Innovation in Extension

Ohio State University Extension has been at the forefront of transforming our organizational culture in Extension. From the creation of a first-of-its-kind Extension Educational Technology unit, to serving on national committees charged with tackling systemic challenges and opportunities in innovation, OSUE has been involved every step of the way since 2012.

Innovate Extension

In May 2016, the Ohio State University Extension Ed Tech Unit hosted the first Innovate Extension event as an Extension-only post-event to OSU’s Innovate Conference. This hackathon-style event was an opportunity for faculty and staff to network, discuss, and develop innovative ideas for Extension’s greatest challenges and opportunities. Extension professionals at all levels of the organization were invited to develop small, cross-programmatic teams and “hack” their way through an idea. From ideation to pitch, event participants had a dedicated work session to develop and refine their ideas before pitching a proposal to OSU Extension administration for potential funding. The response was overwhelming. During our first year, nearly 150 people joined together across 24 teams. OSUE administrators awarded more than $34,000 among the top three teams to continue idea development and deployment.

Since then, Innovate Extension events have been hosted in three additional states – North Dakota, Utah, and Oregon – with an additional event being planned in Delaware for October 2017. These events have been funded, in part, by the eXtension Foundation. Additionally, Ohio State University Extension hosted their second Innovate Extension event in May 2017 with the event theme UrbanX. The UrbanX theme was selected to allow participants to focus on Ohio’s unique urban challenges and opportunities that intersect across all communities, rural and urban alike.

Event recaps for each state are below.

Ohio State University Extension

2017 Innovate Ohio State University Extension event recap

2016 Innovate Ohio State University Extension event recap

North Dakota State University Extension

2016 Innovate North Dakota State University Extension event recap

Utah State University Extension

Oregon State University Extension

2017 Innovate Oregon State University Extension event recap

Learn more about how Innovate Extension events are providing real impact in work and program development throughout Extension.


Other Innovation Initiatives and Projects

We Don’t Have Time for Innovation 2017 Keynote Series (coming soon)

eXtension Educational Technology Learning Network

ECOP Innovation in Extension Task Force

Extension Horizon Report 2016 – 2021

Questions about the OSUE Ed Tech unit’s involvement in innovation in Extension? Contact Jamie or Danae.








Innovate Extension Provides Real Impact

OSU Extension hosted the very first Innovate Extension event in May 2016. Since then, the reach and impact of our Innovate Extension events has grown. North Dakota State University Extension, Utah State University Extension, and Oregon State University Extension have each hosted their own Innovate Extension event funded, in part, by the eXtension Foundation. Additionally, Delaware State University Extension will host their inaugural Innovate event in October 2017 and other state universities like Michigan State, Missouri State, and Texas A&M have each expressed interest in hosting similar hackathon-style events in the near future.

Our 2017 Innovate Extension event in Ohio attracted new Extension participants and created the opportunity for teams to work with the most innovative community and business leaders from throughout the Columbus region. The integration of innovators from outside Extension was a huge hit and created lasting impact for our teams as they ideated, designed, and pitched their projects.

Check out the videos below from our 2017 Innovate Extension coaches and judges to learn about the impact of these hackathon-style events.

What is a Hackathon?

How Has Innovate Extension Benefited You?

Our Innovate Extension events focus on cross-programmatic collaboration, creativity, and innovation. Here are a few ways your OSU Extension colleagues are thinking and working differently as a result of attending an Innovate Extension event:

How has Innovate Extension changed the way you identify or develop programs?

“I seek out input from others more. I ask people what they think; often they will see something I don’t.”

“More time, research, and group discussion are part of developing a program.”

How has Innovate Extension changed how you approach teamwork?

“We recognize individual differences and strengths of coworkers and seek everyone’s ideas before proceeding.”

“I try to encourage all voices on the team, especially from ones normally more quiet.”

Describe how participating in Innovate Extension has allowed you to be more creative or innovative in your Extension work.

“Participating in the program helped me think outside the box and encouraged the development of some creative programming ideas.”

“We are working on integrating more technology into our program, which has been successful. We will be doing an IRB and research study to see what differences it makes.”

What else would you like to tell us about your Innovate Extension experience?

“This session was just the start of what we need to do to change the culture of innovation within our system. Good job on getting it started. Let’s do even more next time!!”

