2023 University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Statewide Community Needs Assessment Data Collection

Why are we doing this?

What are the goals?

  • Understand public awareness of UMaine Extension as a brand and a trusted source of information.
  • Provide UMaine Extension programming and resources that are based on community needs, including but not limited to, historically and currently underserved people.
  • Respond to critical issues facing Maine’s population.
  • Support rural, suburban, and urban communities.
  • Build upon UMaine Extension’s successes and decide areas of focus for the future.
  • Remain grounded in the organization’s principles and values, central to the land-grant mission.

The mission of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is to help Maine people improve their lives through an educational process that uses research-based knowledge focused on issues and needs.

The Process to Identify an External Needs Assessment Organization

Associate Dean Bolton performed extensive interviews with administrators, faculty, researchers, and consultants from across the country to determine the most appropriate process for a statewide needs assessment. Although many universities utilize internal resources to perform their assessments, there was a clear preference among them to use an external group to help eliminate bias.

There are a limited number of organizations and consultants that are familiar with Extension and land-grant systems and can perform comprehensive assessments, but after an exhaustive search, a research team from the University of Florida (UF) Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center) has been identified to perform the Cooperative Extension statewide needs assessment. The PIE Center is pleased to assist the University of Maine Cooperative Extension with its statewide community needs assessment and to help collect data to help us understand the needs of Maine’s people and organizations.

The Team from Public Issues Education (PIE)

Timeline and Needs Assessment Process

Step 1: Focus Groups in Maine (Completed)

Focused on Internal interested parties/partners who currently utilize or collaborate with Extension.

Schedule Overview:

  • Monday, July 17 – UMaine campus
  • Tuesday, July 18 – AM – UMaine Staff/Facilities, PM – Penobscot County Office
  • Wednesday, July 19 – AM – Kennebec County Office, PM –  State government agencies 
  • Thursday, July 20 – AM/PM – Cumberland County Office, PM – Portland interested parties 
  • Friday, July 21 – AM – Portland interested parties

Step 2a: Statewide Community Needs Assessment Data Collection Portal

  • Who should complete the portal questions?
    • Anyone familiar with UMaine Extension
    • Including ALL UMaine employees and interested people/groups

    Data Collection Portal

  • Opens August 29 and closes September 17, 2023
  • A paper version is available for those without internet access. Stop by or contact a local UMaine Extension office for a printed copy.

Step 2b: Zoom Interviews

  • Zoom one-on-one with interested people/groups.

Step 3: Survey Extension, Non-Extension and Future Extension Users

  • This sample was stratified to reflect the 2020 U.S. Census population regarding race, ethnicity, geographic region, age, and income. (~500 participants). (September)

Step 4: Survey UMaine Learners

  • Survey UMaine learners using Q-Sort, Zoom live and Q-Sort online software. (September)

Step 5: Data Analysis and Summary

  • Data analysis and summary of findings. Work with ELT to draft report. (September to February)

Step 6: Final Report

  • Announce and release the Final Report on UMaine Extension website. (February)

Step 7: Collaborative Publication of Findings

  • Collaborative UF and UMaine publication of UMaine Extension Needs Assessment process and findings. (January and February)

Frequently Asked Questions

How will current Extension employees participate in this process?

Current employees will be asked to participate in the process as they are willing and able to. Time with the team in-person in July will be limited, but those who are interested in providing their input will be asked to participate either in person during the research team’s visit or online after the research team’s visit. Multiple opportunities and modes of participation will be available to make sure current employee’s voices are heard during this process.

How will we ensure that all voices are heard (internal and external)?

The data collection process will happen in a limited time; however, multiple modes of participation will be made available to make sure current employees, current Extension users and partners, and non-users of Extension programs are included in the process. Information about participation with current employees, users, and partners will be shared broadly throughout the system’s networks. An online survey tool will be used to recruit a general population survey from across Maine that is representative of the state demographics. This will ensure those who are currently unfamiliar with Extension will also have a voice in the process, which will help market to future Extension users. Underrepresented groups will be sought during the process to understand unique needs and barriers.

How will this information be shared with Extension?  Outside of Extension?

A final report will be published on the UMaine Extension website. This will be accompanied by a summarized factsheet and short video.

Examples of PIE Center Work

  • McLeod-Morin, A., Baker, L. M., Boyer, C., Zagonel, A. M., & Lindsey, A. B. (2023). Rewarding Relationships: A Quasi-Experimental Design Evaluating the Impact of An Extension Public Relations Seminar. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 11(1), 4. https://doi.org/10.55533/2325-5226.1373
  • UF/IFAS Extension needs assessment (https://piecenter.com/2020/01/05/uf-ifas-extension-needs-assessment/)
  • Zagonel, A., Baker, L. M., & King, A. E. H. (2019). Printing and mailing for the brand: An exploratory qualitative study seeking to understand internal branding and marketing within university and extension communication services units. Journal of Applied Communications, 103(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.4148/1051-0834.2236
  • Settle, Q., Baker, L. M., & Irani, T. (2018). Employee perceptions of branding materials and external communications for a state forestry organization. Journal of Agricultural Education, 59(3), 75-86 https://doi.org/10.5032/jae.2018.03075
  • Settle, Q, Baker, L. M., & Stebner, S. (2016). Managing extension’s internal brand: Employees perceptions of the functions and descriptors of extension. Journal of Applied Communication, 100(2) doi.org/10.4148/1051-0834.1029
  • Ray, J. Baker, L. M., & Settle, Q. (2015). Ask the audience: Determining organizational identity of a state extension agency. Journal of Applied Communications, 99(4), 62-75. https://doi.org/10.4148/1051-0834.1061
  • Baker, L. M. & Hadley, G. (2014). New agent new model: A qualitative study to strategically adapt new agent professional development. Journal of Extension. 52(5) #5FEA3 http://www.joe.org/joe/2014october/a3.php
  • Baker, L., Abrams, K., Irani, T., & Meyers, C. (2011). Managing media relations: Determining the reputation of a land grant institution from the perspective of media professionals. Journal of Applied Communications, 95(2), 60-73 https://doi.org/10.4148/1051-0834.1180
  • Abrams, K., Meyers, C., Irani, T. & Baker, L. (2010). Branding the land grant university: Agricultural producers’ and community leaders’ awareness of the tripartite mission. Journal of Extension, 46(6). Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/2010december/a9.php

Contact Information

For additional questions or information, please contact:

Jason Bolton, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of UMaine Cooperative Extension

University of Maine Land Acknowledgement

The University of Maine recognizes that it is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation, where issues of water and territorial rights, and encroachment upon sacred sites, are ongoing. Penobscot homeland is connected to the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations — the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi’kmaq — through kinship, alliances and diplomacy. The university also recognizes that the Penobscot Nation and the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations are distinct, sovereign, legal and political entities with their own powers of self-governance and self-determination.