Winter 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 4 // To The Point // 4TP2

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It's Been Done, Almost

Writing a statement doesn't guarantee a sense of organizational spirit and community that's evident to our collaborators and clients.

Jane Schuchardt
National Program Leader
Washington, D.C.

Mitch Geasler
Associate Administrator
Washington, D.C.

We couldn't agree more that an enunciated, well-defined statement of values, beliefs, and goals is the foundation for organizational success. However, to get to the point, it's been done-recently, in fact, by the national Extension leadership through the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and Extension Service-U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the reports Patterns of Change (1991, p. vi) and Strategic Directions of the Cooperative Extension System (1990, p. 3), the Cooperative Extension System's (CES) "New Direction," set forth in 1987, is described. Underlying this statement of vision are the values and beliefs forming this public-funded, nonformal, educational system called Extension.

Similar to the Maryland statement, the CES version embodies an intense commitment to program relevance and creative delivery; diversity of staff, including volunteers, and clientele; and the value of organizational change and self-renewal.

The CES statement also recognizes the importance of coalitions, including representation by the intended audience, and interdisciplinary team effort for identifying issues, setting priorities, delivering programs, and assessing impacts. The Maryland statement goes beyond that of CES by pledging attention to global interdependence, environmental stewardship, and the well-being of fellow workers, communities, Maryland, the United States, and the world.

Both statements describe what we, as Extension employees and volunteers, feel are intrinsically desirable. But, during an era when resources are too limited to duplicate effort, did Maryland capitalize on its position within a nationwide system to adapt and use what exists?

There is value-often greater than the end product-for each state Extension Service to work through the process of defining its philosophical base. In so doing, states can capitalize on and complement the system's efforts. Then, more time can be channeled to identifying the state-specific goals that give direction, purpose, and consistency to values.

Writing a statement doesn't guarantee a sense of organizational spirit and community that's evident to our collaborators and clients. CES could learn from Maryland's use of its values statement by:

  • Putting the values/vision statement in a single-sheet, plain language format that's easily interpreted by Extension staff and clients.
  • Suggesting ways states might use the statement (staff conferences, new staff orientation, as background for agencies and organizations teaming with Extension).
  • Increasing its efforts to reward staff who epitomize the values that make Extension worthwhile.

We commend CES and the leadership in Maryland for moving forward with the development of a statement of values. We would encourage other units of the system to move aggressively to adopt the CES statement or modify it to meet state or local needs.