Extension Reconsidered is concerned with the work of building a democratic culture that is grounded in an ethic of full participation, where all people have opportunities to learn and grow and contribute to public life, requires support from all types of institutions. While few are aware of it, there is a rich and deep legacy of this kind of public engagement in the Cooperative Extension system within land-grant colleges and universities. And it continues today, though it is both undervalued and endangered.
The work of building a democratic culture that is grounded in an ethic of full participation, where all people have opportunities to learn and grow and contribute to public life, requires support from all types of institutions.
Extension Reconsidered was a year-long, national Imagining America initiative that sought to highlight Extension’s legacy of public engagement while encouraging new partnerships and leaders to move that legacy forward. The initiative engaged Cooperative Extension partners from 13 states in constructive and critical deliberation about the role of Extension in public life. In particular, each state team pursued partnerships between Extension and the arts, humanities, and design fields to widen the appeal and reach of the deliberative activities.
The initiative was timed for 2014 to mark the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, the federal legislation that established the national Cooperative Extension System. Extension Reconsidered was a partnership between 13 land-grant universities, Imagining America, the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), and the Art of the Rural.
Activities of Extension Reconsidered
Thirteen land-grant universities joined the initiative: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Each university group created a leadership team made up of Extension educators, arts and design partners, and community members. Teams were tasked with planning deliberative events for their state around the Extension Reconsidered themes of public engagement, the arts/humanities/design, and the role of Extension.
The themes and challenges of Extension Reconsidered were discussed online throughout the year on the Extension Reconsidered blog series. The experiences and outcomes of the initiative will also contribute to research for a book by Scott Peters that is under development.
Call to action
The events and partnerships developed during the Extension Reconsidered initiative have opened a path for a long-term initiative devoted to developing and supporting new ways for Extension to strengthen democracy by engaging people and methodologies from arts, humanities, and design fields. Read about it from our partners’ perspectives at the Extension Reconsidered blog series.
TheExtension Reconsidered blog features posts from guest contributors who care about Cooperative Extension, the land-grant mission, community arts and humanities, civic engagement, and other issues related to the Extension Reconsidered initiative.
Plus, this work has blossomed into several ongoing initiatives and projects around the country:
- In Oregon, after the Extension Reconsidered event created a successful new relationship between Extension and the College of Liberal Arts, the initiative returned in 2015 with a focus on building partnerships between Extension and Engineering
- Wisconsin’s “Extension Reimagined” created a statewide training and community discussion series
- National Rural Issue Guide (2015): Extension partners in eight states are collaborating with arts and design experts to create a deliberative issue guide focused on the future of rural communities. With support from Imagining America, the Kettering Foundation, and the National Issues Forums Institute.
- National Urban Issue Guide (tentative 2016)
Are you involved in Cooperative Extension or part of a Land Grant University with an interest in connecting to this ongoing work? Contact Scott Peters or one of the projects above.