How Can We Be More Innovative in Our Work?

Listen to what OSU Extension Director, Roger Rennekamp, had to say about how we can be more innovative in our work.

Check out what event participants had to say about their 2017 Innovate Extension experience:

2017 Innovate Extension Infographic

We are excitedly gearing up to plan and coordinate our 2018 Innovate Extension event. What would you like to see happen in 2018? Let us know by email or in the comments!

Questions or comments? Contact Danae or Jamie.




2017 Innovate Extension Recap

We’d like to extend a huge thank you and congratulations to everyone who participated in last week’s Innovate Extension UrbanX event! We are thrilled to have spent an entire day dedicated to innovation and creativity in Extension. Your ideas were inspiring!

After an energizing keynote workshop led by ImprovEdge, each team spent nearly 5 hours during the hackathon developing a unique and innovative idea to address a challenge or opportunity related to urban – rural interdependence both internal or external to Extension. Teams created “Zen Statements,” or concise overviews of their ideas, and then pitched their ideas, concepts, and projects to a panel of judges at the end of the event, which included Extension administrators as well as influential community members.

Judging Panel

Judging Panel Photo

Pictured (from left to right): Quintin Jesse, Ryan Schmiesing, Julie Fox, Jay Clouse, Roger Rennekamp, Jackie Kirby-Wilkins, Brad Gaolach, Donte Woods-Spikes, Ben Lewis, and Jerry Thomas

Coaches and Key Informants

Creative Coaches

Pictured (front row, left to right): Ashley Miller, Scott Sheeler, Chris Hill, Daphne Richards (Back row, left to right): Melissa Miller, Loren Stone, Dan Montour, Joshua David McClurg-Genevese, Ryan Wynkoop, Karen Jeannette, Bradd Anderson, Jamie Seger, Hunter McBrayer, Erin Powell, Josh Dallin, Anand Khurma, Mike Letscher, Mike Ong, George Li, Byron Roush

Below is a recap of our teams, awards, and events of the day:




City Smarties Team

City Smarties Team Photo

Team members: Beth Boomershine, Sue Hogan, Mark Light, Laquore Meadows

Coaches: David Staley and Mike Letscher

Zen Statement: The journey of bringing diverse youth together to be drivers of change in the Smart Cities Challenge

Sub-award: Best Use of Claymation Award

Community Collaborators Team

Community Collaborators Team Photo

Team members: Laura Akgerman, Ed Brown, Lisa Pfeifer

Coaches: Anand Khurma and Mike Ong

Zen Statement: An adaptive toolkit for gardeners of curated content enabling Extension Educators to deliver programming focusing on assistive design technologies

Sub-award: Best Adaptability Award

Extension Leadership Network Team

Extension Leadership Network Team Photo

Team members: Laura Fuller, Tim McDermott, Brian Raison

Coaches: Ryan Wynkoop and Byron Roush

Zen Statement: A statewide network for Extension professionals that shares innovative leadership programs, resources, ideas, and energy to better reach the community and organizations we serve.

Sub-award: Best Prototype Award

Farm to School/Local Lunch Leaders Team

Farm to School Local Lunch Leaders Team Photo

Team members: Carol Smathers, Heather Neikirk, Amy Fovargue, Katie Riemenschneider, Tony Staubach, Amanda Osbourne, Patrice Powers-Barker

Coaches: Karen Jeannette and Scott Sheeler

Zen Statement: Creating and empowering school-based teams to foster Farm-to-School activities across the cafeteria, classroom, and community for the people who purchase, serve, and eat school food that overcome barriers to better school food and promote an appreciation for healthy food systems, enabling a greater voice among key customer groups through team-building and mentoring. Unlike efforts focused on singular groups at a time, we build community capacity using evidence-based programs across an accessible state-side network.

Sub-award: Big Umbrella Award

Live Healthy Live Well Team

Live Healthy Live Well Team Photo

Team members: Alisha Barton, Lisa Barlage, Pat Brinkman, Misty Harmon, Michelle Treber

Coaches: Erin Powell and Chris Hill

Zen Statement: Buckeye 365 will help you provide positive family discussions anywhere. We’ll give you the tools and conversation starters to encourage your family to start talking.

