August 2009 -- From Jack Payne
The Best Solutions Come from Collaboration
Unlike in science and math, real-life problems can have more than one right answer or solution. The advantage of being in a leadership position such as mine is having a steady inflow of solutions to address the overflow of problems.
I really do believe that “none of us is as smart as all of us,” and the best solutions come from collaboration. So when the ISU Extension budget cuts demanded solutions to making do with less or doing more with less, the floodgates were opened to ideas. Doing more with less was the clear choice, but how? After all, it’s just a starry-eyed dream to do more with less unless you have put a great deal of thought into what “more” means.
For ISU Extension’s restructuring, more meant figuring out how to improve the productivity and profitability of our existing products, services and processes. We started by segmenting the jobs our clientele most needed to get done. In other words, what was absolutely necessary and what might a client be willing to sacrifice? It’s not uncommon for many organizations to expend a significant amount of money providing the wrong kind of support to customers. For example, while some clients undoubtedly want human interaction when they have a problem, many want the ability to find precise answers to their questions quickly.
The ensuing exchange of thoughts, ideas and solutions became not just an exercise in cost-cutting, but also an opportunity to re-feature and re-purpose ISU Extension to get the client's job done while lowering our costs. Our final cost cutting solutions were not science-based, but instead were a thoughtful, collaborative approach to what we hope will result in a reconstituted ISU Extension that will provide better value in the eyes of you, our clients. And just so you know, we have left the floodgates open, so you can let us know how it’s working out.
During tough times, companies want to do two things: cut costs and increase sales. ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) shows companies how they can do both, according to director Ron Cox. “We’re focused on helping Iowa companies weather the economic downturn and emerge stronger than before.”
CIRAS has long been known for programs that help companies cut costs, namely by raising productivity. Kaizen lean management, value-stream mapping and Six Sigma are just a few of the programs CIRAS offers Iowa companies.
“We also are helping companies develop new sales channels,” Cox said. “Toward that end, we have been awarded increased funding from the Defense Logistics Agency, a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense, and have expanded our government procurement area. As government increases spending in a recession, companies have opportunities to gain access to government contracts and possibly increase sales.”
Good companies recognize that this recession won’t last forever. Their managers already are examining ways to position their companies to emerge from the recession stronger than before.
Helping companies devise those strategies is one of the most important services CIRAS can provide, Cox said. “If there is one thing the recession has taught us, it is that companies cannot do the same things they did 10 to 20 years ago and think they’re going to survive. Our global competitors will continue to threaten jobs in America. Many of the 22,000 Iowa manufacturing jobs lost so far in this recession won’t return unless we strategically grow our industries. That will require companies to truly become innovative and find new products, services and markets.”
These tasks mesh well with CIRAS’ focus on research, education and technical assistance, Cox continued. “We’re studying industry trends and we’re providing education through workshops and mentoring. We’re also providing technical assistance and access to the labs on the Iowa State campus."
He added, "The recession has caused us to reevaluate the services we offer Iowa companies and to maintain a sense of urgency in delivering these services to more businesses in our state. Despite all of the change, our core mission remains the same: to improve the performance of industry in Iowa.”
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is not infesting Iowa yet, although presence of the insect has been confirmed in adjoining states. ISU Extension, state regulatory agencies and local officials continue to monitor the situation in Iowa. In the meantime, Iowans can turn to a new ISU Extension publication for options to help them protect their ash trees from this invasive insect.
“Emerald Ash Borer Management Options” (PM 2084) offers recommendations for homeowners and commercial pesticide applicators on products that can be used to protect healthy ash trees from EAB attack. Mark Shour, an ISU Extension entomologist who is the lead author on the publication, said treatment is most effective before the adult stage finds the ash tree. EAB adults are active from May until August.
EAB will destroy ash trees, but treatment of trees isn’t recommended until the insect has been positively identified 15 to 20 miles away, Shour noted. The adult borer causes minor feeding damage to ash foliage. The larval stage feeds beneath the bark, disrupting water and nutrient flow within the tree, eventually killing it.
EAB is a concern because of the potential financial and environmental impacts. Iowa has approximately 88 million ash trees, many of them in cities and neighborhoods. Loss of these ash trees would likely increase heating, cooling and watering costs for residential areas. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources estimates the cost from EAB could exceed $5 billion.
