is Public Issues Education or PIE?
Public issues are matters of widespread
concern that frequently involve disagreement and controversy arising from
differences in interests, beliefs and values. The central goal of
public issues education is to deliver educational programs designed to
enhance society's capacity to understand and address public issues.
is OSU Extension's role in PIE?
The mission of Ohio State University
Extension, like Extension across the nation, is to help people improve
their lives through an educational process using scientific knowledge focused
on identified issues and needs. People's lives can be improved by
providing them with information and training which they use to pursue their
own interests, and/or a process that allows them to work with others in
their community to improve their collective well-being. Extension
has historically devoted most of its effort to the information and training
One process approach received new
prominence within Extension in 1992 with the publication of " Public Issues
Education: The Cooperative Extension System's Role in Addressing Public
Issues." This position statement reviewed Extension's history
with public issues, and asserted the increased importance of public issues
education in the twenty-first century.
OSU Extension has also been actively
involved with public issues education for years. Current examples
include: community development programs on land use conflicts, family and
consumer sciences programming on food safety and on welfare reform, and
programs focused on the environmental and social impacts of large-scale
livestock operations. Conducting such programs may place Extension
professionals in controversial positions, but public issues education remains
a priority for OSU Extension..
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are the components of PIE?
Extension programming on public issues
includes the following types of activities:
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identifying emerging public issues
analyzing policy alternatives
gathering and disseminating information
about a public issue
designing a process for bringing together
key stakeholders involved in a public issue
developing discussion guides for use
at deliberative meetings and forums
convening and moderating public forums
designing dispute resolution processes
for polarized conflicts
What are the
Public issues frequently involve value-based
conflicts. In dealing with such issues, Extension needs to be viewed
by the public as fair, balanced and inclusive. If an Extension professional
plays an active role in such a dispute by providing information that appears
to support one side, he/she will likely be viewed as favoring that side.
The fact that the information is " scientifically- derived" will not overcome
this problem. An effective issues education program is one that serves
the information needs of all the interests involved.
A related problem can arise for Extension
professionals who provide ongoing advice and support to client groups (economic
development groups, commodity groups, etc.). When public issues emerge
involving the interests of these groups, it is particularly difficult for
closely allied Extension professionals to avoid the appearance of bias.
In such situations it may be necessary to involve other Extension professionals
to play the role of public issue educator.
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roles can we play?
While it is best to monitor emerging
community issues and design a public issues education program as early
as possible, it is possible to play an educational role throughout the
progression of a public issue. The diverse possible roles to be played
can best be conceived as "content roles," those deriving from academic
expertise; and "process roles," which involve both knowledge of group processes
and the experience needed to use these processes appropriately in politically
issue monitor - identifying emerging
information provider - providing objective
information on an issue to the public
technical advisor - interpreting
information for stakeholders
policy analyst - analyzing policy alternatives
with their likely consequences
issue researcher - conducting applied
research, such as public opinion polls
stakeholder/public position analyst -
identifying people's interest in the issue
meeting convener/facilitator - bringing
stakeholders together to seek solutions
public forums convener/moderator - developing
a process to involve the public in seeking solutions for a public issue
designer/facilitator of a formal dispute
resolution process - functioning as part of a trained Extension team in
dealing with polarized disputes
Individual Extension professionals,
in consultation with supervisors and advisory committees, will need to
decide what role to play on any particular public issue. The necessity
of remaining neutral may lead some county extension faculty/staff to not
get involved with some issues. In most cases, it is better to put together
an Extension team to design and deliver the full range of programming.
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For More Information
For more information regarding Public Issues Education please contact Dave Patton through
the OSU Extension Community Development office, 25 Agricultural Administration Bldg, 2120 Fyffe Rd, Columbus,
OH 43210. Phone #: 614-292-8436 or email email@example.com.
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