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‘Nellie Bly’ Moments and Creating Impact

By Rosemary K. Heins, Interim Program Leader — Family Resiliency

The day I’m writing this (May 5, 2015), Elizabeth Cochrane’s 151st birthday is being recognized by a Google Doodle — a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s home page that celebrates holidays, events, achievements and people. Cochran was a journalist better known by her pen name Nellie Bly. She blazed trails for women and the working poor through her writings and adventures.

Nellie Bly’s international fame came from reporting on traveling around the world in 72 days in 1889 — a feat inspired by Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Her unique work reporting on the horrid conditions for mentally ill women in a New York asylum and other writings helped improve lives for many down-trodden people of her era. She made an impact!

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We want to make an impact in Extension, too. But evaluating Extension work for impact is difficult to do, since change is not always immediate. And you may only get one chance with a learner to make a case for change. However, over time, Extension staff can and will have “Nellie Bly” moments. For example, I enjoyed learning about SNAP-Ed Educator Darlyce Rangaard’s successes when getting to know her at the Qualey-Skjervold conference in April. You can read more about Darlyce’s work on the Health and Nutrition News blog: For Community Action, a Community Approach.

I also heard about another “Nellie Bly” moment last week from a retired, former colleague. She told me about an Extension program she taught that helped a learner decide whether to work outside of the home or stay at home with her children. Now, years later, she thanked my former colleague for the program’s help in making this important decision.

“Nellie Bly” moments show impact. They will happen to all of us in Family Development when we do the work described in our "Strengthening Minnesota Families" fact sheet: “provide meaningful information and support to families and family-serving organizations — in times of challenge and opportunity.” Go out and make a difference!
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