Program Planning


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Program Planning

What is program planning?

NDSU Extension engages many people from local constituents to statewide agency leads in an effort to assess the educational needs of North Dakotans in three program areas: ANR, FCW and 4-H Youth Development. The needs assessment process includes input from a local Advisory Committee, statewide listening session (conducted every 5 years), reports from local, state and national levels (i.e.; Kids Count!, local hospital community health assessments, crop improvement associations, ND Compass, agricultural commodity groups and organizations, and many others throughout the state).

When needs are listed and prioritized, state specialists help to lead a process called Program Planning, which results in educational programs that address these needs. Specialists and county agents work together, and often involve other expertise from a variety of sources, to create research based programs that make a difference for ND constituents.

Who does program planning?

All staff within NDSU Extension are involved in program planning. Program teams are:

    1. 4-H Youth Development
    2. Crop Management
    3. Farm Business Management
    4. Horticulture and Forestry
    5. Human Development and Family Science
    6. Leadership and Civic Engagement
    7. Livestock Management
    8. Natural Resource Management
    9. Nutrition, Food Safety and Health
    10. Personal and Family Finance

Each team has two co-chairs that guide the team’s planning process annually (one agent and one specialist). Teams should rotate co-chairs periodically to allow others a leadership opportunity in program planning.

Emerging issues can lead to the forming of special focus teams that are combinations of these ten teams, such as energy, flood recovery, and drought.

Why program planning?

  • Serve as a strategic plan for each program area and all of Extension
  • Address the local needs of clientele in a systematic way and prioritize programs
  • Collaborate on ideas and work together among state, county, and area staff
  • Provide for accountability to the organization and the stakeholders

Team Responsibilities

  • Prioritize emerging needs or issues affecting the county/region/state
  • Create a system of regular input and discussion regarding goals and input for the team and interested staff
  • Develop, implement and evaluate programs relative to the respective program team needs
  • Provide evidence of excellence in programming for decision makers and funders

Program Planning teams develop three types of programs.

Signature programs which are (1) thoroughly evaluated program; (2) delivered by county and state staff working in partnership; and (3) widely used across the state, thus addressing a critical statewide need. Signature programs can change each year. County staff are asked to use at least 2 Signature programs in the annual program plans. All signature programs will be entered into PEARS by team chairs.

Core programs are also available for local agents to customize for local or area needs. These programs may or may not be as thoroughly evaluated each year, but they are recommended for use by staff to meet targeted needs.  All Core programs will be posted on a google drive file in each subject matter unit. When agents identify a local need that they wish to address, they can look to the list of core programs and develop a local effort to meet the needs. If an emerging need has no program materials available, the agent should contact appropriate specialists to report their findings and encourage program development to meet the need.

Pilot programs address emerging needs and are evaluated to build the evidence base, however, do not necessarily meet the criteria to indicate they are evidence based. These programs have the potential to address a statewide need and may become a Signature program over time.  Pilot programs will be led by specialist and not posted for public information until pilot is complete and determined to be ready for wider use.

Program Planning teams create valid and reliable evaluation tools to assess the outcomes and impacts of each program. The evaluation plan and tools are developed based on the Kirkpatrick Model, and 4 levels of evaluation. Each program is responsible for producing an Impact Report for each signature program and core/pilot as appropriate.

Subject matter specialists will drive program development and engage appropriate county partners. Specialists will conduct regular needs assessments/listening sessions with county staff, and also conduct training and information sessions via web conferencing. Anyone interested in the subject may attend online sessions. Subject matter program teams (10 teams) and online Menus will provide guidance for staff in their program selections.

Issue-based teams will be formed based on statewide needs assessment and emerging needs of constituents. These teams will be co-led by a specialists and an agent. A planning model will be developed for each issue and program evaluations will measure for short, medium, and long term goals.



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