Building our capacity

John Lawrence’s message from March 5, 2018

In ISU Extension and Outreach, we focus on building capacity in our clients and communities, and rightly so. As R.K. Bliss says in his extension history book, “Helping people to help themselves and working with people rather than for people are good slogans to remember in extension work.” However, we also need to focus on ourselves. I think even R.K. would agree that there is good reason to build the capacity of our organization: Our people are our greatest asset and we must invest in them.

Did you know? Capacity building helps an organization deliver on its mission over time, according to the National Council of Nonprofits, a resource and advocate for charitable nonprofits in the U.S. However, capacity building isn’t a one-time effort for short-term effectiveness, the council states. Instead, it is a strategy for continuous improvement. By building their own capacity, organizations can develop the competencies and skills they need to become sustainable – so they can continue to have a positive impact on the people and communities they serve.

ISU Extension and Outreach is a learning organization. We know we have to keep developing and honing our skills and abilities so we can continue to address Iowans’ changing needs. If we truly intend to build a strong Iowa, as we claim in our mission statement, we have to be ready, willing and able to do the work. The second goal in our 2017-2022 Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan is to build capacity for council members, faculty, staff and volunteers. It’s an appropriate goal because:

  • We believe in taking care of our own. We are committed to ongoing professional development for our council members, faculty, staff and volunteers.
  • We also want to encourage Iowans to join our ranks – whether as employees or council members, or in other volunteer roles.
  • And since none of us will be here forever, one of the crops we need to cultivate is the next generation of extension professionals.

ISU Extension and Outreach has a bright future. We are a dynamic organization of dedicated people who love the work they do. Our success isn’t based on any one individual, but rather, on what we can accomplish together. As our Annual Conference theme states, we are greater than me. And WE are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

A few more notes

  • Make sure to review the March program update from the leadership team.
  • During ISU Day at the Capitol, we shared stories of Iowa State’s value and impact. Watch the video.
  • At last year’s Annual Conference, we kicked off the “GIVE mine to EIE” campaign for Excellence in Extension. By the end of 2017, we had raised more than $8,000. Our goal is to reach $12,000 by April 2018. You can contribute online any time. You also can donate at our 2018 Annual Conference and receive a “GIVE mine to EIE” button. Together we can reach the goal and support Excellence in Extension – another way we build our capacity.
  • Since March 12-16 is Iowa State’s spring break, you won’t get a message from me next Monday. Also, I will be away from the office for a few days recovering from surgery. Nothing major, in at 6 a.m. and out by 1 p.m., but a while to recover. Sometimes growing older isn’t much fun, but it beats the alternative. I’ll be back in your emailbox on Monday, March 19.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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