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Public Talk, Public Action: Advancing Civic Capacity to Tackle Tough Issues

Helping communities examine public issues -- such as land use, water quality, education, food access, health care, and economic development -- can be challenging to Extension professionals. Without question, many of these issues can be complex and can cut across a range of academic disciplines and public values. They can result in contentious discourse that causes rancor and fragments communities. Reaching consensus on how best to address these public issues is tough work. If you are faced with working with communities struggling with contentious issues, but don’t have a clear grasp on how to work side by side with local people and groups to deliberate and act on matters of importance, then this is the webinar for you!

A new eXtension professional development community of practice (PDCoP) called “Public Talk, Public Action: Advancing Civic Capacity to Tackle Tough Issues” has been approved and the core team is anxious to get this effort off the ground. The PDCoP is designed to help Extension professionals and other community development practitioners gain new skills, competencies, and experiences related to citizen-centered approaches – efforts that can either serve as a core or complementary part of their educational outreach activities. Examples of what we mean by “public talk” include civic discourse, collaborative problem solving, and deliberative dialogue. It is not a form of teaching, but one of creating trusting relationships from which thoughtful sharing of ideas and values can evolve through respectful public conversation. Public talk can bring citizens together around issues of mutual concern so that they can explore critical issues facing their organizations or communities, and in the process, discover the benefits of working collectively. This includes, of course, finding ways for “public talk” to lead to “public action.”

If you are searching for a framework and tools that will strengthen your ability to catalyze or deepen “public talk” around tough issues in your community, or if you are interested in learning how such strategies might prevent issues from become “difficult” problems in the first place, then this is the eXtension community of practice for you.

What will be covered in the webinar? For one, we’ll address the primary objectives of this new PDCoP. Next, we’d like to hear of any experiences you may have had using citizen-centered strategies as part of your Extension work. If you have developed materials that relate to the new PDCoP, we would like to know about these! Of course, we want to spend time in the webinar hearing from you – your thoughts and ideas about this new eXtension initiative.

If the topic is new to you and you want to explore the possibility of being part of this new eXtension team, then please take part in the webinar. We want your input on the type of training activities and educational resources that you believe will help you embrace “public talk and public action” as part of your work.

For more information, please contact Dr. Wynne Wright (

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