Extension Competency in the City
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.
The urban context of diversity, complexity, and scale require Extension professionals, with diverse backgrounds, to develop unique competencies that build upon those addressed through existing professional development programs. Extension professionals vary in program expertise, background experiences, and scope of their position. Many urban Extension professionals serve as leaders of volunteers, public-private team, and special projects.
Extension’s pursuit to better attract, develop, retain, structure, and recognize competent personnel in the city requires new strategies to build on the knowledge base established through previous research and practice. Throughout Extension’s history, Extension leaders have examined and tested models for effective urban Extension personnel.
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.
New research and practice contribute to efforts to better understand urban Extension competencies. Here are a few examples.
- What is Unique About Extension Personnel in the City? - JHSE article
- Urban County Extension Director Competency Framework
- Competency in the City - recorded webinar
- Competency-based education - eXtension
Competency Framework Development
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 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 Competency 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 and References
Competency development resources
Competency And Skills System (CASS)
Core Competencies for Agricultural Extension Educators (USAID, 2015)
Four Dimensions of Leadership and Talent
eXtension Competency Based Education
Harvard's Competency Dictonary
National Association of Extension Program & Staff Development Professionals
NonProfit Leadership Alliance - About Competency-Based Education
The Skills and Attributes of 21st Century Extension Professionals (2013)
What every Extension educator should know - core competency handbook (Suvedi, M., & Kaplowitz, M., 2016, USAID)
Iowa State Extension and Outreach Staff Core Competencies
Michigan State Extension Core Competencies
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