Sub-award: Will Ferrell More Cowbell Award

On-farm Research Team

On-Farm Research Research Team Photo

Team members: Carol Hamilton, Mike Estadt, Mary Griffith, Rob Leeds, Kaylee Port, Lee Richter, Elizabeth Hawkins

Coaches: Hunter McBrayer and Loren Stone

Zen Statement: An Extension research toolkit for Educators and consumers that offers non-biased information in a thrilling and engaging style enabling a better understanding and utilization in on-farm research.

Sub-award: Most Sparkiest Award

Rethinking Extension Advisory Committee Team

Rethinking Extension Advisory Committees Team Photo

Team members: Morgan Domokos, Joanna Fifner, Ashley Kulhanek, Kyle White

Coaches: Bradd Anderson

Zen Statement: A league of ambassadors for OSU Extension that advocate and connect, collaboratively identifying the solutions of tomorrow for emerging challenges and opportunities of today replacing current Extension Advisory Committees.

Sub-award: Killing a Sacred Cow Award

This is Extension Team

This is Extension Team Photo

Team members: Stacey Baker, Beth Frey, Amy Meehan, Jera Oliver, Amanda Woods,

Coaches: Melissa Miller, Ashley Miller, Dan Montour

Zen Statement: A virtual front door for all Ohioans that will provide simplified access to Extension services and new ways to engage and connect.

Sub-award: Biggest Challenge Award

Urban Ag Team

Urban Ag Veg Box Team Photo

Team members: Jim Jasinski, Jacquline Kowalski, Suzanne Mills-Wasniak, Elizabeth Roche, Mike Hogan

Coaches: Josh Dallin and Joshua David McClurg-Genevese

Zen Statement: Ready-made, customizable garden kit delivered to your door, connecting you to gardening and growing food.

Sub-award: Social Responsibility Award

ImprovEdge Photo

Keynote speakers, April Olt and Dan Montour from ImprovEdge in Columbus, kickstarted the day with an enthusiastic workshop.

The Three-Headed Expert, an ImprovEdge activity, was a fun way to get participants to say “YES!” to new ideas.

After an invigorating keynote workshop, teams starting working on their ideas.

After hours of hard work, each team had the opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of judges.

At the end of the day, OSU Extension Director, Roger Rennekamp also announced that the panel of judges awarded all nine teams with the opportunity to move their idea forward through Adobe Kickbox. Kickbox is an innovator program in a box. Adobe developed Kickbox by drawing on 30 years of industry experience in successful innovation. Teams will emerge from the Kickbox experience with a refined and validated project proposal to present to OSUE administrative cabinet in the Fall of 2017 for potential seed funding to pilot their projects. The OSU Extension Ed Tech Unit, along with Utah State University Extension Associate Professor and eXtension Innovation Lab Assistant Director Paul Hill, will serve as Kickbox mentors to guide teams through this exciting professional development experience over the next several weeks.

Teams with Kickbox

Teams were excited to look inside their Kickbox!

Teams with Kickbox

A peek at the amazing awards and door prizes that were handed out during the event.

Thank you again for everyone who participated and helped make Innovate Extension: UrbanX a huge success!

Save the Date: Ohio State University’s Innovate Conference May 16th

Ohio State’s campus and statewide Innovate conference will be held on May 16th! Tentative schedule and other  information is currently available on the conference site. Registration will open in the next couple of weeks. Plan to attend and be inspired by faculty and other educators who are using innovative methods for teaching students and clientele! More Extension colleagues attended Innovate OSU than ever before last year, and we hope to double that number this year!

“With Impact as our theme for 2017, we’re sharing innovations that let educators re-imagine their instruction without sacrificing pedagogical quality and rigor. It’s fun to experiment and enjoy the novelty of cutting edge technologies, but we’re always looking at the way that technology has a positive impact on our students, instructor best practices, the educational community and beyond.

Innovate is a time for bringing people together across disciplines and across adoption barriers. The conference is built with the educator in mind: you don’t have to be tech savvy to fully participate in this day of presentations, demonstrations and valuable dialog.” 

Don’t forget: our 2017 Innovate Extension hackathon event will take place the following day, May 17th. This year’s event will be held at Vue in downtown Columbus; an inspiring and creative space for what will surely be another fun-filled day! Lots of improvements are coming to this year’s event, including a focused theme, presence from Ohio State and Columbus innovators and entrepreneurs, and a Virtual Ideation MeetUp in April. More details will be shared throughout the month of March.

