eXtension Community of Practice Prepares for Public Launch


Posted: December 4, 2013

During the first year of the EFSNE project, the Outreach Team was instrumental in establishing a national eXtension Community of Practice (eCoP) around Community, Local and Regional Food Systems. This year, the eCoP has made remarkable progress in membership, leadership, and programming, and is taking on a life of its own. The progress of the eCoP to date represents a key milestone for the Outreach Team.
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What is an eXtension Community of Practice?

An eXtension Community of Practice (eCoP) is an online community where members of the Cooperative Extension System of the Land-Grant Universities and others can share resources and knowledge, answer questions, and facilitate discussions. The eCoP described here focuses on local and regional food systems. It shares models, findings, best practices, challenges, conceptual frameworks and data. It is increasing awareness about regional food systems, and is enhancing the ability for Extension personnel to contribute to their development.

Even prior to its public launch, the eCoP boasts more than 240 members from the national Extension community. It held two webinars this year. The first webinar, “Enhancing Food Security through Community and Regional Food Systems: Sharing Experiences and Lessons Learned,” featured a presentation about the EFSNE project by Kate Clancy. The second webinar was titled “Why the 2013 Farm Bill and Federal Funding Matter to Community Food Systems.” The group also launched a public Facebook page, which is followed by 140 people.

As the community has grown and evolved, so has its leadership. An initial eXtension grant launched the eCoP under the direction of a national Leadership Team, with coordination from Sharon Lezburg, Outreach Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin’s Community and Regional Food Systems Project. Going forward, an executive management team will guide the community, and a half-time assistant funded by the University of Arkansas will help with administrative tasks.

The Leadership Team is preparing for a public launch by developing a critical mass of resources relevant to Extension educators and partners. A content boundaries team guides this effort, and has established a process to solicit content. Upon its public launch, the eCoP will be eligible to apply for additional funding from eXtension to help with marketing and promotion efforts.