Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for October, 2013

Do we need Extension training?

2013-04-04 16.21.18Evaluation of projects is not always done well. Good quality feedback not only provides information for reporting it also shapes the future of programs.

As part of our GRDC Extension Adoption Training and Support Program we work with Jeff Coutts and conduct regular surveys to monitor progress as well as developing case studies with participants. The information collected has assisted us to modify the content of the program and improve relevance to our audience.

Mike Roberts has been preparing the case studies for us and has put together the following article as an overview of the outcomes from our program. I thought I would share this with you as an example of an evaluation method which can  then be used to promote a program and also because we are very proud of the outcomes that are being achieved.

Rave Reviews

Are you an experienced advisor or researcher interested in practical ways to turbo charge your effectiveness in adoption, extension, evaluation and communication processes? This GRDC funded course is about to open up its fourth intake and if the rave reviews from the first three years of operation are anything to go by then you’d better be quick to apply for one of the eight places available for 2014.

This program aims to reduce the time frame from research findings becoming available to actual changes in farmer practice. Successful applicants can expect the following:

  • A three day workshop in Canberra where participants develop a comprehensive understanding of GRDC and build skills and knowledge in personality types, adoption, evaluation and extension theory and frameworks.
  • A three day field tour providing exposure to new technology and research as well as an opportunity to apply the theory discussed in Canberra.
  • Webinars to further develop skills and discuss learning and outcomes.
  • Mentoring and coaching with the project team
  • Participants will develop an action plan and apply their learnings in the field as well as mentoring a younger member of the industry.
  • An ongoing network will provide the opportunity to continue sharing skills and knowledge amongst the group post training.

Here are some comments from participants who have already completed the program:

Brendan Green is the Technical Business Development officer for Roberts Ltd based in Hobart in Tasmania.

  • After learning about the role of Social Media in the course Brendan has been instrumental in setting up 12 Facebook pages for various branches across the state. “We are having an impact from the messages we are posting. Whatever the topic, we are now able to create more awareness than we could have previously. The message is getting through to a larger number of clients and they are finding out about things that they wouldn’t necessarily know about just because of social media.”
  • After learning about communication skills Brendan reflected thathe used to “give a lot of technical information. Now it is about trying to get staff to simplify the message so it will be easier for the farmer to understand.”
  • “Success in the relationships that you build is very important. People skills are the most important things.”
  • “It is a very good program well worth the time and involvement. You will get a lot of things out of it that are very beneficial for your business.”

Bob Ronald is an agronomist employed by Landmark in Albury, NSW. He deals mainly with broadacre clients on both dryland and irrigated farms.

  • It really helped my ability to deal with my growers one on one and then as a group.”
  • “The people skills offered in the program were a major attraction. This program hit a whole lot of triggers that I had been thinking about. It’s not just about killing weeds; it is dealing with humans.

Kent Wooding is the General Manager of Agrivision Consultants based in Swan Hill in Victoria. He manages a group of 15 agronomy consultants who assist farmers with farm and paddock planning, general agronomy, implementation of weed and pest control and precision agriculture.

  • “We have often been critical of people doing research and not effectively communicating results. The course taught me that we were falling into the same trap, as we did some great research but we weren’t always getting it all out to the people where it mattered the most. We are now addressing that.”
  • After learning that not everyone has the same preferential learning style, Kent now actively varies the elements in presentations. “So if I can deliver it in several different ways then parts of it will appeal to most people.”
  • “I have changed the way I mentor staff since doing this course. I think our agronomists are now developing skills at a faster rate as a result.”
  • “The EATS program has given me a better understanding of who I am and how I can deal with people. It has certainly given me a lot of motivation and invigorated me to go out and make changes in the business. I have made some good friends as well along the way, which is good!”
  • “I have successfully established a social media strategy for the business. This was something I have been thinking about for a long time but the course gave me the information and confidence to go ahead with it.”
  • “I would say that it is valuable and a must attend!”

Felicity Turner is a private agricultural consultant and the facilitator for the MacKillop Farm Management Group in the Upper SE of South Australia.

  • “The topic on personality types and extension methodology changed the whole way I think about delivering information.”
  • Prior to attending the course, Felicity says that surveys were ‘the bane of my existence and I hated them. Where I used to do surveys just to satisfy funding bodies, I now know how to actually extract the information I need to make changes to improve the project and get better outcomes.”
  • “As a whole it has really made me re-think the way that I extend information to people. I now know that I need to look at different methods to take into account different people to try to get the message across.”
  • “I think if I had done this ten years ago I would have changed so many things. Now I look back and think gosh, what was I doing? I could have been doing it so much better!”
  • “One of the most valuable parts of the course was the chance to spend three or four days interacting with other participants on the field trip to WA. The geographical and occupational mix of the participants really added value. That is where you really learn from others and it was fantastic.”

If you are interested in the GRDC Extension, Adoption, Training and Support program or know someone who could be please contact Ag Consulting Co for more information: 

Applications close 30 October 2013

Advertisements

Attracting farmers to events

2013-08-19 15.41.37A common topic of discussion in many workshops, and a concern of researchers, farming groups, RDE corporations and others  – How do we get farmers along to events?

Research carried out by Rod Strachan looking at farmer personality types found that rural industries attract people with a preference for Introversion. (Beef 62%; Cropping 58%; and Intensive Industries 63%) when compared with the Australian sample (55%). Rod goes on to say “The challenge facing rural extension is that persons expressing a preference for Introversion are not attracted to attending meetings. Moreover, if they do they may have difficulty becoming involved in the absence of a skilled facilitator.”

I have incorporated the Myers Briggs Type Indicator into many workshops with farmers and consultants over the years and asked the  following two questions “How can we attract and engage Introverts in events?” and “How does your personality type like to have  new information presented?”

Today I will share with you some of the thoughts of the many introverts who have attended these workshops to attempt to provide some insight into the first question.

  • Group size is important – Introverts have reported they prefer either a small group (under 12) where they feel comfortable to contribute or a large groups where they can hide in the crowd.
  • Introverts dislike being singled out without warning – if you are presenting  and would like a comment from an introvert – give them prior warning.
  • In small groups, make sure everyone speaks in the first 20 -30 minutes, Introverts are more likely to continue to contribute if they have spoken in a safe environment.
  • A direct invitation from someone they know encourages them to attend, particularly if they are able to attend with that person.
  • Many introverts have told me they hate bus trips. They would rather follow in their own vehicle for some time out and ability to leave when they like. Bus trips can create a “trapped feeling”.
  • Introverts like one-on-one time with advisers or a few trusted significant others in preference to large group activities.
  • Time for private reflection after an activity, to think about how it fits in with their system, and then follow up support to implement was important.
  • Allow time at field days for the Introverts to talk one-on-one with the speakers. Instead of rushing from one trial plot to the next allow a break between speakers for discussion and contemplation.
  • Introverts like to know what is expect when they arrive at the event – clear expectations and agenda.

I would love to hear some comments and experiences from farmers and advisers about how they attract and engage farmers in events. Please post some thoughts in the comments.

Some findings from the second question “How does your personality type like to have new information presented?” will be in a future blog.

Rod Strachen, Myers Briggs Type Indicator Preferences by Industry and Implications for extension. Published in “Shaping Change – Natural Resource Management and the Role of Extension.” (2011) edited by Dr Jess Jennings, Dr Roger Packham and Dr Dedee Woodside, (APEN)

Tag Cloud