SEPTEMBER 14, 2004

If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand. Confucious


Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) has been a viable organization for seventy -five years. From its early beginnings, ESP has adapted to meet the needs of its members. Initially ESP served as a fraternal organization for Extension professionals where they could share successes and mistakes, to improve Extension programs and better serve Extension clientele. Over the years, ESP has evolved to be the Cooperative Extension Professionals' Organization, serving the needs of its membership through professional improvement and recognition of excellence in Extension programming.

Presently ESP is confronted with many unprecedented challenges. Budgetary cuts have impacted the climate of the Extension system, resulting in lay offs and early retirements. More states are considering conducting programs through contracted program deliveries. New technology influences the way information is delivered.

The face of ESP membership is also changing. Over the last decade, ESP has lost over 2000 members. For the first time in its history, ESP has more life members than annual members. The reduced number of new members, coupled with the increase number of life members making single dues payments, changes the financial structure of ESP. The amount of dollars generated by the ESP Development Fund for member services has also been threatened by swings in the investment market.

These changes and others that are occurring present opportunities for ESP to take a critical look at where it is now, think creatively about what ESP wants and needs to be, and to recommend innovative strategies for implementation to remain a viable organization in the future.

Task Force Charge

The ESP Futuring Task Force was charged to explore where ESP is now, think creatively about what ESP wants and needs to be, and to recommend innovative strategies for implementation to remain a viable organization in the future. Suggested points for task force discussion included:

  • Structure and operation of the National Board
  • Structure and operation of the National Office
  • Structure and operation of the National Committees
  • Appropriate activities to support
  • Types of member services that provide greatest cost-to-benefit value
  • Financing of ESP and its activities


Bob Ohlensehlen, 2004 ESP President, presented the plans for creation of a Futuring Task Force at the 2003 Post Board Meeting at Galaxy Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The task force was to consist of three representatives from each region, with the ESP second vice-president serving as chair. Considerations for task force appointees included persons on the national board, national committees, and recommendations of individuals who would provide excellent input to the process. By the end of December 2003, a final list of appointees was approved and appointments were made.

In January 2004, the task force held its first teleconference call to discuss the charges to the task force and to develop a plan that would include gathering input from a representative cross section of ESP. The first step was to develop a survey that was conducted with participants attending the four 2004 JCEP Regional Leadership Workshops. Data from these surveys was collected, analyzed, and then reviewed by the task force members. Three major goal areas were identified - Membership, Professional Development, and National Leadership.   During May and June, task force members worked in sub-committees to further shape the goals, develop specific objectives for each goal, and identify recommended strategies for achieving objectives.The results of this work were then placed on the ESP web site for review by and comments from ESP members during July and August. Members were informed about the web site placement of the recommendations in an article in the July/August ESP Connection, and through email messages from the National Office to chapter leaders.

In an effort to gain additional information about life member needs and interests, a separate survey was designed and mailed as an insert with their copy of the July/August ESP Connection. Data from this survey is currently being summarized by one of the task force members. Information gained from this survey is to be used to help guide further decisions surrounding recommended strategies found in the final report.

The final report was presented to the ESP Board for approval at the 2004 ESP Pre-Board Meeting in Moline, IL. The final report was presented at the 2004 National Council Meeting in Moline, IL.

The ESP Futuring Task Force moves that the ESP Board of Directors accept this Final Report of the Futuring Task Force and that the goals, objectives, and strategies outlined in this report be reflected in the plans of work of the 2005 National Board and Committees.

Nancy Crago, Chair ESP Futuring Task Force

Task Force Members

Nancy Crago, 2nd VP, Chair
Debbie Amundsen, UT
Della Baker, SC
Gretchen Ferenz, NY
Michael McKinney, FL
Phillip Rosenlund, WY
Mark Russell, IN
Janice Stimpson, ID
Ellen Varley. MD
Judy Villard, OH
Stacey Warner, KS
Eleanor Wilson, VA

ESP Futuring Task Force Recommendations

Goal 1: Epsilon Sigma Phi envisions the characteristics and needs of the organization's future and potential annual and life members, and innovatively and resourcefully responds to those needs.

Objective 1. As the characteristics of its membership change, ESP increases its ability to be responsive to the needs of its annual members.


  1. Continue to provide support to state chapters by letting them know about resources.
    - Do this at JCEP regional workshops.
  2. Develop and conduct orientation training module for chapter leadership.  (Chapter Officers and Committee Chairs as needed)
    - Develop and distribute officer training module (physical and web based) to state representative at national meeting to take back to chapters.
    - ESP national leadership will use this module at JCEP regional meetings.
  3. Provide eligibility guidelines about annual membership and kinds of membership to state chapters.
    - Make this a part of annual meeting agenda.
    - Have in-depth discussion about membership eligibility (How tenure, professional status, etc. affects membership)
    - Examine alternatives. Assess what is being done across states and provide some guidelines.
    - Clarify existing policy and new recommendations for Members-at-Large, especially in regions were chapters are scarce and in states where chapters don't exist or are inactive.

Objective 2. As the characteristics of its membership change, ESP increases its ability to enhance and increase participation of its life members.