Did you know that Innovate Extension has spread to other states? See recaps from North Dakota State University Extension and Utah State University Extension, which held events last fall. Oregon State, Delaware, and Michigan State will all host Innovate Extension events in 2017!

We hope to see you at both the Innovate OSU conference and Innovate Extension hackathon May 16th and 17th!

Questions about either event? Contact Jamie.

innovateExtension in Your Words

It’s been over a month since innovateExtension and as we begin to peruse through evaluations, we wanted to share some of your thoughts on why you loved the event. Your constructive feedback has been invaluable to helping us shape future events. Plans are already underway for next year’s event in Ohio as well as similar events throughout the country! It’s great to see that innovateExtension has been an inspiration to Land Grants across the nation. You all helped in making the event a great success and we extend a huge THANK YOU!

We recently published a blog post on the #EdTechLN Blog with reflections and lessons learned about the event. Check it out here!

innovateExtension infographic

The innovateExtension Playlist!

We have received several requests for the song list from last week’s innovateExtension event. Here it is in all its amped-up glory! Many of the songs can be downloaded for free for Amazon Prime members.

Songs picked for the playlist were chosen to inspire creativity and teamwork. Use this playlist when you want to recreate the enthusiasm and pumped-up atmosphere from innovateExtension, or just want to have a fun, carefree day in the office. Enjoy!


innovateExtension Recap: An Energizing, Innovative, and Inspiring Day

The inaugural innovateExtension event was held May 12th, 2016 on Ohio State University’s campus. Twenty-two teams and more than 140 participants vied for funding for their ideas, projects, prototypes, and concepts. 

The following teams were awarded 3D-printed innovateExtension trophies and will work with OSU Extension Director Roger Rennekamp to secure funding for their innovative ideas and projects:


Honorable Mention: Dayta Dreamers (Debby Lewis, Amy Elhadi, Kim Showalter, Suzanna Windon | Coach: Kevin Gamble) Pitch: Hiring a web developer, housed in the PDE unit, to design a “data portal”.  The portal would be able to accept various types of data and generate multiple types of reports based on the data that will be accessible by a broad range of employees.

3rd Place Team: Live Healthy Live Well (Pat Brinkman, Michelle Treber, Lisa Barlage, Joanna Rini, Beth Stefura | Coach: Alice Henneman) Pitch: Expansion of the Live Healthy Live Well social media programming into a text-based message campaign, also including brief YouTube videos and hashtag creation and use.

2nd Place Team: Team GMO (Emily Adams, Lee Beers, Mary Griffith, Peggy Hall, Dianne Shoemaker | Coach: Hunter McBrayer) Pitch: A three-part plan to help Extension professionals excel with critical issues. Critical issues are not limited to controversial issues. They also include issues and situations that arise quickly and Extension personnel must address in a very timely manner. 1) Educator Training, 2) Identify Critical Issues at Annual Conference, and 3) Development and Implementation of a Protocol for Critical Issues

1st Place Team: Critical Conversations (Jackie Kirby-Wilkins, Jeff McCutcheon, Cindy Torppa, Lisa Siciliano-Miller, Laura Fuller, David Crawford, Debbie Brown | Coach: Daphne Richards) Pitch: Extension professionals are faced daily with having critical conversations with a variety of stakeholders (e.g., funders, elected officials, consumer, community  partners, and families/friends). These conversations include relationship building, networking, collaborating, facilitating, mediating, and innovating. Critical Conversations provides a variety of resources (including Tool Kits and Skill Building) and strategies for developing competencies, comfort, and skills for addressing critical conversations.



Didn’t catch the Periscope’d live stream footage from the event? Watch all of them on the OSU Extension Ed Tech YouTube channel.




Finally, participants were encouraged to post to Twitter and Instagram throughout the day utilizing the #innovateOSUE hashtag. Below is a compilation of just some of the pictures, videos, and comments shared:


Innovate Extension May 11th & 12th: How Do We Participate?

This is the fourth post in our series detailing the upcoming innovateExtension event May 12th. You can view other posts in the series here

How Do We Participate?

Registration for innovateOSU is now OPEN. Go here to register. This conference will most likely sell out, so we highly suggest you register as soon as possible!

Registration for innovateExtension will be available very soon – keep an eye out for updates!

