My friend Steve Judd told me that at events like the eXtension National Conference (which we are both currently attending) he vascilates between moments of euphoria and moments of doubt. I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Being surrounded by smart, energetic people sharing new ideas is exciting. It makes me incredibly optimistic about the future of cooperative extension and nearly giddy over the opportunities we have to change the world for the better. Then there is the moment when the doubt creeps in. Someone says, "Yeah, that sounds great, but what about our funding?" or "I'd love to do that, but I don't have the time."
I think sometimes when we say "working differently," we mean "doing more." To me "working differently" means changing what we do; not changing our purpose, but changing the things we do to fulfill that purpose. That probably means changing our priorities, changing how we are funded and making other significant changes.
We talk about transformational education but focus on deliverables. We talk about engagement but measure website hits and attendees. We talk about solving complex problems but rely on a an development and evaluation framework ill-equipped to address complexity.
And so it goes (thanks, Kurt Vonnegut) from optimism to doubt and back again. I might not always have faith that we will have the organizational will and courage to make the changes before us, but I do have faith in the people. The creative, dedicated people who are working differently even when it means doing more fill me with unbridled optimism and make me believe we can change.
(image by marsmet543, http://www.flickr.com/photos/71744937@N07/7274551070/, used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)