  1. Conduct a survey with life members to explore options for enhancing or increasing life member participation. Options to consider include:
    - Maintain existing committee structures and charge committees to address life member issues as a committee responsibility.
    - Establish a subcommittee of an existing National Committee (s). The members would hold a two- year term and focus on life and retiree member issues. Possible committee choices are Membership Recruitment and Retention or Public Issues.
    - Establish a Life Member Committee with a chair who would share equal status with the current regional vice presidents. This position would be elected every two years and could be open nationally or rotated between regions. This option will require additional funds to support it.
    - Eliminate 2nd Vice President position so obligation is only 3 years instead of 4.   Resources would be used to support a Life Member Committee Chair position on the ESP Board.
  2. Develop agenda at national conferences that appeals to life and retired members  legislative updates; updated knowledge on retirement issues.
  3. Conduct a state-by -state assessment to learn ways life members are involved at the state level.
  4. Get information from state chapter reports on how they involve life members.


Objective 3. As the characteristics of employees of the Cooperative Extension System continue to change, ESP increases its ability to be responsive to the needs of non-members and potential members.


  1. The professional development committee will develop and implement a mentoring system for mentoring by annual members to potential members.
    This will be an established process
    - State to state & chapter to chapter
    -  Administrator to administrator
    - Life/annual member to new member
  2. Explore the concept of ESP being an umbrella organization, which provides leadership for JCEP.
  3. Create a meaningful tagline for ESP (serves all Extension professionals) and use it in marketing ESP  Identify what ESP does well and develop a strategy of how to market this to everyone.   Do a national image search encouraging someone to come up with a new logo - Provide incentive or reward (annual meeting registration) to person whose design is selected to be a part of introducing new image at annual meeting - Introduce to all Extension staff at JCEP Regional meetings.
  4. Identify key niches and market this to everyone.
  5. Develop a unique package on Extension concept, history of the land grant system and what it is. ESP conduct program at the chapter level for new employees.
  6. Market what ESP is to other associations.
    - ESP state leadership will work with other state associations - ESP will contribute this package to other associations.
    - Explore reduction of fees for joint membership, some kind of shared membership fee with other Extension professional associations.

Goal 2: Epsilon Sigma Phi is recognized as the Extension system provider and facilitator of professional development that focuses on the Extension organization and roles of the Extension professional.

Objective 1. ESP will examine opportunities for multi-state, multi-disciplinary professional development programs and deliver these programs as appropriate.


  1. Design programs that show impact.
  2. Market Extension by sharing successful Extension programs.
  3. Design relevant impact statements for local, state, national and international publication.
  4. Demonstrating proactive lobbying techniques for communicating with local, state, national and international agencies and organizations.
  5. Implementing mentoring programs among current Extension workers and retirees.

Objective 2. ESP will utilize technology to provide professional development to members and non-members within the Extension organization.


  1. Conduct multi-county and multi- state videoconferencing of professional development programs.
  2. Provide online professional development programs using learning management systems, such as WebCT and e-Extension.
  3. Utilize streaming video and/or audio of speakers at national meetings, JCEP and campus programs.
  4. Utilize web conferencing programs to facilitate program planning and evaluation.

Objective 3. Sponsor joint professional development programs with other Extension associations at the local, regional and national level.

Objective 4. Provide resources, including World Wide Web links, for program planning as well as low or no cost professional development.

Objective 5. ESP will continue to encourage and assist members to work collaboratively to take advantage of Epsilon Sigma Phi opportunities and benefits.


  1. Applications for professional development grants from Epsilon Sigma Phi and other funding sources.
  2. Publication of articles about successful Extension programs and professionals in professional, peer-reviewed journals.
  3. Applications/nominations for recognition for successful Extension programs from Epsilon Sigma Phi, other Extension organizations, and other professional and educational organizations

Objective 6. ESP will develop the capacity to meet the professional development needs of all its members.


  1. Assess the professional development needs and interests of new members.
  2. Provide professional development for life members/retirees. These programs could include such topics as:
    - Successful consulting and other retirement career opportunities
    - Financial security in retirement
    - Long term health care options
    - Travel opportunities
  3. Encourage life members/retirees to present professional development sessions during the Epsilon Sigma Phi National Meeting.

Goal 3: ESP will provide national leadership in leadership development for Extension professional associations.

Objective 1. ESP will develop its capacity to meet the future leadership needs of all Extension  professionals, regardless of discipline or program area.


  1. Offer leadership training for national officers
  2. Offer programs to continually strengthen leaders at national meetings and through electronic mediated formats. (Programs might include: Fostering Professionalism and   Career Development; Designing High Impact Programs with Appeal, and Responding to Change).
  3. Conduct leadership development programs in support of Extension and the land grant mission.
  4. Develop more training materials on mentoring etc.
  5. ESP will take the initiative to collaborate with other national and state level professional organizations (to work together on facilitation, joint sponsorship of programs, etc.) to make more efficient national and state level leadership
  6. Make policy recommendation to broaden ESP's role to one that would encourage formation of JCEP in states
  7. Help develop the JCEP concept within states.
  8. Work in collaboration with other USDA agencies to enhance the efficiencies of educational systems, ie. e-Extension.

Objective 2: ESP will partner with administration in demonstrating a commitment to a strong future for the land-grant universities and Extension system.


  1. Engage Administrators and all Extension association leaders in quarterly conversations.
  2. Include feedback from Extension Administration in reports.
  3. Educate incoming leadership of Extension about the importance of professional organizations through quarterly correspondence.
  4. Partner with Extension administration to offer internship to develop legislative liaisons to tell the story of the land- grant university and the Extension system.
  5. Support efforts to define Extension work and changing roles of Extension professionals.