This morning Jim Johnson and I led an informal discussion about peer-to-peer learning and social networks at the 6th Natural Resources Extension conference in Madison, WI. This is the every-two-years meeting of the Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals.
We had a great conversation. About 20 people showed up from Extension systems around the country. We talked about programs, needs, and ideas. A few highlights:
Pennsylvania Forest Stewards: A 16 year old program with about 350 active woodland owner volunteers. This group has started I think 22 county-level woodland owner associations. According to the most recent evaluation, in 2007 the volunteers contributed the equivalent of 21 full time equivalents in volunteer effort.
Women Owning Woodlands Network: An Oregon program targeting women woodland owners. Nicole Strong told us about this group, which is largely self-organizing and self-sustaining. Members organize their own events, with some coordination and support from OSU Extension Forestry. (No website but read a press release about the program.)
National Network of Forest Practioners: NNFP is organizing a network to connect small businesses around the country. They’re just getting this rolling, but have a lot of great ideas up their sleeves.
The “Howdy Neighbor” program and its champion, Forest Dan. This program is associated with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association. They gather without a set agenda and attendees choose topics and lead discussions.
We also discussed needs and ideas that could help ramp up peer-to-peer learning and social network development. Some common themes:
- Need for tools and techniques to foster social network development between events. One person commented that a lot of programs and events do a great job fostering peer to peer learning, but not social networks. That leaves people without contacts between events.
- Need links to existing programs. We’re working on this… See our programs page.
- Offer sessions on these topics at future ANREP and similar conferences. Many participants saw conferences as opportunities to share experiences and learn techniques to improve their skills at organizing and supporting learning networks.
- Share info about helping volunteers improve leadership, communication, and organizing skills.
I’ll follow up with all of the participants. What have I missed? Add a comment below.