Leadership development can build the capacities of individuals, groups, and organizations to resolve community issues. Volunteer development can enhance the potential for community service. NIFA promotes leadership and volunteer development through its participation in interagency federal government teams; funding support for volunteer leader forums, national conferences, and community training opportunities; and research focusing on building volunteer competencies.
Cooperative Extension distinguishes itself by fostering public well-being. Leadership and volunteer development work, more than any other part of extension education, transforms the private growth of individual program participants into community well-being. The building blocks for leadership and volunteer development consist of personal, interpersonal, and group development. Examples include assessing one's strengths and weaknesses, creative thinking, active and reflective listening, influencing others, group process skills, team-building, and group decision making.
Five basic themes underpin extension's leadership and volunteer development work. They include:
- Public well-being
- Community ownership and civic action
- Valuing differences among people
- Personal development
- Institutional commitment.
Leadership and volunteer development programs pursue three goals:
- Developing the capacity of individuals, groups, organizations, and communities to take action for public well-being
- Mobilizing a strong and diverse leader and volunteer corps to take public action within communities and organizations
- Facilitating and sustaining diverse partnerships, collaborations, and networks for effective action within and across communities.