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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

How do we Compare Various Approaches to Extension in the Context of Influencing and Advising Policymakers?

Name of Leader:

Malcolm Letts

Names of Participants:

Peter Long, Jeremy Lemon, Ross Cutler, David Sparks, Kathryn Galea, Ingrid Christiansen, Linda Harley, Mark Paine, Tony Koch, Vanessa Hood, Donald Cameron, Peter Wegener, Dean Holland, Leath Stewart, Joy Deguara, Karen George, Ed Colless, Lucia Boxelaer, John Day, Denise Bensell, Graham White, Abigail Jenkins, David Kennedy, Ray Murphy, Greg Leach, John Petheram.

Main points of discussion

Some initial discussion looked at the differences between making decisions on methodologies at a project design and implementation level and at a program design/major initiative funding level.

At the operational level it was suggested that recent research indicates that the intent and quality of service providers is more important than the methodology being used. The question was asked whether we think about methodologies in the context of who is being “targeted” as opposed to working with the same group of people who participate in everything. The question was asked as to whether we make decisions based on what is generally considered to be good practise as opposed to an analysis of what the needs of all stakeholders are including community, funders and other stakeholders.

At the policy level it was suggested that popular trends exist that are difficult to influence and these may be politically driven and not transparent. Some of the pragmatics in the current environment are public vs. private benefit, market failure, resources to achieve the outcome and time to outcome achievement. Why for example, was the decision made to design FarmBis one way and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality another?

The question at the operational level is more about how many resources are available to achieve the end. To landholders the methodology is apparently not important. The skills and credibility of the practitioner are and there is a need for a diversity of different approaches.

There is a need to describe the broad methodologies being used in extension and compare their application to various situations. This information can then be used in program design. Extension papers at conferences such as this need to focus more on the “why?” associated with the methodology being used as well as the “what and how”.

There was also some discussion about different funding models ie R&D corporation dollars allocated against strategic priorities vs. AFFA decisions relating to NHT, NAP, FarmBis. How are these models compared and who undertakes this comparison?


Ask the client/funder what outcomes they want and how these will be measured. This will in turn advise the design of methodology.

It was agreed that many programs are designed to achieve political rather than broad societal benefits and that these outcomes are rarely made explicit. Some program design does not always apply in different situations and communities eg group processes are often mandatory in program guidelines but may not always be appropriate.


Review what reviews have been undertaken of various methodologies to extension eg the wine industry has apparently just completed a review. This could be undertaken as a request placed in the APEN journal. In particular focus on exercises that compared the various approaches that have been taken.

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

Included in the above text.

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