The eXtension Foundation is a membership-based non-profit designed to be the engine fueling U.S. Cooperative Extension’s 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.
Braun, B., & Pippidis, M. (2020). Farm and Farm Family Risk and Resilience Guide for Extension Educational Programming. University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, 1.