Increasingly today, situations faced by Cooperative Extension System professionals—agents, educators, faculty and specialists—are new, urgent and require rapid-response solutions to relieve their pressure on the affected public.
Often Extension professionals can envision quick, interim, possibly permanent solutions for these emerging situations. However, to try out their ideas they need support, the ability to step back from a situation and concentrate, and a way to collaborate with other Cooperative Extension System professionals facing the same situation to brainstorm and test possible solutions.
eXtension, the Cooperative Extension System’s virtual learning and collaboration network, represents a valuable resource for creating a rapid-response environment for interaction and collaboration among Cooperative Extension System professionals. Capitalizing on this opportunity is now part of the NEW eXtension’s mission, and it will increase Cooperative Extension System professionals’ ability to deliver a visible and measurable impact by bringing quick relief to emerging public challenges, both locally and system wide.
i-Three Rapid Solutions
Our strategy is to develop three new programs—we call them i-Three–centered on three themes—Issues, Innovation, Impact. These programs, co-created with participating Cooperative Extension System professionals, will target:
- Increasing Cooperative Extension System professionals’ effectiveness in addressing issues of importance to the nation
- Fostering innovation in developing solutions and methods of work
- Advancing the measurable impact of their work for the public good
The cornerstone of these new programs is an Issue Corps of Cooperative Extension System professionals, selected from eXtension member institutions, who will serve as innovators and experimenters to create next-generation solutions and methods of work for achieving increased impact. In 2016, the premiere Issue Corps will focus on the issues of climate and food systems. The premiere cohort will consist of 200 Cooperative Extension System professionals already working on issues related to climate and food systems. In 2017, the Corps will scale up to 2000 members.
Among the first Issue Corp members, a number will want to work on providing quick solutions to urgent climate or food systems issues or community situations. The hallmark of Rapid Solutions will be its focus on helping Corps members push through to quick outcomes, using a process of iterative design, prototyping, and evaluation. This process can be highly effective when applied to delivering impact with fast, effective short-term (6 months) results.
Solutions that merit further development may move to the Innovations Lab for longer-term study and refinement as well as determination of scalability within the Cooperative Extension System.
Issue Corps individuals and teams working in the Rapid Solutions environment, like Innovation Lab experimenters, receive guidance, training and mentoring for conducting experiments using this special process. They are also included in special periodic face-to-face events and workshops where experimenters from both the Innovation Lab and Rapid Solutions meet, share, collaborate and advance their innovation development skills.