Participants will be required to register in teams, so start thinking now about who will be on your team and what your team name will be (have some fun with it!) Some examples of groups that may be interested in participating as a team:

  • Program Area or Design Team (i.e. 4-H STEM Pathways Design Team or FCS Healthy Relationships Team)
  • Curriculum or Signature Program Team (Dining with Diabetes, Local Food)
  • County Team
  • Team made up for the event itself (collaboration across program areas is encouraged, as more diverse groups lead to the most creative ideas)
  • Individuals who do not have a team, but want to participate (we’ll do the leg-work to match you up with others who need team members)

Will Our Team Have to Do Any Work Before the Event?

In a word, no. We’ll have a pre-event training on Creative and Innovative Thinking available to all event participants on April 28th, and provide some information about the event at that time. However, there is no commitment necessary in regard to your team needing to come to the event with topics or issues in mind. Teams can simply show up and see where the event takes them!

How Much Will This Cost Me?

Nothing! That’s right, it’s free! Our Ed Tech unit has been working hard to make sure this is a cost-free event available to all Extension staff. innovateOSU is also free.

Event Objectives:

  • To provide a day-long work session for innovative program planning.
  • To provide a fun environment conducive to creative thinking.
  • To inspire teams and individuals to update programs, change the way they work, or develop solutions to organizational challenges.
  • To provide Extension staff an opportunity to present new ideas and solutions to colleagues and administration.

Attend innovateOSU on May 11th to be inspired and learn how others in academia are creatively solving age-old dilemmas and finding new tools to strengthen their work. 

Attend our post-innovate event just for OSU Extension on May 12th to put these ideas and inspiration into practice.

Alright, I’m In! But I Still Have Questions…

Leave us a comment below with any questions you may have. Or, feel free to send questions directly to Jamie or Danae.

Innovate Extension May 11th & 12th: What Resources Will Be Available?

This is the third post in our series detailing the upcoming innovateExtension event May 12th. You can view other posts in the series here


This All Sounds Really Exciting, But a Bit Intimidating!

Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! A pre-event webinar on Creative & Innovative Thinking facilitated by the OSU Leadership Center’s Beth Flynn [Save the Date = April 28th @ 9:00am] and other resources will be offered to participants to help you prepare for May 12th. innovateExtension itself will be all about developing innovative ideas and solutions in a fun environment… not necessarily about hard work with a lot of preparation leading up to the event.

We will also have coaches on hand during the event! Each participating team will be assigned a “creative coach” to help them during their work session and pitch development. Our creative coaches are experts in thinking outside the box and helping folks stay on task! Who are they? Our Ed Tech Unit has hand picked eXtension Ed Tech Learning Network innovation gurus to serve in this role – our OSU Extension ETIT (Extension Technology and Innovation Team) members will be assisting as well!

Creative Coaches


Bradd Anderson: University of Missouri State 4-H Youth Development Specialist, Genius Behind FilmFest 4-H




Bob Bertsch: North Dakota State University Web Technology Specialist / Ag Communications, Genius Behind Working Differently in Extension Podcast 





Alice Henneman: University of Nebraska – Lincoln Family & Consumer Sciences / Dietitian, Genius Behind UNL Pinterest and





Michele Walfred: University of Delaware Ag Communications, Genius Behind Social Musings and UDEL on Periscope



OSU Extension ETIT Members: Mark Light, Amanda Rysz, Carmen Irving, Andy Londo, Heather Gottke, Vickie Snyder, Stephen Heppe, Brian Raison, Jerry Thomas, Ken Martin, Danae Wolfe, Jamie Seger


Event Objectives:

  • To provide a day-long work session for innovative program planning.
  • To provide a fun environment conducive to creative thinking.
  • To inspire teams and individuals to update programs, change the way they work, or develop solutions to organizational challenges.
  • To provide Extension staff an opportunity to present new ideas and solutions to colleagues and administration.


Attend innovateOSU on May 11th to be inspired and learn how others in academia are creatively solving age-old dilemmas and finding new tools to strengthen their work. 

Attend our post-innovate event just for OSU Extension on May 12th to put these ideas and inspiration into practice.


Next Up: How Do We Participate?


Want to know more? Have questions? Leave us a comment below. Or, feel free to send questions directly to Jamie or Danae.