Fall 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 3

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Editor's Page


Our Special Section "People Involvement: Volunteers"

With the Journal's new pattern of four issues per year, the Board of Directors decided that each Fall issue should feature a Special Section that emphasizes a topic of vital interest to all readers. The theme "People Involvement: Volunteers" is an excellent choice for 1985 as Extension staff see a growing list of opportunities for education and a shrinking number of resources with which to conduct these programs.

Volunteers have been a vital part of Extension's programming process since Walter Porter volunteered to be a demonstration farmer in 1903. Since then, millions of individuals have given countless hours of service to extend more programs to more people.

It seems to me, however, that we could make more effective use of volunteers. Research shows that we as adults seek the same things in a volunteer assignment as we do in a work assignment. We want to know what has to be done, what resources we have at our disposal to do the tasks, to whom we're responsible, on what basis our work will be evaluated, and what our rewards will be. We also like to know that we'll be trained and supported as we work and that the tasks we do are important ones. We all appreciate desirable working conditions-physical, social, and psychological. Do we consider all these items as we work with volunteers?

And, do we consider the levels at which volunteers can function? Not always. Volunteers can be policy makers, evaluators, trainers of other volunteers, managers, coordinators, and administrators. To draw an analogy with a public school system, I think we need to function as the superintendent with the roles of principal, teacher, and support staff being played by volunteers.

Under this concept of an Extension staff member as a facilitator of education, we need to consider planning, coaching and counseling, and supporting. This is a long way from an agent attending every 4-H, farm organization, or homemaker club meeting. Some of these ideas are developed by authors in this special section. We hope you find them challenging.

Who Reads the Journal?

The answer is simple: We don't know. We know who our target audience is-Extension staff members and other adult educators involved in programming with clientele. We know that many copies are read by more than one person.

Do the items we publish mean something special to our readers? Thanks to Jim Long's recordkeeping, we know that one article created enough interest in a variety of readers that they wanted to know more about the technique. The September/October, 1983, issue of the Journal carried an "Idea Corner" article about the "focused group interview" as a participatory evaluation technique. The article invited interested readers to write to Washington State Extension for a brief manual. Requests were received from 44 readers: 35 in 1983, 8 in 1984, and 1 in January of 1985. These requests were from 30 states and 3 other countries (Australia, Egypt, and West Germany). They also came from people in a wide variety of Extension positions: 16 county staff, 12 subject specialists, 5 administrators, and 11 in support staff positions.

We're always interested in comments from readers. Feedback from you helps us make the Journal what you want it to be.

Roger L. Lawrence, Editor