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Future of extension: Challenges and opportunities.
H. R. DILLARD (1). (1) University of California, Davis, CA, U.S.A.

Cooperative Extension (CE) has a rich history of successful stakeholder engagement. Established 100 years ago, it enables a campus-to-community connection to better link land-grant universities to the public they serve. The system’s strength is in delivering research evidence and science-based information to individuals, communities, businesses and stakeholders that assists in the development of practical solutions to real-world concerns. CE has been monetarily challenged over the years by the Great Depression, multiple recessions and reductions in government funding that have drastically reduced the workforce of extension specialists across the country. Furthermore, readily accessible information from the internet challenges the need for in-person expertise. Ironically, these challenges arise at a point in time of increasing critical societal needs and grand challenges, and increased demand for the expertise (knowledge and facilitation) of CE specialists. Although the challenges are significant, there are infinite opportunities for extension educators to inform important discussions and influence critical decisions.  The future of extension may require educators to assume multiple roles, such as assembling and coordinating multidisciplinary teams of experts to address critical needs, collaborating and engaging with new and diverse audiences, finding new and multiple ways to communicate with stakeholders, and assuming strategic leadership roles.

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