Community Development Extension

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ (CAFNR) community development extension program works collaboratively with communities to foster economic development and create capacity for sustainable communities and quality jobs through leadership development, community decision making, community emergency preparedness, and focusing on inclusive communities.


Marc Linit, Ph.D., associate dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

Mary Simon Leuci, Ed.D., program director and assistant dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources


The Community Development Program works collaboratively with communities to foster economic development and create capacity for sustainable communities and quality jobs through leadership development, community decision making, community emergency preparedness and focusing on inclusive communities.

MU Extension community development programs result in engaged citizens, expanded leadership, broader inclusion of community members, buy-in from the community, adoption of policies, implementation of plans, sound proposals put before voters, and increased economic activity. Communities benefit from wise use of public and private resources.

Results and impact reported in 2016 by program participants included:

  • $2.9 million grants and other resources acquired by communities and organizations
  • $87,520 in volunteer hours generated by CD Extension to conduct programs
  • $118,143 in volunteer hours generated by communities and organizations as result of programs
  • 168 participants took on new leadership roles
  • 47 community and organizational plans developed
  • 95 community/organizational programs and activities initiated or completed
  • 26 community and organizational policies/plans adopted and/or implemented, 73 programs initiated/completed by communities
  • 11 businesses created, 12 jobs created
  • 44 new organizations created
  • 1.03 change in learning on 5-point scale
  • 93% would recommend our programs to others and value of the training rated at 4.29 on 5 pt. scale (with 5 as the highest)

Participants included rural and urban, all levels of the socio-economic spectrum, youth and adults, 6.6% minority races and 10.9% Hispanics.

Community Development AcademyThe Community Development Academy explores ideas and develops practical skills for practitioners to effectively involve and empower local citizens and leaders in community-based efforts. Participants come primarily from Missouri but have included over 20 states and 20 countries in the past 20 years. In a recent evaluation conducted with participants who completed any of the three courses in the past three years, they reported increased resources for communities; new community development plans and projects, practical application of course learning; and personal change in participant skill level. Specifically, the 35 survey respondents reported:

  • Mobilization of more than 117 volunteers who provided at least 8,314 hours of service to their communities.
  • An estimated $177,172 worth of volunteer hours leveraged.
  • Increased resources leveraged for communities in the amount of $1,625,000.
  • 14 updated community or organizational plans with 12 already implemented.
  • More than 30 new community development projects.

Missouri remains ranked among the most disaster-prone states. In the past six years, the Community Emergency Management Program collaborated with SEMA and directly supported communities and the state in planning and recovery from nine major declarations of natural disasters, three additional emergency declarations to cover emergency protective measures, and from USDA five crop declarations and three drought declarations. The program has produced the premier guide for Community Organizations Assisting in Disaster with additional materials for dealing with agricultural aspects of disaster.

As a result of the 2015-2016 Missouri winter flooding event, 41 counties and the city of St. Louis received a Presidential Disaster Declaration to address the damages resulting from the event.   MU Extension became part of Missouri’s Emergency Human Service (EHS) response to this disaster by providing support to the residents and communities across Missouri before federal aid became available. The Missouri EHS partners determined the needs and began the response to those needs in a variety of ways, one being the establishment of Multi Agency Resource Centers (MARCs).  In the counties that chose not to open a MARC, resource fairs and other community meetings were used to address the needs of their affected citizens.  No matter which option chosen, MU Extension was involved.  Members of Extension’s CEMP Regional teams provided support to the twelve MARCs organized to address the emergency human needs of the affected counties.  During one of the MARCs, a short video on how to use a moisture meter was produced by MU Extension’s Communications and Marketing team for use with flood survivors.

To address the continual issues Missouri faces, as a result of flooding events, a Missouri Flood Recovery Partnership (MFRP) was established with the intent to develop a Recovery Support Strategy for long-term disaster recovery in Missouri.  MU Extension is a member of the MFRP.

Video Feature: Storm Survival

To successfully meet the diverse needs of Missourians, the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA) provide crucial background information about societal challenges Missourians want to address. Whether exploring issues as diverse as community health or economic development, the office provides the information needed to develop workable, forward-looking solutions.

Where distance from healthcare facilities and quality affects people’s quality of life in rural and underserved regions of Missouri, OSEDA partners with the MU School of Medicine’s Office of Rural Medicine to develop tools and databases for health care enterprises. With more and better tools at their disposal, health care organizations serving rural and underserved populations will be better able to identify gaps in quality of care and access.

This year OSEDA initiated a program evaluation of Missouri Project ECHO, a continuing education initiative that uses video-conferencing tools. ECHO trains health care providers in rural and underserved areas how to provide the most current standard of care for chronic diseases like autism and childhood asthma. ECHO is evaluated on cost-reduction in care, and the project realized $1.5 million in development commitment to providing the information communities need to build successful futures.

Participants from the Neighborhood Leadership Academy in St. Louis formed a school/community council in the Benton Park West neighborhood, a tenants’ association at the N. Sarah Housing Development, and a neighbor-to-neighbor council in St. Charles County to assist with the homeless population in the area. In addition, two sought public office after completion.

Community Arts continue to play a vital role in community and economic development.
The community of Lexington has continued to expand and implement its plan for cultural heritage and arts tourism, strengthening its local arts council, conducting an open house tour that resulted in investors seeking to open art galleries and the opening of two new such venues, a community service art day engaged youth in planning and leading cleanup and decoration for the Festival of Lights/Yule Fest. And community leaders are now assisting MU Extension in sharing with other communities how to capitalize on local assets to create cultural heritage and local arts development.

At the May 2016 St. Louis Storytelling Festival, conducted with sponsorship from major area cultural organizations and institutions, national and regional tellers re-animated historical figures, exposed youth to diverse social and cultural perspectives, and playfully encouraged sound decision-making skills for 13,400 area schoolchildren (29% of which were in poverty). The festival reached 15,500 participants at 59 sites in St. Louis city; St. Charles, St. Louis and Jefferson counties and in Metro East.

Mi Casa es su Casa, a community resource fair for Spanish speakers that resulted from a research and extension project completed in 2015, was held for the second time in Branson. There were more than forty exhibitors representing a broad array of community resources. More than 200 households participated in the event. The local organizers institutionalized the project by forming a local nonprofit called the Cambio of the Ozarks to facilitate the continuation of the program and to develop additional integration efforts.

Facilitation of a planning process with a state agency over the past year engaged the entire organization, including the local planning groups in two surveys and a dialogue process at a statewide conference that has resulted in a set of indicators to guide the organization as it works to increase capacity, better inform stakeholders and the general public, improve data management and information systems and improve workforce development. In addition, a two-day planning retreat led to the development of key projects that are currently being implemented.

Program Themes

CAFNR’s community development (CD) extension programs are organized around interdisciplinary themes.

More information about each theme is available from the main Community Development Program website.

  • Communications
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Economic Viability
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Leadership Development
  • Local Government
  • Local History and the Arts
  • Organization Development
  • Planning and Public Policy


Educational Opportunities