The 2022 National Association for Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) Conference gathered Extension specialists from across the nation in Indianapolis in early June. UNH Community and Economic Development Extension Field Specialists Sue Cagle, Scott Slattery, and I (Michael Polizzotti) were able to build connections and expand our networks to include Extension Professionals from around nation, share resources and brainstorm programs, and hear success stories.

We also experienced an array of sessions and field workshops, including the importance of history and engaging with underrepresented and marginalized populations, utilizing outdoor recreation opportunities, promoting entrepreneurship, and providing tools and capacity-building resources including makerspaces.

Additionally, staff from UNH’s Community and Economic Development team were recognized for their work and collaborations, and received several awards showcasing their impact.

The sessions and workshops I attended included:

  • Marketing Hometown America – This session highlighted the work of several Extension organizations across the nation, including in New Hampshire, in developing tools surrounding facilitation, strategic planning, and program development to highlight rural communities to promote economic and social vitality. I learned about a variety of worthwhile engagement and facilitation tools to use in my work with UNH Extension, and background to strengthen existing collaborations across the NACDEP network.
  • Fostering Development in Rural America in the Next 50 Years – This discussion highlighted the collaborative work and opportunities provided by the Rural Regional Development Centers in fostering development. The Northeast Center covers states from West Virginia to Maine and presents opportunity for key collaborations and information-sharing for development, vitality, and resiliency work. Notably, I was able to meet with representatives from the Centers. I shared ideas for future programming that bridges work across Extension areas with Dr. Jason Entsminger, Associate Director of the Northeast Center.
  • ­Community-Based Engagement Tools and Program Design and Development – This series of sessions provided insights from Extension professionals from Texas, Iowa, and North Carolina, who all shared their experiences and key tools in developing and implementing meaningful Extension related programming. With a particular focus on adaptability and flexibility in engaging with communities after disasters or other shocks, these sessions provided me with insights into practices that promote being nimble in programs. 
  • Walk and Talk, Indiana Avenue – This workshop provided a walking tour of Indiana Avenue, an area of downtown Indianapolis that was a cultural center for African Americans throughout much of the city’s past and present. This walk and talk was provided by Sampson Levingston, an Indianapolis native passionate about telling the stories of the economic and social successes and growth experienced by Black and African American residents in the late 19th through mid-20th century; the neighborhood’s gradual decline; and the new investments, historical reckoning and awareness, and current renaissance happening in the area. This workshop highlighted the importance of working to ensure all community members have a seat at the table when choosing community priorities and goals, and how to reach them.

Being in Indianapolis provided some other valuable perspectives as well. Being my first time in the Midwest, I noticed the differences between the challenges and opportunities in Indianapolis compared to New Hampshire communities. However, I also noticed a level of similarity, just across neighborhoods within the city. Like the differences between communities in New Hampshire, there are recognizable differences between each neighborhood’s level of community engagement, vision, and economic well-being in Indianapolis. The walking tour of the Indiana Avenue area highlighted how important and how critical community engagement is in any neighborhood or community.     

My visit to Indianapolis also blossomed many professional relationships with individuals around the nation. I am excited to have gathered many of these tools, and connections to tap, to support the economic and social resiliency and opportunity of the communities in Merrimack County and throughout New Hampshire.

Further Reading:


Merrimack County
Extension Field Specialist, Community & Economic Development
Phone: (603) 255-3556 ext. 814
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension Community & Economic Development, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824