By Malin Clyde, Project Manager, Stewardship Network: New England
UNH Cooperative Extension launched the Stewardship Network: New England in 2013, and has since worked with over 165 conservation groups, public agencies and volunteers on initiatives that help increase the region's capacity to steward lands and conduct citizen science research.
Although we talk informally with partners throughout the year, we wanted to really know what our partners think about the Network. Is it making a difference in New England, and if so, how? What matters most to them, and what should the Network focus on next?
These questions drove a recent research effort conducted by UNH Cooperative Extension's Stewardship Network: New England in 2016.
We Want to Know: Focus Groups
In spring 2016, staff from UNH Cooperative Extension worked collaboratively to host three "Partner Input Sessions" with groups working all over New Hampshire. We had conservation commission volunteers, land trusts, state and federal agencies, citizen science groups, and trails clubs contribute in-person feedback about the Network's first three years of work.
What did we learn? Our New Hampshire partners value the online calendar, our weekly e-bulletin, and access to knowledeable staff. They see the Network as most active in the Seacoast Region, and they'd like to see more activity and assistance in other parts of the state. Participants in the focus groups did not see a need for adding more regional hubs in the state (nobody wants more meetings), nor did they see a need for shared governanace of the Network. What more could the Network do for partners? Suggestions included continued help training and educating volunteers, and providing information about the Network itself (Who volunteers? What do we know about them? What skills do they have?) back to partners through a separate partner newsletter.
We Want to Know Even More: Partner Survey
Equipped with a better understanding of what our New Hampshire partner organizations value about the Stewardship Network: New England's work, we followed up the focus groups with an online survey sent to over 450 partners and staff across the region. The strongest finding from the survey - which again focused on the values partners see in the Network - is how important the Network's role is in raising awareness about the importance of stewardship and citizen science. With an existing mission to "mobilize volunteers to care for and study lands and waters in New England," it's interesting to consider the unintended - and important - ways the Network is also raising the profile of stewardship and citizen science, even among those who may never volunteer.
What's Next? Introducing the Compass
In 2017 the Network is launching The Compass, a quarterly e-newsletter designed to help our partners navigate the world of stewardship, citizen science and volunteers, which anyone can subscribe to here. The Compass will feature inspiring best practices for working with stewardship volunteers, data on Network users and trends, and helpful resources for conservation organizations, municipalities, volunteer boards and public agencies. Our regular e-bulletin will continue to keep our 2,000+ subscribers up-to-date with the latest announcements and calendar events, volunteer recognition and stewardship stories, as well as tips and tricks for volunteering outdoors.
Get the Results
A short summary of findings, along with complete results are available for download online:
Copies of complete reports and data from 2016 focus groups & email survey are available for download as well: Complete Results