A partnership of health agencies, organizations, and researchers is starting to recruit participants for the Polk County site of the National Children’s Study. The study will examine the effects of the environment on the growth, development, and health of children from birth to age 21, at 105 locations in the US. Dr. Rizwan Shah, MD, the Medical Director of the Regional Child Protection Center at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, is the Principal Site Investigator. Factors in the study will include air quality, water quality, diet, and social and genetic factors. Participants at this stage will be women ages 18 to 49 at any stage of pregnancy and who are very likely to become pregnant. The Iowa Environmental Council was involved in early discussions of the Polk County study site and supports this effort to study the importance of environmental factors in children’s health and wellbeing. For more information, visit www.NationalChildrensStudy.gov
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) has recently made two new family disaster preparedness resources available. North Dakota State University’s Becky Koch led the effort to publish the new “EDEN Family Preparedness” course, whose classroom delivered materials are available FREE online at:
http://eden.lsu.edu/EDENCourses/FamilyPreparedness/Pages/default.aspx This includes an instructor’s guide, a narrated video PowerPoint Presentation, and a complete PowerPoint presentation file. Also, University of Missouri Extension has created an electronic template to guide families through the disaster plan development process. This resource is available at: http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=EMW1011 The template is designed to be downloaded and filled out electronically (or printed and completed by hand). See all the useful disaster education resources EDEN has to offer at www.eden.lsu.edu and www.extension.org/disasters
This week John Lawrence and I facilitated discussions with staff in regions 8, 10, 15, 16, and 20 about programming. One portion of our discussion focused on the recent statewide needs assessment and how we can use that data and other data to inform program design. We outlined the following steps: 1) review data and trends from a wide variety of sources, 2) triangulate the data sources and record common themes, and 3) select programs to design and implement that are high in importance and where we have high capacity to address the issue. If an issue or topic has low importance and we have little capacity to address it, we should remove it from our program offerings. On the other hand, if an issue or topic has high importance and we have little capacity to address it, we should refer the topic to others who have the capacity or partner with them to address the need (how can it be addressed). Finally, if a topic has low importance and we have high capacity to address it (why are we addressing it), we should retool ourselves to instead address issues of higher importance. Here’s a matrix that illustrates these four options. Issue Capacity-Importance Matrix
In Extension, we use the word “program” to cover a variety of educational efforts. Idefine “Program” as a constellation (or portfolio as John Lawrence the economist prefers) of educational events that address an issue or problem with public value. Big P programs may be “decreasing poverty,” or “reducing childhood obesity,” or “improving child care.” Little p programs on the other hand are the workshops, newsletters, webinars, and other instructional opportunities that address those issues. I hope we can gain a greater balance in our discussions to focus more often on how our little p efforts are helping address big P public issues. Our six program logic models are a great start to guiding these discussions.
As we continue to build the Families/4-H house, two new listservs have been developed to reach families and youth faculty and staff:
- firstname.lastname@example.org – Families and Youth regional and campus specialists and staff
- email@example.com – county-based Families and Youth staff
Staff are automatically added to appropriate list(s), so no need to ask to be subscribed.
I attended the American Evaluation Association meeting last week to finish out my commitment as an officer of the Extension evaluator’s group and to present a variety of workshops. I always come home with a great update on Extension around the country as well as lots of ideas for improving our programming and reporting. The last two years I’ve found the “developmental evaluation” movement to be very compelling for some of our work. Michael Patton from Minnesota has finally published his book on this topic (I’m reading it now). This type of evaluation adds a new approach to the traditional formative and summative evalation processes we are so familiar with. Developmental evaluation is most appropriate for programs and programs environments that are complex or chaotic. As the world around us changes more frequently, I find this to be more of a reality. In complex and chaotic environments, evaluation tends to be rapid, just in time, and focused on processes and responses to the changing environment. This flies in the face of the evidnence-based movement that requires a static environment to ensure program fidelity. I believe we should consider the appropriate fit between program environments and evaluation approaches as the world of education changes. Feel free to check out “Micahel Patton” and “developmental evaluation” in Google scholar to learn more. I’d love to hear what you think of this approach to evaluation and the implications for our work.
In the last week I’ve greatly enjoyed three teas with 34 women and six university folks across the state. The tea participants like the six program themes/teams we have in operation. They suggest we work more closely with the medical community in our educational efforts, reminded us of the need for strong relationships with school administrators and staff to work more closely than ever with young families. It was also clear that for these women, the blending of Extension Families and 4-H work is the way they live their daily lives. They are very excited about our future and very pleased that we are working hard to make lives better for families. I’ll be evaluating the results of these teas and will most likely conduct another set in March and April. I’d love to hear what “tea gossip” you hear on the Extension grapevine.
I hope you found Dr. Rich Luker’s keynote talk at our annual conference on extending the heart of community to be an affirmation of and a challenge for our work. Please take a moment through the “comment” feature of this web posting to share how you think we can use his perspectives to better connect with our current and potenital clients. As a reminder, he said our charge is to extend the heart of community by responding to the economy, being aware of the generation gap, recognizing lost community, and practicing engagement, kindness, and love by being more welcoming in our work and lives. What can we do to make this happen?