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NC State Extension

Faculty Cafe

On October 23, 2013 staff of NC Thrive hosted the first ever Community Development Faculty Café at the J Raulston Arboretum. Representatives of all seven colleges at NCSU attended this casual afternoon session which focused on how the university can become more supportive of N.C. Cooperative Extension’s community development programming. Set forth below are excerpts from the conversation that took place that afternoon.

“Not too long ago the land grant university system took a good look at itself and questioned whether it was doing enough in terms of community engagement. Several initiatives have been deployed throughout the country to address this concern, including here at NCSU. What we are doing here today at this Faculty Cafe will build on those efforts.

NC Thrive is a new community development program and as a new program, we want it to have a huge impact on NC communities and on the university. In addition, as a new program, we are still trying to figure out who we are – our strengths, our limitations, and our opportunities. Clearly, a huge strength is the research and support potential this university can bring to the program, including providing hands-on engagement opportunities for our students. A huge limitation is we don’t know what that potential is. I’m confident our opportunities to do good in the world are endless, but today and for some time yet to come, we’re going to try to figure out what we can and cannot do.

Economic developers work with small towns, community organizations, and groups of individuals within neighborhoods, big and small. They all have the same goal – to make their home a better place to live, work, and play. How they get there differs, and what works for one community may not work for another. 

What we hope for NC Thrive is for it to become a user-friendly program – one that faculty, extension personnel, communities, and individuals themselves feel comfortable navigating through as well as contributing to. Economic development in this country is changing. Not because it wants to, but because it has to. So, what we are looking for is what is working. What are the best practices, success stories, and bright ideas? And how do we make sure that our university engagement does not stop at providing a map to the road to recovery, but that we follow-up with support along the way?

Recent community and economic development research emphasizes how important it is to listen to the people we are supposed to be helping and give up on those who don’t want to be helped. Progress is only made when communities focus on their internal resources rather than waiting for someone to save them. Learning how to be resourceful, cooperative, and creative enables citizens to change from being victims to controlling their own destiny. Increasing self-empowerment among these communities is key, and that is what NC Thrive aims to do.

NC Thrive currently consists of a 3 person staff. Our services are currently described as:

Skills Training: Developing the skills and talents of the community members you work with is a good first step for ensuring the success of the community. NC Thrive offers a number of skills training opportunities for both emerging and existing leaders in your community: including mission, vision, and values, strategic planning, asset mapping, conflict management, and communication.

Community Mentoring: The staff of NC Thrive will be happy to answer questions regarding NC Thrive community development strategies and also has a limited capacity to mentor or “coach” a community on specific projects. For community mentoring on larger projects, we will require the payment of a reasonable fee for our services.

Direct Technical Assistance: NC Thrive staff welcomes the opportunity to facilitate on local or regional economic development planning initiatives as well as provide direct technical assistance on regional economic development plan implementation. Because of the significant time commitment involved we may charge a reasonable fee for this service.

Asset Mapping: The NC Thrive curriculum provides tools and examples of asset mapping strategies that can be used by Extension agents to aid in implementing new development initiatives.

Interdepartmental Resourcing/Networking:  Content for this topic will be developed from information gathered here at the Faculty Café. We encourage you to think both inside and outside of the box this afternoon. Only by working together can we be the best engaged university we can be.”

Discussion Questions

  • Proactively Addressing Common Critical Community Issues.
  • Leveraging NCSU Strengths for Community Development
  • Creating Intercollege Collaboration on Specific Community Projects
  • Creating True Community Partnership – Creating a Win-Win in NC
  • Communicating Cross College Success on Community Development Projects


The participants dove right in and generated an extensive list of ideas that emerged from the round table discussions. From the evaluation comments, we learned that on average each participant became newly acquainted with 5 or more faculty members.

  • 22 participants were interested in proactively addressing common critical community issues
  • 20 participants  were interested in leveraging NCSU strengths for community development
  • 21 were interested in developing cross college communication forums
  • 21 participants were interested in  collaboration on specific community development projects
  • 14 participants came away inspired and hopeful to see this move forward
  • 9 participants came away with new ideas
  • 13 participants said they want to help make it happen

Ideas Generated from the Discussion Questions

  • Develop a clearing house or resource/expert directory; something easy to access in all colleges.
  • Develop resource teams
  • Increase visibility of cross-college projects (maybe offering an incentive of some sort)
    • Create a TED event
    • Develop an annual forum/poster session to share our work
      • Share what doesn’t work, not just the successes
      • Offer more café’s related to a specific topic
      • Develop training for faculty on how to negotiate the system to make collaborations happen (using university offices, mentors)
        • Capitalize on department strengths (collaborate with units who are strong where we are weak and or combine strengths)
        • Design a plan to get people (market niche) used to paying for services
        • Offer a continuum of services from youth to adult to older adult
        • Leverage service learning/scholarship of engagement
        • Leverage communities with industries
        • Leverage engineers with business incubators
        • Develop learning communities
        • Collaborate on research, internship and entrepreneurship initiatives at the community level

Extension Opportunities

  • Link campus faculty and the Extension offices at the local community level
  • Provide access to Extension database for campus staff
  • Use annual extension conference to increase connections between colleges
  • Build extension identity from in-house student/employee orientation; how to encourage rebirthing communities
  • Offer alumni days in county so that Extension can meet alumni and alumni can learn what ex tension offers.
  • Also invite industry and commerce
    • How does NC State affect your life?
    • How does NC State impact your lives


  • Information overload
  • Time, revenue sharing for collaborations, staff support, need external resources to support collaborative efforts