SENATE COMMITTEE ON OUTREACH
Penn State Cooperative Extension
Cooperative Extension continues to make major changes in both its administrative and program delivery structures. Extension has responded to the Provost’s Core Council recommendations and our own internal change process (Reframing, Outreach “Reset 2020” and The College of Agricultural Sciences “Ag Futures”). Extension has established a new Strategic Plan with four major objectives and strategies to accomplish each objective. This is a short update on Penn State Extension’s accomplishments and an overview of its ongoing efforts to implement the new Strategic Plan. The report was prepared by Penn State Cooperative Extension.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON OUTREACH
New membership list
- Richard Brown
- Dennis Calvin
- Anne Douds
- Jill Eckert
- Renata Engel
- Terry Harrison
- Alex Hristov
- Lisa Mangel
- John Potochny
- Rama Radhakrishna
- Elizabeth Seymour, Chair
- Jonathan Stephens
- Cristina Truica
SENATE COMMITTEE ON OUTREACH
Penn State Cooperative Extension
This is the fourth in a series of informational reports to the Faculty Senate on Penn State Extension’s response to the University Core Counsel recommendations and input from our customers. The original report was submitted on December 7, 2010. It was followed by two updates, one in 2012 and the second in 2014.
The original report provided the history of Penn State Extension and discussed its legislative beginning, its evolution over time, internal and external forces driving change, Extension’s funding model and the initial efforts to begin transforming Extension into a 21st Century organization.
The first update to the original report focused on Penn State Extension’s response to the 2012 Core Counsel Committee recommendations, including the specific actions taken to implement their suggested changes. It discussed the initial efforts to implement a new business model, including right-sizing personnel, shifting from a county to a district administrative model, implementation of a new leadership and program model, implementation of new educational technologies, a shifting financial model, and improved brand recognition and value. The second update primarily focused on progress toward the implementation of Penn State Extension’s new business model. The current report discusses the next generation of change that is currently underway for Extension and when completed will finish the transformation process. While this phase of transformation will finish our initial efforts, Penn State Extension will continue to evaluate its operations and business model to assure that it remains relevant and valued by our customers.
Atlas, an on-line business and education platform
More than three years ago, Penn State Extension began the implementation of a new business strategy to dramatically increase the reach, relevance, and effectiveness of our noncredit educational programs, products, and services. This initiative, called Atlas, is a complex and comprehensive change in business practices and an integrated technology infrastructure, not unlike the scope of World Campus.
Atlas fully integrates a web-based content management system (Plone), an ecommerce system (Magento), a customer relations management system (Salesforce), an on-line registration system (Cvent) and an online course development tool (Open edX). Once fully implemented, Atlas will provide Penn State Extension customers with 24/7 access to a robust digital educational experience, featuring online articles, publications and manuals, face-to-face educational events, online webinars, learn-now videos, how-to videos, online courses, and other educational tools. The anticipated target date to launch the new web design is May 1, 2017. At its launch the system will provide access to around 4,000 unique articles, 135 learn-now videos/how-to videos, 35 online courses, 150 publications/manuals, and over 1,000 educational events delivered on-line and/or face-to-face across the commonwealth.
Reaching the point of launch has required our Marketing and Communications team, along with our seven Penn State Extension units to review every online and hardcopy piece of content for accuracy, relevance, and readability. Any content not meeting the quality standards was withheld from the system until it is up-dated. All articles, learn now videos, how to videos and online courses have been designed to meet quality and consistency standards. Every piece of content is branded according to Penn State branding and quality standards. The Atlas system meets all Penn State policies and practices (ADA compliant, on-line security, credit card payment, CAN-SPAM law, etc.).
The customer database in Saleforce is the result of aggregating over 800 individual customer databases that were held at the county office level into one centralized database. The 800 databases were imported and purged of all duplicates and individuals that are no longer customers. The final clean database includes around 200,000 customers. Each of these customers had the opportunity to reaffirm their interest in continuing to receive information from Penn State Extension. In doing so, they were given the opportunity to select the types of content they would like to receive or that they would like be kept informed about.
Salesforce allows all our Extension educators, faculty and staff access to customer preference and activity information, as well as the ability to update information when interacting with customers. They are able to see the types of information and educational products that each customer is interested in and provide better service and build a long-term relationship. The customer benefits because Penn State Extension can better customize its educational products and keep them informed of relevant new opportunities for themselves, their families or business. In addition, our internal teams utilize Salesforce to share real-time information, collaborate, and solve problems more effectively and efficiently.
Financial Model Changes
Significant progress has been made in restructuring the Penn State Extension financial model, but it is still a work in progress. Current financial management is extremely complex with income coming from multiple sources: federal, state and county appropriated funds, grants and contracts, alternative revenues (e.g. fees, development, etc.) and expenditures occurring at multiple units that are distributed across the state (67 county offices). These units each used different budget categories making it impossible to aggregate expenditures by standard categories.
In addition, each funding source has specific restrictions on who controls the funding and how the funds can be used. Thus, a high level of attention must be spent tracking each source to assure the funding is used according to the expectations of the funder. A major goal of the new financial model is to simplify management of Penn State Extension funds and assure that funds are focused on the highest priority needs and used efficiently. New standard procedures and practices are being developed and implemented to accomplish these goals.
