The Work of Urban Extension

The City. The Metropolis. Urban.

This is the arena in which Urban Extension works, where new goals are created, new partners and collaborations built, and new programs constructed.

It’s tempting, here, to build with the same tools used in Rural Extension, to assume that nothing has changed, that Extension need only transplant tried and tested methods into this, a new place, and they will work as well as ever.

The case studies portrayed here make it clear that this assumption is untrue, describing the work of urban offices in the communities they serve, ranging from locations in small cities to those set in large urban regions, from the local scale to that of the state. They also detail the complexity of urban arenas, the diversity endemic to the situations explored, and the multitude of partners and collaborators on the ground, from nonprofits to governments of all types.

Each case study illustrates the ways in which Urban Extension offices address the multitude of issues and priorities in their particular metropolitan area, from programs focusing on kindergarten readiness (Success by Six, Boone County) to creating scholarships for underrepresented youth  (4-H Illini Summer Academies, University of Illinois) to empowering students with healthy living practices (Heroes 4-Health, Harris County).

Case studies also demonstrate Urban Extension’s focus on developing and retaining competent talent in the urban arena — i.e., the cultural competency training program of the University of Illinois and the creation of a Regional Specialized Agent in the Tampa Bay Region.

Finally, building partnerships to leverage resources for collective impact is one of the primary responsibilities of Urban Extension, exemplified through collaborations such as that between the Northern Kentucky Forestry Collaborative and Boone County, KY.  Or the Finca Tres Urban Farm, where students undertake the Agricultural Immersion Tour in Harris county, Texas A&M.  Or collaborating with Arts Tampa Bay to facilitate a film screening in the Tampa Bay region. Or, finally, working with three separate Florida universities and a not-for-profit stormwater engineering firm to create a suite of planning tools for the integration of green infrastructure into existing gray (engineered) stormwater systems in the Tampa Bay Watershed.

And lastly, the case studies gathered in this eFieldbook exemplify the many issues that Urban Extension offices address, from work with the food system in gardens, farmers markets, and farm tours; to advancing educational goals such as kindergarten readiness and career field exploration; to sharing horticultural knowledge through arboretums and nature centers. And Urban Extension is also actively moving to address issues of sustainability across cities and regions — for example, engaging in environmental education, urban forest canopy cover assessment, and sustainable community initiatives, as well as advancing community engagement through the construction of a film series on environmental issues, and working with a city to replace sidewalks with pervious pavement, thus saving trees and improving water filtration.

List of Case Studies: