Urban Extension Introductory Guide


This Urban Extension Introductory Guide provides easy access to resources to improve awareness of urban Extension context for all university Extension personnel, colleagues, volunteers, advocates, and partners. Main components of this guide include University Extension Context, Urban Context, Frequently Asked Questions, and Resources for Urban Engagement. Access as many or as few of the resources below as you would like.

The purpose of this guide is not to minimize the value of Extension’s good work and impact in rural and suburban communities, but to increase Extension impact in urban areas through improved knowledge of the urban context and a framework for strategic approaches.


University Extension Context

Extension is the Land-Grant University's community-based catalyst for co-discovery and community engagement. Extension engages in work that is sometimes similar to agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector, however, the focus is unique because of the triple mission of Land-Grant Universities.

  •      Teaching and Learning
  •      Research and Innovation
  •      Extension and other community engagement

With federal, state, and local support, Extension professionals work collaboratively with university colleagues and local partners on community priorities - leveraging the resources of vast networks to be relevant locally, responsive statewide, and recognized nationally. For more than 100 years, Extension has addressed contemporary issues with research-based information and respect for local perspectives. Worldwide Extension organizations have long played a vital role in advancing technology transfer and human development in 115 countries. In the United States, Extension links research and education with local communities.

Video Summary of Extension Network (1 minute)

University Extension Network graphic


Urban Context

Densely populated areas present unique challenges and opportunities for Extension and other community-based organizations. Extension addresses the population shift in the U.S. and refers to one or more of the following terms for urban, metro, or city Extension.

Agencies and organizations may also have specific guidelines, but the common essence is the densely populated geographic area, defined as urban context in this Guide.

Due to the scale, diversity, and complexity of large metropolitan areas, Extension's work is similar and different when compared with Extension professionals working in rural and suburban areas. One of the unique aspects for urban Extension professionals is that many have not had an Extension experience as a client and it's common to work alongside colleagues and volunteers who may or may not be familiar with Extension.

Urban-Suburban-Rural Interdependencies: Various indicators demonstrate a dynamic flow of people and other resources throughout all geographic areas along the urban and rural continuum. Extension recognizes that many people live in one county, work in another, and enjoy recreation and tourism in other counties.

The National Urban Extension Leaders (NUEL) published a National Framework for Urban Extension. In the fall of 2018 NUEL representatives presented Why Urban Matters to Our Future Success and a National Urban Extension Initiative Implementation Plan at the National Extension Directors and Administrators (NEDA) and Cooperative Extension Section (CES) Business Meeting.

Video Summary of Urban Context Influencing Extension (90 seconds)

Urban Context graphic


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. Is Extension just for agriculture?
A. While food, agriculture, the environment, and natural resources are important aspects of Extension, other dimensions include community development, health, and youth through 4-H youth development. With a community-based approach, Extension reflects local priorities.

Q. Why do cities need Extension when there are so many other resources available?
A. Extension partners with others in the community to bring unique resources available exclusively through the Land-Grant University network - adding to and not replacing or duplicating efforts to address the city's most pressing issues. Sometimes, Extension takes the lead and other times, Extension contributes to impacts in other meaningful ways.

Q. What are some examples and best practices of urban Extension?
A. The Journal of Extension (JOE) and the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension (JHSE) document many examples of urban Extension in a variety of impact areas. The Urban Extension Library hosts a collection of Extension journal resources, urban Extension conference proceedings, and academic resources.


Resources for Urban Engagement

Being a part of the city is a privilege for faculty and staff working with Land-Grant and other metropolitan and urban serving universities. Metropolitan communities are filled with unique opportunities for teaching, research, outreach, and communications. Extension in the City engages multiple people who share the commitment to the quality of life in urban communities, including urban Extension personnel, urban university colleagues, volunteers, advocates, and partners.

1-Minute Feedback

Please follow this link to complete a very brief questionnaire.

To learn more about urban Extension's history, contemporary context, and network of resources, visit the many resources available through the Extension Foundation. Resource linked here.

This guide is frequently updated based on the perspective of people committed to engagement in urban communities. If you have a suggestion, please share it with Michelle Gaston.