PM 2084 is available from the ISU Extension online store. (Download a pdf file or order a print copy.) Additional resources for dealing with EAB are available from ISU Extension’s Pest Management and the Environment Web site.
It takes a village to raise a child and no child should be left behind. But nice slogans are empty words without guidance about how to support parents and help kids learn. A collaborative project of ISU Extension and Iowa Statewide Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC) called Partnering in Communities: Strong Families, Strong Communities can help communities move beyond the slogans and take action.
Iowa Statewide PIRC is a virtual center funded by a federal grant to help schools, parents and communities form partnerships to improve learning for Iowa children, said Jane Neff, a PIRC consultant. Over the past four years, she has been working with ISU Extension staff to design, pilot and implement Partnering in Communities because what children learn outside of school affects what they learn during the school day.
“They are in daycare or at community sponsored activities like 4-H, soccer and dance. They participate in programs sponsored by their faith community, parks and recreation, libraries or museums. They are at medical clinics, working in businesses and observing how adults respond to issues in the community. And they are observing how learning is valued in their homes. All of these things impact children’s learning when they are in school,” Neff said.
Developing partnerships among communities, schools and parents is the key, said ISU Extension family life state specialist Kim Greder. Using research-proven practices, community leaders and organizations support parents as they assist their children in becoming successful learners. Communities strengthen parents’ ability to help their kids succeed as learners when they assist parents in gaining specific knowledge and skills that promoting learning.
“School programs that encourage involvement and address specific needs of kids and families will successfully connect with families and communities. Kids learn more at school when supported by parents, school staff and community members. When parents share ideas with each other on how to help their kids at home, they create support for all kids,” Greder said.
Communities that take these steps build a strong culture that supports student achievement. Partnering in Communities projects are in various stages of development in Perry, Webster City, Storm Lake, Waterloo, Dubuque and Des Moines.
A Storm Lake participant summed it up: “Student achievement in a community is a social, civic and economic issue, and we can’t ignore this if we want a strong community.”
Her jacket is torn; her Mustang Track and Field sweat shirt is shredded and bloody. But Kristi Ruth still has her arm — and it still works, sort of. This Iowa 4-H’er and farm safety advocate is a farm injury survivor. She considers herself lucky and tells her story in “My Name Is Kristi,” a new DVD from ISU Extension.
The teenager was working with her family on their Lucas County farm on Feb. 18, 2007, when her arm became entangled in a posthole digger’s power takeoff (PTO) shaft.
Her father, Joe Ruth, said, “I was actually watching her brother more than Kristi. I didn’t even realize she was that close.”
Kristi, too, was more concerned about her brother Jake’s safety. When the auger head began to shake and hit the side of the barn, Kristi said, “I instinctively reached out to stabilize it, and moments after, my glove got caught on the spinning shear bolt. Within seconds my arm was pulled in and wrapped around the shaft up to my shoulder.”
Her brother Josh remarked that the PTO shaft “flattened her entire arm. … It looked like string around a stick.”
“I was life-flighted to Des Moines, then on to Iowa City, all the while thinking I was going to lose my arm,” Kristi explained. “After several hours and many doctors later, I had my first surgery to repair the severed artery, which would provide blood flow back to my hand. Surgeons performed two more operations over the next four days where they placed a hinge, stainless steel plates and numerous screws in my arm.”
Since then Kristi has undergone months of physical therapy and faces more surgery to improve the movement in her fingers. She also has been telling her story during farm safety speeches and now in this ISU Extension DVD. “My Name Is Kristi” (VID 59) is available for $8 plus shipping and handling from ISU Extension’s Online Store.
“Safety must be a part of every decision we make and it should be instinctual,” said Chuck Schwab, ISU Extension safety specialist who oversaw production of the DVD. “You have to protect yourself first.”
That’s the key message from Kristi’s story. Schwab said the DVD is appropriate for use by individual families, 4-H clubs, civic groups and others interested in safety issues.
A wish made around a campfire 60 years ago led to a 1,100-acre camping center, thousands of scholarships and a $1 million budget for an organization that provides countless opportunities for Iowa youth. To celebrate these and other achievements, the Iowa 4-H Foundation will kick off its 60th anniversary recognition at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 13-23.
The celebration will begin with the several activities in the 4-H Exhibits Building, according to Shelly Greving, the foundation marketing coordinator. Read more.