Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1 // Commentary // 1LET1

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Let the People Speak


I'm concerned about the article "Let the People Speak" (Winter 1989) on a needs assessment process used in Texas to identify issues of interest to the community. The process supposedly adhered to principles of actively involving a broad public and avoidance of typical Extension terminology. The authors then described a process that began with assignment of community leaders to study groups representing the four traditional program areas used in the Extension Service.

Doesn't this initial step appear to be in direct conflict with the purpose of the assessment, which was to identify broad public issues for Extension programming? The cross-fertilization of ideas was apparently limited to a single meeting, wherein the four program area study groups in each county discussed and prioritized the issues they'd previously identified. One can only wonder what issues might have emerged within interdisciplinary study groups.

I'd like to extend a challenge to other needs assessors: break away from the comfortable bounds set by traditional Extension program areas, facilitate interdisciplinary interaction among people at the beginning of the needs assessment process, and then "let the people speak."

Lisa Kitinoja
Former Graduate Research Associate
Ohio State University-Columbus