Responding to citizen inquires: A new electronic mailing list expands CCE Community Horticulture Diagnostic Network (CHDN)
CALS Impact Statement
More than 100,000 direct citizen contacts are made each year by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) county staff fielding inquiries related to home and garden issues. A new electronic mailing list allows CCE staff to resourcefully and effectively respond to these citizen inquiries in a timely manner, as well as keep them informed on problems particular to the state.
New York State citizens rely on their local Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) staff to provide current and quality research-based information to meet their needs. Collectively, county CCE staff make over 100,000 direct citizen contacts each year, fielding inquiries related to home and garden issues. Some inquiries are accompanied by plant material, insects, pests, or other specimens that are unfamiliar to county staff. Prior to 2006, county staff lacked a readily accessible avenue for tapping the experiences and expertise of their colleagues in other counties to obtain a quick answer to these inquiries. Identifying an efficiently way to address citizens inquiries in a timely manner will enhance CCE`s ability to build a positive relationship with NYS citizens. Moreover, it will reduce the amount of time CCE staff spend researching responses to inquiries which their colleagues in other parts of the state already have experience addressing.
Through the Community Horticulture Program Work Team, CCE campus and county staff established a new Community Horticulture Diagnostic Network through the electronic mailing list (cce-hortdiagnostic-l). This network is open to all CCE campus and county staff and faculty. Valued volunteers who are active in diagnosing issues that citizens bring to county offices must work through the supervising CCE staff person to participate in the network. This network is promoted through the Community Horticulture e-Newsletter as well as by word of mouth. Any CCE staff member who has joined the list can post questions to the list. List members are encouraged to send digital photos and detailed description along with their questions. Members are also encouraged to send their insightful replies to other members' postings if they can help with an answer or offer resource that could assist.
In this pilot year (2006) 50 CCE campus and county staff have joined cce-hortdiagnostic-l. More than 50 questions have been posted to the list and generated nearly 200 responses. Member feedback indicates the network is a valuable tool for resourcefully and effectively responding to inquiries, learning from colleagues and keeping informed on specific problems. Some member feedback:
"It takes a minute or less to post an inquiry and read the answer. It might take hours of "in office" research to arrive at the same result."
"I can get an answer from my peers in minutes (rather than hours or days) and pass it on to a client. If it took me a week to get the answer, the pest problem might be even bigger, the plant dead, or the client w"uld have sprayed something in haste, or looked elsewhere for an answer."
"Sitting here, "eading th"se e-mails and seeing the pictures that"people have snapped of insects and diseases, I get the sense that there is a whole state full of cooperative extension employees out there doing what I`m doing. And that`s great. It helps disperse the sense of isolation as well as being a great way to tap into Cornell resources."
"[Diagnostic staff] are scattered throughout New York and are mostly isolated from other colleagues that can offer a lead or second opinion. This list is a useful and efficient way to share cases and experience with others with similar responsibilities."
"[This e-list] has broadened my knowledge and allowed me to get to know peers in other counties, all at my pace."