Making Time for Innovation in 2015

I would like to introduce Gwyn Shelle, Instructional Technologist for Michigan State University Extension, and thank her for guest blogging this month, she shares her experience into the value of relationship building on her MY Horse University project. I highly recommend you connect with and follow Gwyn on Twitter (@gwynsterr). – Paul Hill

Recently MSU Global (a strategy unit at Michigan State University) invited Dr. Christine Skelly, Dr. Karen Waite, and I to participate in an informal research process where we reflected on innovation as it relates to the My Horse University project, a 10-year Michigan State University Extension online equine program. The conversation was inspiring as we reminisced about how an idea back in 2005 grew into a national program and a model for building an array of online resources, education, and outreach methods.

As we explored some of our successes and failures (always kind of intimidating to talk about failures but this is probably where we learn the most) our conversation turned to the core innovations of this project. What were the results? What were we proud of? What did we do that was more of a learning experience than a success?

We all agreed that one of our biggest innovations resulting from the My Horse University project has been the relationships we have built with colleagues from Michigan State University, other universities, private industry, and especially through our partnership with eXtension HorseQuest. These relationships have resulted in grant and sponsorship funding, new technology tools, and building an international community of learners – as well as transforming the experiences of horse owners, professionals, and enthusiasts through science-based knowledge.

The innovation of relationship building through the MHU project was evident at the eXtension HorseQuest Community of Practice meeting I attended this month that included almost 30 equine experts from across the country. At the end of each day everyone individually reported on what they accomplished and after three days we had grant proposals started, conference proposal ideas formulating, reviewed new apps created by team members, and developed online curriculum. We also had fun brainstorming future technologies…could sensors be used in water buckets to let horse owners know how much water their horse was drinking throughout the day? How could wearable technology track data for someone working on a farm or riding horses?

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The 2015 eXtension HorseQuest CoP Meeting – Louisville, KY

Of course relationship building is just one possible aspect of innovation. I’ve worked for MSU Extension for about 6 months and I’ve enjoyed seeing innovations such as strategy building that will allow people and organizations to apply sustainable practices, or researching how we can use social media outlets – such as Tweet-ups – to access new audiences, thinking of new ways to improve existing programs to increase quality and meet new audiences, or the development of focused work teams based on hours of employee listening sessions.

As 21st century extension workers how can we leverage innovation to improve our programs and the experiences of the people we influence? Maybe innovation for you will be learning new tools, exploring technologies, or maybe it will focus on teamwork and the communities that surround us. Don’t be afraid to create your own teams, build new relationships, and go outside of your existing circles. As you define goals for 2015 make sure to set aside time for a little innovation.

Gwyn Shelle
Instructional Technologist
Michigan State University Extension

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