National Action Dialogue: Extension Futures Summary Report

In partnership with ECOP, two National Action Dialogues (NAD) focused on Extension Futures were held on July 13 and July 14, 2020. 382 participants from 69 Land Grant Universities (LGU) representing all five ECOP regions and program areas along with18 partner organizations who collectively shared ideas, concerns, and needs within 5 focus topics, guided by 10 Facilitators, and informed by 17 Key Informants.

The purpose of the Action Dialogue was to imagine near-future possibilities for how Cooperative Extension can better serve individuals and communities in the face of evolving needs and capabilities. This work was done through a diversity, equity and inclusion framework that includes awareness of low-income and low access individuals. The outcome of this dialogue will support the transitional aspect of Cooperative Extension to a more-virtual delivery platform and will inform the need for funding of infrastructure/equipment needed for the envisioned future.

Five focus topics were identified including:

  • National Community Learning Network
  • Digital Cooperatives
  • Professional, Continuing Education, and Workforce Development
  • Infrastructure
  • Living Ecosystem of Professionals

From each focus topic, the notes and recordings were analyzed to identify emerging themes. These themes are listed in the report. However, two themes emerged in all breakout groups: (1) the need for universal, affordable broadband access (2) the need to strengthen existing and pursue new partnerships within local communities. Additionally, Infrastructure and Training needs were identified along with suggestions for new solutions.

Additional input was gathered from Cooperative Extension administrative leadership as part of the September 2020 National Extension Directors and Administrators (NEDA) meeting. Breakout sessions included topics that emerged from the July NAD event. These included access to farm and ag data for ag innovation and data-driven decision-making; aggregation and use of public data for community decision-making; advocating for broadband technology in rural and urban communities that have low or poor accessibility with a digital equity emphasis; and building community technology networks and hubs, including low-tech and offline solutions.

A copy of the full report is available here.