To borrow a rather memorable term from Saturday Night Live, our “strategery” seems to be working.
Tinkering with this priceless intellectual artifact of Cooperative Extension identity is undoubtedly considered an act of sheer effrontery in some quarters, and that’s precisely why I did it.
I intended for this to be a disruptive event within Extension — a way to get people focused on the imperative need to transform Cooperative Extension into the 21st century knowledge organization it simply must become. I wanted it to spark a dialogue about the traits and skills that 21st century Extension educators must acquire to become effective change agents in this emerging global knowledge economy.
To a moderate degree, it appears to have done precisely that.
I’m indebted to two people: Carol Whatley, my department head, who graciously agreed to work my version of the creed into a beautifully rendered .pdf document, and NDSU Extension’s Bob Bertsch, who has managed to get this debate rolling on NDSU’s “The Winnowing Oar: Web Tech in Agriculture and Extension.”
Alongside the creed, Bob was even thoughtful enough to post a word cloud, which adeptly summarizes much of what I was trying to convey.
For me, the most salient section of the creed is the penultimate phrase:
I believe that the prevailing winds of change are summoning us to do what we have always done best: to work, to teach, and to inspire through dialogue and empowerment, demonstrating to our diverse audiences the value of accepting and embracing change as an inevitable facet of life and as an opportunity to formulate new ways of thinking, living, and working.
Collaborative learning is the future. Indeed, as Bob pointed out in one of his earlier pieces, the times have produced a new social and communicative order in which leaders no longer can “hold themselves above or apart from the community.”
As I’ve stressed a time or two before, Extension’s long-time institutional experience with collaborative learning is one of our greatest strengths. We have been the ones least inclined to play the ivory tower game. Throughout my career, I’ve been inspired by so many Extension faculty members who have garnered national and even international reputations without ever abandoning their common touch.
That’s a big reason why my faith in this movement’s future is unwavering.