The Cooperative Extension System (CES) has been extending the knowledge of the land-grant universities to address current problems in each state for over 100 years. These efforts have enhanced the viability, health, sustainability and overall quality of life for Americans. When the land-grant universities were created in 1862, many of the current issues were related to agriculture, and this became the focus of the CES when it was created in 1914 and has continued to be its primary focus for the last 100 years. Extension is community driven and uses the following process:
- Conduct a needs assessment of local stakeholders to identify problems
- Assemble the best available science to address these problems (utilizing applied research)
- Develop and deliver educational and outreach programming to provide solutions to the local stakeholders
- Work with local stakeholders to implement the solutions
Over time there has been a shift; today many of the current issues are related to urbanization. The CES has begun to develop programming to serve highly urbanized communities with urban entomology, forestry, gardening, youth development, and economic development. These programs only begin to scratch the surface of the expertise at the land-grant universities that can be engaged to address a wider range of urban topics such as community development, declining workforce preparedness, distressed environment, crime, poverty, water quality, aging infrastructure, illiteracy, and unemployment.
Extension plays a large role in helping stakeholders move their ideas and plans into action. While planning is important, implementation creates impact and provides solutions. The urban Extension system is expected to engage communities in several areas including, but not limited to, implementing green infrastructure practices to help eliminate combined sewer overflows and reduce flooding, developing urban farming and community garden programs, conducting job training and workforce preparedness, improving health and wellness of youth and adults, educating and engaging at-risk youth, implementing air quality improvement strategies, and providing communities assistance to enhance their resiliency to climate change and severe weather events.
The urban Extension system aim is to help local groups by providing unbiased information based upon sound scientific data. We can plug into these organizations with support from high level thinkers of the state universities that the urban Extension system represents, adding value to every project and program that engages us. With this support comes validation and the behavior change and impacts that these community groups are trying to ensure.