Today we explore the impact of sharing information. Are shared ideas spread the way we think? Jean Haley is responsible for answering that question for soil health at North Dakota State. She is joined by soil health extension specialist Dr. Abbey Wick to discuss the plans and impact of providing information on soil health. While profit driven businesses can measure income as a metric for success, projects with education goals require a different approach for evaluation. “What does success mean?” That is where Jean comes in.
“I help programs get better at what they’re doing and provide data to their funders. That lets funders know what their return on investment is.” - Jean Haley
Program evaluation is prominent in education and health and human services. Jean has expanded it into soil health. Her data shows what projects and education sharing efforts have been effective and how so. Jean creates “needs assessments” which allows for identification of end game goals for the evaluation. She then reaches for whatever tools would best achieve that end whether that be a survey, observation of conversations and interactions at events, or creating focus groups.
According to Jean, with the advent of “Cafe Talks,” Dr Wick created a boundary organization. This allowed for “a conversation in real time” that she was then able to moderate and grow. By identifying the strength of this event, Dr Wick was then able to show the significance with data to those funding the lunches.
“Here we have something that’s going to outlast everybody and it’s going to continue feeding on itself... It’s bigger than the individual. It’s about everybody that’s part of the network. I think funding sources really like hearing that because it (doesn’t) just end with this project.” - Dr. Abbey Wick
One significant recommendation Jean has offered to the soil sense movement is to offer longer breaks during workshops. As opposed to the presumed “dead time” this may allow it fostered conversation which was the ultimate goal of the workshop and therefore provided a greater benefit than perpetual lecture. “We were so focused on the talks and the presentations and the content that we totally forgot about the fact that people like to just visit….They’re coming here to meet other farmers. They’re coming here to get ideas and to get inspired and it’s like we just extinguished all of that with content.” Dr. Wick credits Jean with shifting the focus from disseminating as much information as possible to providing quality programming to create the desired networking effect.
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