Terry, R.D., and Osborne, E. (2015). Fundamental dimensions and essential elements of exemplary local extension units. Journal of Agricultural Education, 56(2), 43-63. doi: 10.5032/jae.2015.02043
Collaborative efforts between federal, state, and local government agencies enable local Extension units to deliver a high level of educational opportunities to local citizens. These units represent land-grant institutions by delivering non-formal education that aim to address local, regional, and state concerns. The purpose of this study was to establish consensus that defines the characteristics of an exemplary local Extension unit of the Cooperative Extension Service. This effort is significant because the extent to which these Extension partners have agreed on the components of successful Extension units has never been clearly defined and was unknown. Determining the characteristics of an exemplary local Extension unit will facilitate consistency in the delivery of non-formal education through Extension. Using a modified Delphi technique to survey administrators responsible for the operation of the local Extension unit, this study identified six fundamental dimensions of an exemplary local Extension unit: adequate facilities and infrastructure, well-prepared Extension educators, well-developed educational programs, organizational accountability, effective county unit leadership, and adequate financial capacity. Within these six fundamental dimensions, the study further identified 77 essential elements of exemplary local Extension units. Results of this study will provide the foundation for the development of standards to guide the improvement of local Extension offices.