Extension Programming in the Age of COVID 19
For most of us, the world as we know it was turned on its side about four months ago. Listing all the various ways is not necessary here – you are all too familiar with what you have experienced and what we continue to endure. My mission in this post is to help you think differently about your work.
Over the past four months, I have watched as we have reacted and adapted the way we carry out our Extension mission. From my viewpoint, we have immediately responded using every digital communication tool available to us (OSU-approved or not – I love the innovative spirit!). We have capitalized on opportunities to engage with teammates to update materials and generate new timely creative works. We have focused our thoughts and energies on how we can effectively engage with our program partners and clientele – how we ultimately carry out our Extension mission in a world where we are largely restricted from engaging them physically face to face.
But I sense that collectively we are growing weary and struggling to realize that we can continue to engage our program partners, clientele, and stakeholders. I know we miss our people and the relationships that we have cultivated. For many, we miss the satisfaction of planning and delivering programs face to face. We miss the satisfaction we feel when we are driving home from the office after a super-productive day or the workshop that went even better than we hoped.
Our Extension programming in the ‘Age of COVID’ consists of phone calls, Zoom meetings and webinars, web-page updates, blog posts, social media, etc. It involves tons more screen time (your eyes hurt too, right?). This ‘socially-distanced’ Extension approach may not be your preference, but this is what we currently have. And, if we still believe in the Extension mission, I believe that now more than ever we need to embrace it.
Whether you are struggling with our virtual engagement approach or not, please realize that we are reaching others via these approaches. In fact, we have demonstrated that we can reach many more people than we did previously, in some cases.
How do we know? We keep count. If you have not already, please begin counting and tracking numbers and topics the same way you would if you were conducting F2F programs. You hold a MGV meeting virtually? Count the participants. Create a short educational video you post to the Internet? Count the subscribers to that FB page or YouTube channel. Take a call from a homeowner with a black ant problem in the house? Track that too. This is how you are engaging. This is Extension! Let’s keep counting!