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Using appreciative inquiry to test the application of outcome engineering in Extension programs

LaDeane R Jha, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Organizations face unprecedented and unpredictable changes as a result of an increasingly complex world. These changes create difficult and complex decisions for individuals communities and decision makers. Cooperative Extension has long prided itself on being a change agent in society and is constantly adapting to meet changes in an increasingly complex society. Among the challenges Cooperative Extension face is that of documenting program outcomes. No longer is it enough to report the number of programs offered, participants reached and goals attained. Rather, Extension must be poised to report results that focus on social, economic and environmental outcomes. ^ This study contributes to action research and appreciative inquiry by demonstrating how a small pilot group could successfully test and implement Outcome Engineering concepts in Extension programs. The Outcome Engineering model worked well to report outcomes in complex, long-term, Extension programs—programs difficult to evaluate using traditional evaluation methods. ^ The pilot group demonstrated the efficacy of an appreciative inquiry approach by: (a) identifying and building on strengths in the group, (b) experiencing generative conversations that moved the group to creative action, (c) creating visions of what could be, and (d) using the power of dialogue to transform the organization. ^ Although evaluation is deemed important, Extension educators revealed that they do not like to do it, have inadequate training, perceive it as something separate from programming, face time constraints and experience pressure from grantors to report outcomes in specific ways. Outcome Engineering positively affected attitudes about evaluation. The tools embedded in the model (vision, mission, “whos,” outcome challenges, Success Markers and Journey Mapping) helped Extension staff, make program planning part of their evaluation strategy, focus on the strengths of their programs and clients, and identify and involve stakeholders. ^ The pilot group was able to successfully initiate systemic change to start integrating Outcome Engineering into the Extension system. These processes are strengthening the integration of program evaluation into the entire program planning process. ^

Subject Area

Education, Adult and Continuing

Recommended Citation

Jha, LaDeane R, "Using appreciative inquiry to test the application of outcome engineering in Extension programs" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3022637.