Michigan LCE team members train Missouri Extension staff in facilitative leadership

North Central Region Center for Rural Development makes program swap possible.

Facilitative Leadership is one of Michigan State University Extension’s premier workshops. Through national conference promotion by Michigan State University Extension staff, the session has generated interest from other state Extension programs. Facilitative Leadership focuses on a collaborative learning framework for teams, organizations and communities. The goal of the workshop is to provide hands-on practice in leading groups to have more effective and efficient meetings and work together in positive and productive ways. Session participants practice skills in leading group discussions, reaching consensus, encouraging creativity, setting outcome-based goals for meetings, maintaining group focus, and creating action plans for successful decision follow-through. Every participant facilitates small group discussions during the workshop and receives extensive written and verbal feedback from instructors and session colleagues. All practice facilitations are based on real-world situations faced by the participants.

After participating in an introductory session at the June 2014 National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) Conference, University of Missouri staff offered this program to their staff with funding from the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD). NCRCRD (with federal and regional funding) works in close collaboration with land grant institutions in the 12-state North Central region. The NCRCRD offered grant funding to foster cross-state collaboration in Extension programs aimed to strengthen rural communities in the region. The NCRCRD requested proposals for cross-state program delivery partnerships that:

  • Replicated successful programs in the “sending” state. (Persons interested in developing new programs can seek funding under NCRCRD’s small grants program).
  • Delivered programs proven to generate the impacts adopted by the North Central State Program leaders’ group. See that list of impacts.
  • Included a plan to build capacity for continued delivery of the program after the NCRCRD funding is exhausted (e.g., splitting fees with the sending state, on-demand allocations to the sending state, learning by doing for the receiving state, or combination thereof). 
  • Involved institutions from at least two states within or adjoining the twelve North Central states region.

Georgia Stuart-Simmons, Community Development Specialist and County-Program Director explained, “MU Extension Community Development Specialists are often asked to provide facilitation services for organizations across the state, but it had been many years since we had the opportunity for training on this important skill. When some of our faculty participated in the “Super Session” at NACDEP in the summer of 2014, we felt that this training would provide us with the tools that we need. We weren’t disappointed! The hands-on approach taken by the Michigan team helped all of us to expand our skill set – whether new to the job or a seasoned employee. Personally, I heard many of my colleagues say that this was the best training we have received for the past ten years. Not only did we learn and lot, the session became a wonderful team-building experience for all of us as we observed and encouraged our colleagues toward their own success.””

Additional responses from University of Missouri staff include: “I will rethink how I plan a program to… incorporate more visuals into the facilitation process,” “before a meeting, I will review the reference book, and select a tool that will be best for the situation,” “I will incorporate more graphics into meetings and consistently set ground rules.”

The Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team offers professional development training, including volunteer board development, communicating through conflict, meeting management and facilitation skills development, and organizational strategic visioning and planning. To contact an expert in your area, visit the webpage or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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