Spring 1989 // Volume 27 // Number 1 // To The Point // 1TP3

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Yes, But...Yes, And


Susan G. Laughlin
Associate Dean
College of Natural Resources
University of California-Berkeley

As I read the Johnsrud and Rauschkolb article, I found myself muttering "yes, but...." An image of my father's exasperated face crossed my mind. He considered those two words anything but charming. I quickly switched to "yes, and...," a trick I find both alleviates my guilt and changes a whine into a clarifying statement. Those who create visions for the future of Extension and those who make them work must all face the frustration of many "yes, buts" and we might all find the "and" trick useful in seeing and using each other's points of view.

Yes, change is essential. Extension can't go on with business as usual. Something has to be fixed. Issues-based programming is one way to deal with concerns about "relevance, mission, priorities, and capabilities." And, there are others who perceive the problems differently. One of these different points of view holds that Extension is drifting away from a strong basic research foundation into rapid responses to whatever happens to be the latest fad. Clearly, the cure for this problem is quite distinct from the approach ES-USDA has taken. Issues programming may aggravate the problem of Extension's already weak link to campus-based research. A solution must include balance between rapid response relevance and a strong research foundation in Extension programming.

Yes, the ES-USDA process was a fine "total system team effort." In fact, those who choose to focus on fixing the linkage between Extension and research often have much to learn about involvement, participatory decision making, planning, and citizen input from true masters of Extension processes. And, the products of team efforts sometimes express more devotion to including all points of view than to clarity, focus, and well-defined objectives. The National Initiatives are so broad and all-inclusive that they provide little in the way of real priority setting for those of us inside Extension. They do, however, provide the appearance of priorities for external consumption.

Yes, we have need for National Initiatives. Johnsrud has made a convincing argument for them and relates evidence that they're making a difference in the image of Extension. The effort to grow them from the bottom up was probably the best it could have been. And, the National Initiatives are still perceived by many as top-down, belonging to "the Feds." No surprise. Which of us can really experience ownership of ideas we haven't personally debated and painstakingly examined the implications of? Which of us on the front lines, in county offices, isn't torn by the need to assure local constituents that needs, as they define them, are our primary focus?

Clearly, the processing of the National Initiatives can't stop here. Each state has its own work to do to bring all Extension players - and research partners - into open discussion of where and to what extent National Initiatives fit in our daily work and how they affect our ability to maintain a county-based educational response system. The efforts made by ES-USDA really deserve our honest feedback about the actions we're willing to take and the other points of view we feel the need to incorporate in our own renewal efforts.