- Education and Training: extension, workshop
- Sustainable Communities: community development, community services, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change
The Southern Gatherings on Agricultural Problem-Solving is design to build the capacity of rural and agricultural leaders with skills and knowledge to: convene groups; talk about divisive issues; resolve conflicts; make choices and design and implement strategic plans. The fundamental assumption of this project is that communities who can go through these process together will make decisions and take actions that address the fundamental interests of all community members. Although there are some issues that may seem irreconcilable, there are many opportunities for common ground that are often overlooked. Communities do not need to be divided along lines of agriculture, environment or economy. Participants can use these process to find and define the common ground.
Progress of the project to date has included three "Southern Gatherings on Agricultural Problem-Solving" with over two hundred individuals involved in one of three learning tracks: (1) public issues deliberation; (2) conflict resolution; and (3) strategic planning. Farmers, Extension agents, community leaders and other choose one of these three tracks. Plenary sessions were intended to draw common themes and lessons from each of these problem-solving approaches.
Significant outcomes of this project have been the development of in-state capacity to train participants and trainers in the three skills areas and to apply those skills to county projects and training. It has also led to other spin-off workshops throughout the region, particularly in the area of conflict resolution. Three conflict resolution workshops were held for elected officials during the Spring and Fall of 1998. Public conflict resolution workshops were also held in Florida and Arkansas for Extension agents and Extension lay leaders.
According to recent project participant individual and focus group interviews conducted by an external evaluator, participants applied the skills they learned when facing difficult issues or public conflict. Based on these participant evaluations, the project clearly met its goals. The project is self-sustaining and there will be another Gathering in the year 2000.
• Involve Extension professionals, other farm service institutions, public media and farm families in the collaborative development and delivery of curricula on issues deliberation, strategic planning and conflict management.
• Foster collaboration between educational institutions, Extension educators and Extension clientele in delivering materials and concepts to workshop participants;
• Cooperate with Kentucky Leadership for Agricultural and Environmental sustainability Project, the University of Kentucky Agriculture 2000 and the National Issues Forum initiative of the Kettering Foundation to achieve synergism between development programs.
• Cooperate with partners in publicity of project activities.
• Solicit balanced participation by diverse farm community sectors, with attention to gender, race, farm related income, disability and other relevant demographic characteristics.
• Develop participant ability to apply methods of problem-solving to agricultural and broader rural community issues.
• Include hands-on learning activities in curriculum development (i.e., role playing, stimulations, and creation of action plans to be implemented in home communities of participants).
• Bring the capacity of agricultural and rural leaders to bring about change through the application of workshop knowledge and skills.
• Evaluate workshop efforts focusing on changes in knowledge, opinions, skills and aspirations. Include a wide range of people in the evaluation of the project.