Extension routinely studies the effectiveness of its leadership and civic engagement programs. Our goal is to understand whether our programs:
- Strengthen participant leadership skills and knowledge;
- Increase leadership within communities by participants; and
- Create stronger communities.
On this page
New skills and knowledge
Leadership competenciesExtension's leadership programs focus on skills and knowledge that help participants lead teams, solve problems, and make a difference in communities. Post-program assessments show strong increases in knowledge and skills related to the following competencies*:
Civic Engagement competencies
*Data presents the percentage of increase, as measured by retrospective pre-post surveys in three civic engagement cohort programs, regarding key skills that create positive civic engagement experiences in communities.
Extension Research Fellow Ben Winchester conducted a 2010 study showing that demand for leaders in the most rural areas of Minnesota is nearly five times greater than in the most urban areas. These rural counties require one in 34 residents to serve in leadership positions, compared with one in 143 residents in metropolitan areas. In 2014, we collected information from 161 participants of seven leadership cohort programs. We compared the level and number of their leadership roles at the beginning of an Extension leadership program to the level and number at the end of the program. Results are below.
Percent of 2014 program participants who increased their involvement in at least one of their organizational roles
Click on program title for more program information (website not available for West Central Emerging Leaders and Bridging Brown County).
Connections to each other, to other communities, and to other resources, can be leveraged to bring new ideas and resources to communities. Extension's leadership and civic engagement programs intentionally create these connections.
Percentage of participants in county bridging or civic engagement cohort programs that increased connections to new groups and peopleAs measured by pre- and post-survey
To evaluate the impacts of leadership and civic engagement programs, Extension builds on the community capitals (Flora, et. al., 20081) and public value (Kalambokidis, 2004; Chazdon & Paine, 20142) frameworks. Program participants and other community stakeholders are invited to participate in Ripple Effect Mapping sessions, where they reflect on the chain of effects of the programs in their communities3. While the Extension program may not be the sole cause of all the reported outcomes, participants in these sessions were able to name a specific contribution that the Extension program made towards most of these outcomes. The outcomes are categorized into "community capitals" that are known to create thriving communities. In 2014, ripple effect maps were created to analyze the effects of two leadership and civic engagement cohort programs — the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leaders' (MARL) Program and the Water Quality Civic Engagement cohort in Southwest Minnesota. MARL program alumni credited the program with 61 outcomes for their communities.
Reported community effects of the MARL program, as reported by participants and community stakeholders.
For more information and examples, click on the icons below.
1 Flora, C. B., & Flora, J. L. (2008). Rural communities: Legacy and change. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
2 Kalambokidis, L. (2004). Identifying the public value in Extension programs. Journal of Extension, 45(2), Available for download at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2004april/a1.php.
3 Chazdon, S. & Paine. N. 2014. Evaluating for public value: Clarifying the relationship between public value and program evaluation. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension 2(2): 100-119. Available for download at: http://media.wix.com/ugd/c8fe6e_8b2458db408640e580cfbeb5f8c339ca.pdf.