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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Developing Local Extension Networks to Enhance Project Outcomes

Name of Leader:

John Barker

Names of Participants:

Alison Anderson, Nathalie Jarosz,

Liz Mann, Jan Edwards, Samantha Heritage, Liz Otto, Kim Jones, Anne Cathcart, Dana Kelly, Kathryn Warburton, Helen Clark, David Ellenent.

Main points of discussion

The group had interest in local and interstate extension networks but decided to focus on local networks.

Helen Clark presented a model about local networks in a paper that formed the basis for discussions. The success of this model was attributed to a positive attitude towards cooperation, effective communication and focussed on achieving project outcomes.

The group decided the major challenge to this model was organisational culture. Projects demand certain outcomes to be achieved with limited resources. Extension officers develop doubt in their minds as to achieving project outcomes by being involved in other projects.

Experience amongst the group has shown that local extension teams can enhance project outcomes by being more efficient with time and resources. Project outcomes can also be value added by having extra people working in a project to create more and better ideas for implementation. The strengths of the people within the team can be utilised in different areas of the project, eg a person who is skilled and motivated in monitoring and evaluation can take on those roles.

Successful extension networks tend to have some of the following characteristics:

  • The membership can be based on a common interest, eg NRM, people etc.
  • The members share what they all do.
  • Can make groups task orientated, eg monitoring and development, project development etc.
  • The group highlights failures and learns from their mistakes.
  • The group has a common purpose.
  • A shared vision for the group is essential.
  • Members must be cooperative, not competitive.

The Sharing the workload group is an example of a successful extension network. This group is based in the Dawson Callide region and incorporates all people working in natural resource management. The group has a regional plan to work with and acts as an information and communication exchange for its members. This group is successful because its members feel well informed as to the activities happening in the area and can utilise information and resources from the rest of the team.

The Miles community extension team is different as the members actually work in each other’s project. The team shares resources and adds the group outcomes to their project outcomes. The team may spend time running a series of soil analysis workshops when the need arises then will run Futureprofit workshops together. All projects involved have their outcomes enhanced and achieved.

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

The group decided to try and extend the advantages of teams to agency management to break down resistance to development because of the perceived threat to project outcomes.

A major function for any team could be to conduct regional needs analysis. This analysis could be an ongoing exercise for the group to shape priorities.

The sharing of experiences needs to be quantified in some way. This will help with reporting on project outcomes and value adding these outcomes.

Advocates need to be used when forming teams. These advocates could come from successful or unsuccessful teams in other regions. These advocates would need to highlight the strengths of teams.

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