All funding sources are controlled by Penn State with the exception of county appropriated funding. County funds are controlled and managed by the county in support of our county offices. There are several models that counties use to manage their funds. The counties provide direct support for administrative support staff, office equipment, educator travel, and other operational expenses. In addition to direct funding (county appropriation), the counties provide in-kind support for office space and/or rent, utilities, etc. While these funds contribute to the operations of Extension, they must be directed toward operations of the county office and cannot be used as general funding in a centralized Extension budget. Discussions are underway to see if we can work with the counties to implement standard accounting categories and processes that align with those used by Penn State.
Aside from the county appropriated funds and the 4-H local budgets, all other funds are in the process of being centralized and managed at Penn State. Centralization will provide a mechanism to better track and allocate Extension financial resources in a manner that will assure expenditures are focused on providing our customers with high quality, relevant and valued programs, products and services. While a significant amount of change has already been implemented, restructuring the financial model for Penn State Extension is a difficult process and will remain an on-going effort.
Program Structure Changes
Penn State Extension currently has 11 teams of expertise providing educational content and learning opportunities. These teams have tended to program within their team and seldom reach out across teams to work on cross-cutting issues. In the new business model, these groups will no longer be called teams, but Extension Units similar to academic units. We will also reduce the number of teams to comprise seven Extension Units. They will essentially be aggregates of individuals with common types of expertise. The main purpose of the units is as a reporting and management structure. These new units will include: Animal systems, Horticulture, Field and Forage Crops/Renewable Natural Resources, 4-H youth, Food, Family and Health, Entrepreneurship, Energy and Economic Development and Food Safety & Quality.
The new program teams will be focused on important and relevant cross-cutting issues that are important to the state and/or nation. Examples of the new teams would be FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act), Water Quality and Quantity, Biosecurity, Plant Protection, Healthy Lifestyles, Positive Youth Development, etc.
To populate these cross-cutting teams, individuals from the seven extension units and nine academic units with relevant expertise on the issue will be assigned a percentage of their time as a team member addressing one of the issues; not unlike developing a team of faculty from multiple disciplines to work as co-investigators on a complex grant. Once the teams are established they will be given the task of proposing the educational topics that are necessary to fully address the issue and identify the educational support material needed. These will then pass through a Product Development Process (PDP) to prioritize these new products and get them into the development queue. Once the products are approved and ready for use, the teams will begin their educational programming and our Customer Relations Managers will be tasked with assuring that our customers are aware of and have access to all of these opportunities.
Administrative Structure Changes
In 2012, Penn State Extension moved from a county based to a district based administrative structure. At that time, the number of individuals with administration duties was reduced from 57 County Extension Directors to 19 District Directors and two Urban Center Directors. In 2015, one additional district was added by splitting one district into two new districts.
As a result of the New Business Model Taskforce recommendation, Penn State Extension is now in the process of shifting away from 20 district and two Urban Centers to a new 10 district and two Urban Unit model. Administrative duties of these new larger districts will be shared by two individuals. The first individual will be the Customer Relations Manager and the second will be the Business Operations Manager.
The Customer Relations Manager is responsible for building strong relationships with key customers (e.g. County Commissioners, County Extension Councils, key farm organizations, state and federal legislators, and other local government officials), listening to their needs, securing county based funding, assisting our development office, and assuring that all customers are aware of the breadth of programs, products and services offered by Penn State Extension. These 10 individuals will report to the Associate Director of Client Relations.
The Business Operations Manager is responsible for management of all county offices in their district. They are responsible for assuring that all financial matters follow Penn State policy and efficient processes are implemented, management of any local facilities (e.g. 4-H Centers, etc.), managing and directing all county funded employees (administrative support staff), and assuring that proper Human Resource practices and procedures are followed. These 10 individuals will report to the Associate Director of Business Operations.
While both individual have distinct responsibilities there will be times when they will need to work together in the county budget process.
The Assistant Directors of Programs (ADP) will report to the Associate Director of Programs. They will be responsible for managing Extension Units and cross-cutting program teams. All extension educators and program assistants will report to the ADPs. The ADPs and their teams will be responsible for program and product development and any services provided. It is their job to assure that programs are relevant and meet the needs of our customers. They will work closely with the Client Relations Manager team to position Extension products in the market place and assure that these products are delivered to our customers as promised.
The three Associate Directors, along with the Director of Extension will form the Executive Committee or team. These four individuals will be responsible for coordinating all activities in Extension and make sure that the organization has the appropriate resources to accomplish its goals.
Penn State Extension has come a long way in a very short period of time. It is on the verge of transforming itself from an organization that was slow to change and adapt to the needs of its customers, to an agile, responsive organization that provides consistently high quality relevant educational programs, products and services. No other Extension organization across the county has attempted this level of transformation. Penn State Extension is leading the way and others are watching us very closely. We have the opportunity to reshape the way Extension operates and enhance the value and relevance of Extension nationally, as well as in Pennsylvania. This is a revolutionary change that has required shifting a long-term culture and operational approach. For those involved in this transformation process, it is close to a miracle that we are making it happen.
Organizational Chart for Penn State Extension
Academic Department Heads (9)
Associate Director of Operations
Associate Director of Client Relations
Associate Director of Programs
Business Operations Managers (10)
Client Relations Managers (10)
ADPs (7) (Extension Units)
County Administrative Staff