Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

Our Story — Post-Forum Tales

After both types of forums (in person and virtual), the success of the Strategic Doing™ g roups was influenced by leadership of each group. In Strategic Doing™ language, each group had a “Chief Doing Officer” (CDO) whose role was to keep the group on track and assist in convening the group. The CDO taking on this role can change throughout the process (even once per month). We found that having a forum committee member as part of those groups and as someone who understood the Strategic Doing™ process and objectives of the forum, helped create success. In our forums, Extension personnel supported the Strategic Doing™ groups at some level. In some cases, groups identified a “big idea” that was doable within three months. In other cases, as the groups learned additional information post-forum, there was a need to pivot or amend th e “Big Idea.” Lastly, we did have a group or two that disengaged from the process altogether for a variety of reasons: They didn’t realize the time commitment, members became pulled in other directions, or once the “big idea” was determined to be too big, they disbanded. Regardless of the outcomes of the Strategic Doing™ groups, we found that frequent check -ins with group members was important. We also found that support for the Chief Doing Officer and reports to the broader community of progress or pitfalls helped to keep the community abreast of changes and primed them for continued engagement.

Here are some of outcomes of groups we’re calling “Tales from Past” (2018 -2019):

 A team at the Maryland forum pursued seed funding from the University of Maryland to assess stress felt by Maryland's farmers. This assessment ultimately led to a $1M Rural Opioid Technical Assistance grant awarded to the University of Maryland.  The Ohio State University funded $4,000 in mini grants to implement Strategic Doing™ activit ies developed during the Ohio forum.  A special 16-page supplement published by Delmarva Farmer 

provided health and economic information to farmers and agricultural professionals reaching 12,000 readers.  Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training was provided to agricultural service organizations around Maryland. Delaware Extension received funding to underwrite three MHFA trainings in 2019 and six in 2020. Agriculture, health care, school and faith-based professionals have been attending these sessions.  A radio show, which aired on Baltimore's public radio station WYPR, raised awareness about the stresses of farming.  A new University of Maryland Extension website provided resources related to managing farm stress.  Delaware Cooperative Extension developed a Farm Stress Task Force that represents 10 state organizations. This team developed the “ Got Your Back ” website, which offers information and resources on several farm stressors.  A “Linking Farm Vitality and Health” self -

assessment tool was developed that can be used with a short video titled “How Healthy Is Your Farm?” These curriculum pieces were developed because of Delaware forum discussions and can be found on the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Agribusiness page.  The Delaware Division of Libraries developed a "LibGuide" website that hosts farm and farm family health and finance-related topics. Delaware Ag Week, 2020


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