MSU Extension embarks on issue identification process

The Issue Identification Team, formed after Fall Extension Conference (FEC) 2014, has been busy developing a process that will be used by our organization in coming months. One of the areas for improvement discussed at FEC was building a healthier organization by listening to our customers. Here is an update on the process under design.

What is the Issues Identification Process? An “Issues ID” process is part of a needs assessment that Extension professionals use to identify priority program opportunities for Extension’s future focus. Our goal is to better understand program needs and issues that are facing constituents in order to focus our limited resources to better address needs, while staying true to our mission. The process in Michigan will cover the needs of both Michigan State University Extension and AgBioResearch.

The Process: Working with our state advisory network of district Extension councils to guide the public input process, priority program opportunities for Extension’s future focus will be identified. In addition, with the leadership of District Council members, we envision gaining a better understanding of opportunities to partner in communities, to shift resources, or meet current, emerging and currently unmet needs.

Issues ID Sessions: Council members will conduct one or more sessions in each district throughout the state using a nominal group process. Council members will work with staff to identify community stakeholders and leaders to attend sessions. Council members will assume leadership roles at the sessions including facilitating, moderating small groups, recording, greeting, and other roles. An issues identification session includes:

  1. Generating ideas
  2. Recording ideas
  3. Discussing ideas
  4. Voting on ideas

Each district will be given all necessary instructions, training and materials to help ensure a successful and standardized approach is used throughout the state.

Assembling Input: Councils may hold more than one process in their districts if they choose. If that is the case, they will need to incorporate all the feedback from the sessions into one set of priorities reported to MSU Extension. They will be provided a template to prepare the report. It is the District Council’s prerogative to settle on the final priority list that is submitted.

Time Line: The Issues ID process will begin in fall 2015 and conclude in February 2016. It is expected that the District Council’s report will be submitted upon completion of the process. MSU Extension leadership will need the reports no later than the beginning of March 2016 to meet the deadline.

What is the Role of Staff? District coordinators are taking the lead in preparing the council membership for their role in conducting the sessions. That said, there are a number of ways staff can be involved. The participants for the process must be a well-rounded group of constituents and community leaders. District coordinators will be asking for staff input on recruiting names and participation to ensure a diverse cross section of interests and backgrounds. Constituents representing the interests of AgBioResearch should also be included. Your district coordinator may call on some of you to assist in preparing the council for its session with a trial session or brainstorming session. When the actual session(s) is(are) held in your district, staff is encouraged to attend if at all possible. You will be attending this session as a listener, not as a participant. Following the session, when the council has formulated its prioritized report, the district coordinator will hold a session to review the outcomes with staff members in their district. You will also review reports as institute work team members.

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