Last week Extension was incredibly fortunate to have Dave Gray talk with us about how Extension could become a more “Connected Organization”. Even if you missed the live event, you can still join the conversation. The video, along with the comments and questions posted during the talk can be viewed at the Google+ event page.During “The Connected Organization,” Gray helped us see how we might transform what from what he calls a divided organization into a connected organization, where autonomous teams, called ‘Pods,” can handle the dynamic environment together creatively, providing better service in changing environments.With over 3000 counties nationwide, and Extension offices in most, Gray says we have a network of pods, but our next challenge is to do a better job of connecting them together through platforms to achieve our common purpose. These connections would enable improved coordination, collaboration, and idea-sharing.Gray discussed how purpose, pods, and platforms help to glue the connected organization together, where the purpose guides the team and guiding rules for platform development, and the platform serves to connect the pods so they can know what’s going on (i.e., situational awareness). By providing such platforms, people and pods can find each other more easily to solve a problem or create something new.Platforms are Like Extension: They Help People to Help ThemselvesGray says platforms have a similar function to the extension mission. Platforms, like Extension’s mission, “help people, help themselves”. He urges Extension to think past its role as an information provider in the era of Google to one of helping others know what questions to ask and connect with each other. Extension’s Mission since 1914Today Extension’s mission must go beyond providing information in the era of Google Platforms connect peopleGray provides a number of hopeful ways Extension might utilize platforms to connect with its clientele and also internally, or across the nation-wide organization. Gray highlights Jim Langcuster’s Mission Extension blog, and his work with Network Literacy as an example explaining platform use and building within Extension work.Gray points out that platform sites help people connect and exchange value, pointing to examples such as Airbnb, Uber, Amazon services. Gray notes these platforms don’t own the product – they help other people exchange money or information, such as ratings about the services provided.Platforms to connect people in communitiesExtension ChallengesSo, how can Extension use platforms to connect with clientele in its communities? Gray provided examples of platforms and tools that Extension could use to help communities gather, connect or overcome some of our common challenges, like tighter budgets.Meet up – aimed mostly at local communities. It’s a way to find a group near you.IGivefirst – for non-profit institutions. You can get a “give” button on any webpage. Grays says this can be especially effective to do when you are telling your story.Kickstarter – a platform that can be used to raise money for a project (big or small) that people care aboutUshahidi – Ushahidi can help people find each other and tell stories about what is going on. Ushahid’s crowdmap allows you to create a map and tell stories inside the map.Platforms to connect across the (internal) organizationGray said organizations also need to have internal conversations with each other to discuss something that may be private, sensitive or to work on something for which they are not ready to set expectations.Gray pointed to the tremendous potential that could come from 15,000 Cooperative Extension professionals sharing information with each other, and provided some ideas of platforms that might provide the ability for ‘Extension pods’ to connect.SalesforceSharepoint + newsgatorLinkedIn group – (A private linked in group only visible via the organization can sometimes work quite well)Bloomfire(The Network Literacy CoP has established an open community for Extension on Google+. It’s not private, as Gray suggested, but could become a great place for Extension profesionals from around the nation to connect and share.)Gray stresses, invest before it’s too late!Gray says, you can’t build the dike when the floods comes….Gray stressed that the right time to change your business model and to invest in social networks is BEFORE there’s a problem, such as a budget cut or stakeholder support issue. If you wait until the crisis comes it’s too late — the social network that helps you out, or goes to the politicians to help you out, won’t be ready.Consider storytelling in new waysGray also urged Extension professionals to consider storytelling, but went one step further by asking:“How do you get the people you serve to get excited to help them tell your story to their friends?”He recommended Extension professionals think about how to encourage others to share and tell our story in social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.Tools to help change to organization modelIn closing, Gray left us with some service design tools and resources that can help organizations shift their business models to become more connected organizations:Business Model Canvas – a strategic management tool allowing you to describe, challenge, or reinvent your business modelService Design Tools – a customer journey map, which provides or a way to map how you serve customersCulture Mapping – provides a way to understand your organization’s culture so you can identify where to change itMeeting Gray again in March 2014Will Cooperative Extension be a more Connected Organization in March 2014 when we Gray speaks at the National eXtension Conference (March 24-28, 2014)? If so, how will we know and what will be different?The tools (platforms) created within the eXtension initiative have connected many of us, but probably only a small portion of Extension professionals. How much more connected could we be with the many people doing important work if these platforms had wider adoption and participation. How can we use social networks to forge new connections with our peers, colleagues, and communities?– Karen Jeannette (+KarenJeannette, @kjeannette)eXtension Community of Practice Support – ConsultantNetwork Literacy Community of Practice MemberVideos and images are courtesy of and should be attributed to Dave Gray. This article was originally published on the Military Families Learning Network blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.