Clearinghouse for Cleaner Water: University of Minnesota Hub

Clearinghouse for Cleaner Water University of Minnesota Extension creates online hub to support watershed outreach and education

By Anne Sawyer & Anne Nelson (with Heather Martin)


Clearinghouse for Cleaner Water: University of Minnesota Extension creates online hub to support watershed outreach and education

Copyright © Extension Foundation Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Published by Extension Foundation.

ISBN: 978-1-955687-16-4

Publish Date: August 21 st , 2022

Nelson, A., Sawyer, A. Kansas City: Extension Foundation (2022). University of Minnesota Extension Creates Online Hub to Support Watershed Outreach and Education (1 st ed). ISBN: 978-1-955687-16-4

Producer: Ashley S. Griffin

Peer Review Coordinator: Rose Hayden-Smith

Technical Implementer and Co-writer: Heather Martin

Production: Rose Hayden-Smith

Welcome to Clearinghouse for Cleaner Water: University of Minnesota Extension creates online hub to support watershed outreach and education , a resource created for the Cooperative Extension Service and published by the Extension Foundation. We welcome feedback and suggested resources for this publication, which could be included in any subsequent versions. This work is supported by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more information please contact:

Extension Foundation c/o Bryan Cave LLP One Kansas City Place

1200 Main Street, Suite 3800 Kansas City, MO 64105-2122



Anne Sawyer

Anne Nelson

Extension Educator Water Resources University of Minnesota

Extension Educator Water Resources University of Minnesota


Kevin Strauss

Kyle Weimann

Clean River Partners

Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District

Michelle Overholser

Marcelle Lewandowski

Yellow Medicine River Watershed District

University of Minnesota Water Resources Center


The water in more than half of Minnesota’s lakes and streams fails to meet water quality standards for pollutants such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and bacteria, according to a report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Conservation experts throughout the state have encouraged private landowners to adopt practices that are more protective of lakes and streams, but they’ve had limited success for a variety of reasons, many of which are out of their control. The Extension team at the University of Minnesota (UMN) saw this as an opportunity to use Extension’s strengths— outreach, engagement, and education — to address a critical challenge in the community.


The UNM Extension team surveyed 42 soil and water conservationists about these challenges (and got responses from 39). (S ee “Needs Assessment Survey Snapshot. ”) . Based on that feedback the team decided to create the Watershed Engagement Programming (WEP) Hub to support the watershed-related outreach and engagement efforts of these already-strapped experts.

The Hub will contain a library of resources and tools that will help soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs), watershed districts (WDs), and other local government and environmental entities create powerful and effective outreach, engagement, and education programs. (See “ Hub Tools .”) Although the WEP Hub is still under development, the team has worked diligently to implement best practices for building a clearinghouse and has

The WEP team is striving to create a functional resource hub that will link to and highlight materials from a variety of sources.

overcome numerous challenges along the way. Some of the challenges have included online platform selection, web development, learning about and implementing digital accessibility requirements, and understanding copyright and material ownership issues that are particular to a public institution. Through all of this, the WEP team is striving to create a functional resource hub that will link to and highlight existing materials from a variety of sources (with permission, as appropriate) and will contain new resources that have been created based on the results of the needs assessment and iterative feedback from the WEP advisory team and its target audience.

Needs Assessment Survey Snapshot

A WEP Hub-type clearinghouse would possibly or definitely improve our outreach and education program. Lack of topical materials and templates strongly or moderately affects our ability to conduct outreach, engagement, and educational activities. Lack of knowledge related to social science strongly or moderately affects outreach and educational programming. Staff communication of presentation skills strongly or moderately affects program effectiveness.





Planned Outcomes

Evidence-based programming is a high priority for the Extension Foundation and NTAE. The UMN Extension team hopes that the WEP Hub will help SWCDs, WDs, and other local conservation entities meet their programming goals through highly effective and measurable water resource education, outreach, and community engagement across Minnesota. Other projected outcomes include the following:

 improving efficiencies for local conservation staff in their outreach work


 fostering consistency in messaging and materials for water resource outreach and engagement across the state

 creating effective, measurable outreach and engagement programming through the use of planning and evaluation

 helping education and outreach staff communicate program outcomes and benefits that can increase support from local decision-makers such as county commissioners and SWCD board members

 highlighting the excellent work that local water practitioners are doing by showcasing their original materials through the WEP Hub

Program Future

The WEP Hub will include

Many SWCDs face a lack of dedicated funding or support to hire or train staff in outreach, engagement, and communication — in part because decision- makers are reluctant to invest in education when it can be difficult to see the return on the investment. The materials in this Hub will help watershed technical staff set measurable goals for outreach and engagement, track behavior change among their constituents, and communicate results to decision-makers, which could greatly increase support and funding for their outreach programs. The Hub team sees many possibilities for this project — including continued growth of content over time, by using external sources and by creating its own. It also sees opportunities for interactive activities such as online courses or in-person

 topical materials for common conservation topics, such as cover crops, grassed waterways, and rain gardens  links to multimedia content for use in outreach programming  templates for fact sheets and other resources  templates to create digitally accessible content  resources for social media and graphic design, including instructional videos and links to image libraries  resources for program evaluation  communication and presentation skill development resources  outreach and communication plan templates and examples  testimonials, case studies, and success stories from peers  resources for audience assessment and other community engagement tool


workshops about program evaluation, communication/teaching in a watershed context, and myriad other topics. The overarching goal is to use the Hub as a nexus for programming and engagement with and among water resource practitioners across Minnesota and beyond.


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