As we all try to stay warm and safe in this frigid January, I am reflecting fondly on the regional visits we held last August through October when the weather was much warmer. Starting with the December 1 edition of Family Matters, the grand challenges identified during these visits were highlighted beginning with the Southwest region. As noted in an earlier blog post, these experiences are shaping our future directions for Family Development programming and our employee engagement efforts. I wanted to highlight several of these important directions.
What were the most important takeaways from these visits? Three things come to mind:
- We in Family Development have talented, creative, and passionate people working with and for us to make Minnesota communities better places to live. Our efforts are statewide yet local. You are leaders in your communities and we need to ensure that you have resources to continue your work.
- Minnesota is facing grand challenges that we have a role in addressing. These grand challenges include poverty and income inequality; physical, mental and behavioral health issues; as well as racial inequities in the areas of school achievement, employment, health care, and healthy food access.
- In some cases, we learned that Family Development’s policies and procedures were “grand challenges” themselves. Two that come to mind instantly are the burden of data collection and evaluation procedures and the “rule” requiring a minimum of registered participants to hold a class. Effectively dealing with issues related to policies and procedures is important for our success in addressing Minnesota’s grand challenges.
Three Steps Forward
What have I and others done with what we learned from the regional visits? Here are a few actions:
- We have hired a new staff development specialist, Sharon Mulé, who will have a key role in developing FD staff, educators, and faculty. During her first year, much of her effort will focus on SNAP-Ed and EFNEP, but she will also lead the planning for the FD conference in July. Watch for news from Sharon in the near future.
- The July FD conference will address the grand challenge of poverty. We have already begun talking with other Extension centers to identify how we might address this challenge together in a more holistic way. Personally, I just purchased the book $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin of Johns Hopkins University, who spoke at last fall’s Lessons from the Field, and Luke Schaefer of the University of Michigan. The book describes the experiences of 1.5 million American households that survive on little or no income.
- SNAP-Ed program leaders have taken steps to reduce the burden of data collection and are studying the impact of requiring a minimum number of participants for classes. Please talk with your supervisor if you have questions regarding either of these issues and look for more improvements and progress reports in the future. We can do better!
Thank you for joining us in this journey to learn about Minnesota’s grand challenges. We are just beginning to find our way toward addressing these challenges and look for your continued engagement.