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New Publication - The Community Seminar Series Playbook: A model for community outreach and student development

Webinars offer a convenient and engaging way for people to learn and connect with others. As a result, they have become a vital part of Extension's offerings. A new playbook makes it easy to organize virtual Extension programs, providing step-by-step instructions on everything from choosing a topic to promoting your event.

"The Community Seminar Series Playbook: A model for community outreach and student development" was created by a team from the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute (IHSI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois Extension. It's the latest publication released by the Extension Foundation for the Cooperative Extension Service. It was made possible with funding from the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) grant program.

The 13-page playbook describes the Community Seminar Series (CSS) model, which provides valuable, evidence-based health and well-being information to the general public while helping graduate students and postdoctoral researchers develop vital public engagement and science communication skills. More than 9,000 individuals have participated in the program.

The playbook provides detailed information about how the team developed the series. It explores the following topics:

  • Series development (gathering presenters, planning promoting sessions, registering participants);

  • Webinar development (choosing topics, creating webinars, delivering content);

  • Series wrap-up (debriefing, evaluation, planning future sessions); and

  • Best practices in creating programs that serve the public and also provide mentoring opportunities for students and CE professionals

In addition to providing step-by-step instructions, the playbook includes materials to help you build your own community seminar series, including templates, marketing flyers, forms, and other materials. It will also be a valuable resource for those interested in creating opportunities for community engagement, science communication, and mentorship.

The team that created the IHSI CSS and this playbook includes Chelsey Byers, MA (Family Life Educator, Illinois Extension); Kelsey Hassevoort, Ph.D. (formerly the Research Development Manager, IHSI); Max Wallace, BS (Graduate Coordinator, IHSI); and Dee Walls, MA (Extension Outreach Associate, Illinois Extension).

The Extension Foundation has recently added new titles to its library. Topics include creating digital dashboards and resource hubs, Indigenous food sovereignty, DEI, mass media campaigns, game-based education, innovating curriculum, prescribed fire, emergency preparation and response, understanding food labels, and building the resilience of farm and farm families. You can find the entire library of publications here.

Related Reading:

A Template for Better Health: Diabetes Prevention Program Toolkit

A Case Study of How to Use Digital Dashboards to Improve Program Implementation and Evaluation

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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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