Why it is important

Extension can achieve change in environments often considered too difficult when using other approaches.
Extension works where other approaches fail because it uses community knowledge, skills and resources so that solutions are appropriate for the audience.

Participation in the decision making process creates understanding of what needs to be done and why. This reduces the potential for conflict in extension programs and provides an easy way to resolve differences of opinion through discussion.

Creating change though is of limited value unless it can be sustained and built on over time.

A real strength of extension is achieving sustainable change by involving and gaining a strong commitment from the people in the community. This gives them greater ownership and control over their own destiny. It also motivates them to learn about the issues and better utilise community knowledge, skills and resources.

The business case

The value of extension in primary industries has been clearly demonstrated through a number of detailed evaluation studies. 

For people involved in the change process the value of extension is self-evident.

If carried out properly extension is a low risk activity. The two most important areas where risk needs to be managed are:
  • Engagement of communities
  • Timeliness of activities
Engagement involves working closely with the community to develop a partnership. By working as a partnership risks can be more easily identified and managed. Inadequate engagement often leads to a lack of understanding of local circumstances increasing the risk that mistakes will be made.

   


Timeliness of activities can also pose a risk to the successful outcome of an extension program. There is no point in working on water efficiency in irrigation systems if the community is experiencing a flood! 

Some issues that determine the best time to carry out an extension program cannot be predicted. Flexibility is the key to reducing any risk. The extension worker is in an excellent position to understand what needs to be done if they have the flexibility to adjust their work program to accommodate changing circumstances.

An extension program will have a relatively low risk of failure if carried out correctly.