Cover (clockwise): Eve Brantley, Director, Water Resource Center; Wendiam Sawadgo, Extension Economist, Assistant Professor; Mitch Lazenby, Farmer; Kathy Coleman, Master Beekeeper; Becky Barlow, Interim Associate Dean & Assistant Director, Professor; Shanetria Brown Orr, Urban Regional Extension Agent
Who We Are
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is the outreach organization for the land grant mission of Auburn University and Alabama A&M University. Our educational programs grow from these two land grant university campuses to serve the people of Alabama and are funded by county, state, and federal budgets. We deliver science-based educational programs that enable people to improve their quality of life and economic well-being. Our information and programs are available online or in person in all 67 County Extension Offices and at teaching sites throughout Alabama communities.
Who We Serve
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome to participate in our programs. We foster economic growth, improve lives, and support future generations by offering science-based programs in agriculture, forestry, wildlife, and natural resources; human sciences; economic and community development; 4-H and youth development; and urban affairs.
Our Value to Alabama
Our value is truth. It is the security of knowing that Extension information has been tested and can be trusted.
Extension programs are based on proven information and methods, with new knowledge growing from scientific exploration at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, and a network of land grant universities across the nation. Quite simply, we don’t guess. Science is the foundation of Extension programs. The commitment to truth is the core of our mission to help Alabama find the right answers to tough questions and new opportunities.
The 2022–2026 Strategic Plan addresses the efforts of every program, county, academic department, and employee. It establishes the priorities of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
This strategic plan for Alabama Extension was developed by a committee of 36 employees broadly representative of the entire organization and includes ideas gathered from throughout the organization. It is Alabama Extension’s broad road map to a successful future and is focused on the five-year period of 2022 through 2026. The purpose of the plan is to position Alabama Extension to serve the needs of Alabamians by identifying strategic intent in the form of a small set of action priorities that can be used to guide programmatic, organizational, and budgetary decisions. Upon adoption of this plan, Alabama Extension will develop—during its annual planning and budgetary processes—tactical plans to move each of these action priorities forward.
The methodology used to formulate this plan was to (1) affirm a mission statement describing our purpose; (2) affirm a vision statement specifying how we desire to be viewed by others and ourselves; (3) affirm a statement of values outlining what we hold dear and how we intend to operate; (4) conduct a broad environmental scan to identify important trends we believe will impact Alabama Extension over the next five years; (5) consider those trends and identify a list of important external opportunities and threats for Alabama Extension; (6) critically review our organization’s processes and procedures to identify internal strengths and weaknesses that must be addressed as we seek to pursue opportunities and guard against threats; and (7) determine those critical action priorities that we must begin pursuing right now if we are to thrive in the future.
We identified key external priorities in (1) Programming, (2) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and (3) Marketing; plus important internal priorities in the areas of (4) Stewardship of Resources, (5) Cooperation, (6) Alabama Extension Employee Workforce Development, and (7) Technology.
Today, this strategic plan is a proposal. Before we implement it, it is critical that we share these thoughts with the people of Alabama and ask for your input. As you consider this plan, please consider the priorities of your organization. How do we connect with your goals? How can we strengthen our relationship? How can we make a difference in the lives of people who call Alabama home?
Please share your thoughts with us so that together we can build an even stronger future. A QR code on the back page will take you to our survey.
Transforming lives through science-based information, practical solutions, and meaningful experiences.
Serving communities to grow a better Alabama and a better world.
We exist to serve and share knowledge. We seek to understand the needs of those who depend on us and to exceed their expectations.
We work as a team. We listen, inspire, challenge, and support one another.
We value everyone. We celebrate and respect the uniqueness of all people and the communities we serve.
We own the results. We meet our personal and organizational commitments.
We do the right thing. We are honest, transparent, and trustworthy to our stakeholders and each other.
Our strategic program priorities are as follows:
1. Educational Programming
a. Remain true to our commitment to science-based knowledge as the foundation for all programs, educational information, and decisions. We must speak and practice the truth, which is the hallmark of our credibility.
b. Improve programmatic ability to respond to emerging issues including climate change, mental health, human sciences, community resource development, life skills, agricultural production, family, financial literacy, and workforce development. Our value to society should be our ability to serve as the go-to institution with information about all facets of life.
c. Examine and evaluate how Extension programs are delivered through priority program teams. Ensure that resources continue to be focused on critical needs in these areas:
i. Agriculture, Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources—from producers to consumers and partner organizations.
ii. Human Sciences Extension—for all ages— financial education, health, nutrition, stress management, coping skills, communication, and anger management.
iii. Alabama 4-H—Animals and Agriculture, Creative Arts, Environmental Education, Healthy Living, Leadership and Citizenship, Outdoor Education, Science and Technology, Alabama 4-H Center, and the Alabama 4-H Science School.
iv. Community and Resource Development— civic engagement, strategic planning, tourism, and community vitality.
v. Emerging issues that present opportunities or threats to the people of Alabama—e.g., climate resilience, human health, etc.
