In late 2016, the Extension Committee on Operations and Policy (ECOP) charged a small team of Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and non-Land Grant University professionals (referred to as a Rapid Response Team) to examine the current capacity of CES to respond to the need for dialogue to promote racial understanding and healing, and to provide recommendations to build CES capacity in this area. Following the April 2017 report to ECOP, the Rapid Response Team explored training options for civil dialogue on race relations to meet the need to expand capacity. Recently, a team of 23 professionals both within and outside the Land Grant University system have identified, organized, and refined a training process designed to prepare teams in participating states to serve as trainers within their own states.
Civil dialogue involves creating a safe place for participants to assemble to discuss a challenging issue. The process of dialogue typically involves some level of facilitation, agreement to a set of guidelines, and has a central focus on increasing understanding among participants on the topic. Civil dialogue will always seek to foster listening and understanding. This particular framework focuses the dialogue efforts on race relations.
The first step in building capacity for this work within CES was to host a train-the-trainer event in which teams of 3 individuals from among the nation’s LGU Cooperative Extension Services were invited to participate in a five-day intensive training workshop. The workshop prepared these participants to return home to their own states and prepare a larger cadre of CES personnel to lead dialogues. The result will be a stronger capacity within CES to assist with difficult conversations around race. Lynn Adams (CED), Malisa Rader (HSIEO), and Gayle Coon (Professional Development) attended the Coming Together for Racial Understanding workshop on August 27-31, 2018 at the 4-H National Center, in Chevy Chase, MD.