Responding in a time of crisis: Assessing extension efforts during COVID-19
Keywords:organizational capacity, emergency response, needs assessment
Extension was forced to rapidly adjust its efforts and program delivery methods to respond to clientele needs during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The pandemic presents a range of unique challenges to Extension including revisions to resource allocations and shifts in programmatic focus. Guided by a needs assessment framework, this paper assesses the rapid response of Utah State University (USU) Extension to meet residents needs during COVID-19. This correlational study gathered data from 199 Extension professionals (n = 199) at USU Extension. Findings show Extension professionals had good capacity to implement outreach activities related to online education, engaging residents, and external partnerships. Further, Extension took rapid actions in several areas in response to COVID-19, including providing online learning activities for youth, and conducting online classes in place of traditional face-to-face classes. Findings show professionals’ outreach capacity was positively related to the total number of actions taken in response to COVID-19. Extension professionals addressed COVID-19 topics such as telehealth, temporary homeschooling kids, and stress management. This study demonstrates the adaptability of Extension to an unpredictable event and provides a framework to assess response. Findings are geared towards effective resource allocation to support Extension’s role in meeting residents’ needs during COVID-19.
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