2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
a. Develop a culture of inclusive excellence that models principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
b. Internet access is an equal access issue. Alabama Extension will support concepts that bring broadband access to all communities.
c. Continue to develop and provide learning materials for people with disabilities and multilingual clients.
d. Increase our connection to young adults, underrepresented and underserved groups, and urban audiences.
a. Develop a culture of marketing and customer service, where all employees are involved in telling the story and successes of Alabama Extension. Encourage employees to articulate the value of ACES programming as Return on Investment and other systematic outcome and process measurements. Create a statewide marketing plan.
b. Prioritize investments in marketing, staffing, and technology to ensure that the Alabama Extension brand is well known as an efficiently delivered, competitive source of science-based information in the marketplace of ideas.
c. Strategically grow and coordinate social media involvement to reach more people, especially younger audiences. Create a statewide social media plan.
d. Seek efficiencies through increased use of technology to deliver programs. Leverage web, social media, news media, podcasts, video, and other media platforms to disseminate science-based information.
e. Communicate frequently with both internal and external audiences.
4. Stewardship of Resources
a. Examine organizational structures and processes within Extension to simplify and ensure efficiency, sustainability, and transparency. Credible practices are the foundation of credible programs. Continuous improvement should be intentional, eliminating wasteful practices and improving efficiency. Establish opportunities for employee involvement and feedback.
b. Find ways to increase funding streams, improve employee grantsmanship, and increase external support. Coordinate fundraising with foundations representing universities and 4-H.
c. Offer staff training to foster increased grant activity, better grant management, and ultimately increased support for Extension programs. Improve understanding of ways that grant money can be spent.
a. Continue to strengthen and build upon the cooperation and coordination between Alabama Extension at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, and Tuskegee University.
b. Foster greater collaboration among County Extension Offices to include all personnel (Specialists, Regional Extension Agents, County Extension Coordinators, administrative staff, Agent Assistants, and administrative/professional support staff), and Extension programming.
c. Explore new partnerships with additional academic departments at parent institutions to broaden program resources available to Alabamians.
d. Seek opportunities by directors to communicate clear boundaries, strengthen partner relationships, and bring groups together.
6. ACES Employee Workforce Development
a. Improve recruitment efforts across the board through competitive salaries, the employee benefits package, and improved onboarding.
i. Develop additional incentives in the form of nonmonetary compensation, including apparel, special day off, etc.
ii. Create new recruitment efforts that could involve both campuses and include student internships, ACES participation in freshman orientation, development of an Extension 101 Class in the universities, promotion of Extension as a career option on both campuses, and other avenues.
b. Retain high-quality, passionate employees through consistent and effective onboarding and training, professional development, mentorship, promotion, retention as well as balanced and competitive compensation.
c. Evaluate Extension workload in these areas:
i. Geographic area covered by certain job classifications.
ii. Scope of supervision may be too broad to provide adequate support for employees.
iii. Continue reviewing the career ladder matrix and the promotion process for potential improvements.
d. Foster employee retention, promotion, and hiring from within.
a. Continue to improve Alabama Extension technology infrastructure and security. Ensure that county office technology is current and secure and that internet services perform effectively.
b. Offer training to clients on computer software that supports Extension’s educational programs. Foster a better understanding among clients of how computer technology can improve their lives and businesses.
c. Continue to explore and expand software and technology that fosters efficiency and transparency. Devise budgetary processes that do not disadvantage counties with more limited local funding support.
d. Implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track services provided to specific clients, foster better client engagement, and improve business continuity when there is staff turnover.
e. Take steps to improve search engine optimization for the ACES website.
Improving Quality of Life and Economic Well-Being in Every Alabama Community
600* Full-time employees, including statewide, regional, and county educators and support staff (* Confirmed March 1, 2022)
67 County Offices | 09 Urban Centers | 06 Research and Extension Centers
02 Plant Diagnostic Laboratories | 01 4-H Center | 01 Family Life Center
01 Agribition Center | 01 Graham Farm and Nature Center | 01 Alabama Green Industry Training Center
Research-based programs, materials, and educational activities
Positive relationships with clients, communities, partners, and stakeholders
Relevant programming that addresses current societal challenges and opportunities
We are committed to ensuring that all people we serve have access to science-based information that improves quality of life and economic well-being in a way that connects and inspires continued advancement in every community.
New March 2022, 2022–2026 Strategic Plan: Extending Knowledge, Improving Lives, ACES-2653