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It’s that time of year to reflect on our accomplishments

1 of a 2-part series

By Trish Olson, director of programs

I know you have seen the lists generated: Best Movies of 2017, Best Books of 2017, Best Workplaces of 2017, and on and on. In my role as director of programs, I too, need to reflect and look back on 2017 in order to inform our work in 2018. How do I do this? One way is to look at accomplishments against promises made.

First, here’s a reminder of our mission:
Extension Center for Family Development, through its nimbleness, innovation, and relevance, teaches families and those who serve families to make informed decisions leading to greater health, resilience and well-being. As a result of our programs, Minnesota families—no matter their makeup, structure, or place in life—possess the knowledge and skills to create resilient, healthy, and secure futures.

Our work

We accomplish our mission in six ways. I will discuss three of these in today’s blog post, as well as work we’ve done to accomplish our mission in 2017. I apologize ahead of time if you or your program are not mentioned. These are only examples—not all work conducted in our center.

Building a faculty and staff team

One excellent example of building a faculty and staff team involves a partnership between the Children, Youth & Family Consortium, which is part of the Center for Family Development, and CYFC’s Scholar in Residence, Jenifer McGuire, Ph.D.

Jenifer McGuire, CYFC scholar in residence, teaches in front of seated adults.
Dr. McGuire described the interplay between
mental health, food security, and body image, within the family context.

CYFC and McGuire partnered to deliver seven educational workshops across Minnesota on the theme of “Supporting Transgender Youth.” The workshops reached 478 participants. Besides Dr. McGuire, who is an associate professor in family social science, main presenters at the workshops were Cari Michaels, M.P.H., Extension educator, CYFC, and Nathan Hesse, SNAP-Ed educator. The response from participants was positive and CYFC continues to receive requests to host more workshops about transgender youth. “This is a topic that is so important, and we all need tools to help us support transgender youth,” said one workshop attendee from Rochester.

Showing key stakeholders the value of our work

In 2017, all areas of FD developed new tools for assisting staff in reporting work. The tools help us gather data about our programming. We developed these new tools to aid the accuracy and efficiency of our reporting. The new tools enable us to more quickly obtain data to analyze where we are working, as well as analyze the effectiveness of our work. These tools also provide data for reflection on what works well and what can be improved. 

Here are examples of four new tools that help us show key stakeholders the value of our work:
  • EFNEP app. One exciting new tool is the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Mobile Application, which will facilitate the gathering of demographic and pre-post evaluation data. What is most exciting about this tool is how it will help educators gather better-quality data related to food intake over a 24-hour period. The 24-hour food recall, a requirement for EFNEP, also helps local educators plan nutrition classes to help participants meet their health goals. Educators are eagerly awaiting a feature of the EFNEP app that will allow use of photos from a wide range of cultures. EFNEP federal officials are also eagerly awaiting our piloting of this tool to determine potential national application.
  • SNAP-Ed app. SNAP-Ed also developed and just started implementing this fall an app using tablets to gather demographic and pre-post evaluation data from SNAP-Ed participants. One educator said of the app, “The tool is very efficient and I feel that it works great with school-age children since they are very adept when it comes to technology.” Others liked the time-saving feature of the new app, with one educator noting that it “eliminates the need to enter data and the need to scan and attach paper copies.”
  • eSurvey. Cooking Matters also has transitioned to an electronic data collection tool, using eSurvey to collect data on behavior changes in participants in its six-week, evidence-based courses. The shift to an electronic data collection system allows for data to be uploaded to the Cooking Matters database in real time. It also eliminates the need for time-intensive data processing, mailing and storing of mountains of paper surveys. The evolution from paper to electronic devices allows for streamlined processes and improved feedback to stakeholders about program impact.
  • FD-RED. The FD-RED (Family Development Reporting Evaluation Database) was ushered in this year with support from Extension IT. Educators and staff use FD-RED to report data from programs other than EFNEP and SNAP-Ed. 

Securing resources to sustain and grow programs

We are so proud that others see value in working with our center, which means working with you, our team of educators, faculty, evaluators, and other staff. As a result, we have secured financial support from 10 funders who provided over $8.5 million in grants to our center in 2017. We use this money to conduct important education, outreach, and engagement work. Funders include counties, universities, Minnesota state departments (such as health, human services, and corrections), and federal funders. This money helps expand our work in correctional facilities, with military families, and other with underserved families—just to name a few. These funds also help us support families to make informed decisions leading to greater health, resilience, and well-being.

More to come

Here’s a reminder of the other three ways we in FD accomplish our mission:
  • Delivering trustworthy, relevant, and research-based education
  • Working closely with communities and organizations to build the strengths of individuals and families of all types and backgrounds
  • Capitalizing on University research and faculty
I will share some thoughts about these three ways of meeting our mission in my next blog post in January. Meanwhile, I encourage you to take some time for self-reflection now at the end of 2017 to see where your work fits in the six ways we accomplish our mission.

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