To help ensure Extension’s relevance and accessibility to an increasingly diverse population, the National Urban Extension Leaders group created a framework based on historical and emerging developments. Themes focus on programs, personnel, partnership, and the positioning of Extension at local, state, and national levels. For Extension to be a vibrant and resilient 21st-century system, it must build on best practices, leverage regional and national networks, and invest in innovative strategies that engage people living and working in metropolitan communities. A robust urban Extension presence contributes to building strong connectivity among urban, suburban, and rural communities.
In an effort to reinvigorate a national discussion and move toward a more sustainable and integrated approach to urban Extension, a group of mid-level administrators working in metropolitan areas across the United States began meeting in late 2013. This group is called the National Urban Extension Leaders (NUEL). NUEL’s steering committee prepared A National Framework for Urban Extension, a report for the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP). In October 2015, ECOP approved NUEL as a director/administrator-approved group of Extension employees who cooperate in advancing the strategic importance and long-term value of urban Extension activities by being relevant locally, responsive statewide, and recognized nationally. Advancing urban Extension is now one of ECOP’s top priorities (Extension Committee on Organizational Policy, 2015; National Urban Extension Leaders, 2015).
Although there are many similarities in Extension’s work across all geographic settings, dynamic situations in cities and large metropolitan areas present unique challenges and opportunities as Extension extends a history of innovation. Rural and urban communities are interdependent (Dabson, 2007; Davoudi & Stead, 2002; Lichter & Brown, 2014), necessitating a synchronized flow of Extension’s work along the urban–rural continuum. To embrace effective urban Extension models and approaches, the Cooperative Extension System need not abandon its historic rural agendas.
Capitalizing on the extensive resource network of the nationwide land-grant university system, Extension must become better equipped to efficiently and effectively address complex urban priorities. In this article, we summarize relevant national trends and their overarching implications; suggest, against a backdrop of historical context, emerging opportunities and recommendations related to urban Extension; and issue a call to action. For the purpose of this article, the terms urban, metropolitan, and city are used interchangeably to refer to densely populated areas; no consistent parameters for population density have been established with regard to urban Extension.
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Originally written by: Julie Fox, Marie Ruemenapp, Patrick Proden, and Brad Gaolach