Extension Competency in the City

Competencies are just one aspect of leadership development.

Extension’s pursuit to better attract, develop, retain, and structure competent personnel in the city requires new strategies to build on the knowledge base established through previous research and practice. Diversity, complexity, and scale in urban communities challenges leaders to consider a comprehensive talent model.

Throughout Extension’s history, Extension leaders have examined and tested models for effective urban Extension personnel. While there are similarities to staffing and workforce development in all geographic areas, there are opportunities to explore the unique context of personnel serving the Extension mission in large cities.

A fundamental element of human resource systems is identification of competencies, which are defined as a set of observable performance dimensions, including individual knowledge, skills, attitudes, and observable behaviors or characteristics (McClelland, 1973; Mirabile, 1997) and as collective team processes and organizational capabilities (Athey & Orth, 1999). Professional competencies needed by Extension personnel have been studied as a determining factor for relevant selection, training, and retention of talent. Many state Extension systems incorporate competencies into human resource practices and several authors identified Extension personnel competencies based on different types of positions, program areas, geographic areas, stage of career, or demographics of personnel. The majority of research and practice provide a consistent framework, but do not focus on the distinctive competencies of professionals working in or influencing Extension’s work in urban communities.

Competency Framework Development

Competency model development is a participatory process to identify a collective set of competencies that define the requirements for effective performance in a specific job, profession, or organization. A Competency Framework Development model can inform Extension’s recruiting and hiring practices as the next generation of professionals prepare to work on complex issues found in diverse urban areas. The first step is to identify core competencies and allocate resources accordingly. To do this, practitioners participate in a systematic process that includes three facilitated online sessions, using interactive technologies such as Zoom videoconferencing and Google docs for real-time data review. To learn more about Comptency Framework Development and education, eXtension provides valuable resources.

Urban County Extension Director

To better understand what it really takes to serve as an Extension leader in urban or metropolitan designated areas, a competency study was conducted with local Extension directors working in large counties. The county Extension director was selected due to their critical role in navigating community and organizational complexity and the dynamic interaction between internal and external environments (Jamali, 2005). The study aimed to systematically tap into the knowledge of practitioners – people who do the job, not who write about it or instruct it. Results of the Competency Framework Development process with urban county Extension directors include evidence these professionals need specific knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that are both similar and unique when compared with findings from previous studies. Findings can be found through eXtension, the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, and proceedings from the 2017 National Urban Extension Conference.

Urban County Educator

The urban county educator is the next Extension position that will be studied through a Competency Framework Development process.

Resources: Competency development resources      Extension competency references