How to write a Success Story

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Published Date:15-07-2017
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SUCCESS STORY GUIDELINES 11-2003 I What is a success story? A success story shows Extension making a difference in people’s lives. More than a list of events or activities, it describes a positive change and shows how that change benefits the people of Wisconsin. A good success story uses evidence from evaluation to show the value of Extension. You can write a success story about an entire program or part of a program that is particularly noteworthy and significant. It may be about an innovation, emergency response or outstanding effort. The program may be complete or in an earlier stage of development but with important accomplishments to describe. You could even write a success story several years after a program’s completion when you have collected evidence of long-term impact. For a multi-year initiative, you may write a series of success stories that describe significant but different changes that occur over the years. Whatever you choose to write about, your story should show Extension making Wisconsin a better place to live – for individuals, families, organizations, businesses, local governments and communities. II What goes into a success story: SRRE Situation: What prompted the program? Response: How did Extension respond? (inputs and outputs) Results: Who benefited? What resulted? (outcomes) Evidence: What’s the evidence? (evaluation) Situation: Tell why Extension started the program. What problem, issue or concern needed addressing? Who cares? Who are the key stakeholders? The opening should make the case for why Extension stepped in. For help with Situation, link to Program Planning materials at http://www1.uwex.edu/ces/apps/programplanning/ and enter your password; or connect to the Logic Model web course, Module 1 at http://www1.uwex.edu/ces/lmcourse Response: Describe Extension’s response including inputs (staff, funding, volunteers, research, expertise) and outputs. Outputs include activities (teaching, 1facilitation, product development) and people reached (number of people and demographics). Describe partnerships and external funding sources. Be sure to spell out Extension’s role in programming. Although we often work with other agencies and teams, it’s important to emphasize Extension’s contribution. See below for “How do you write a success story for a collaborative program?” Results: Use quantitative and qualitative data to describe important outcomes (changes and benefits) achieved as a result of Extension’s response. Who benefited and how? Outcomes include changes in knowledge, skills, motivation, behavior, decision making, practices, policies, social action, social, economic and environmental conditions. Describe outcomes in terms of value or meaning. For example, “Thirty participants increased their knowledge of safe food-handling practices (outcome). This should lead to better food-handling practices and fewer food-borne illnesses” (expected value). In other words, help the reader understand the meaning behind the change. Link to existing research, if possible, and include future plans or lessons learned based on results. Evidence: Briefly describe how you evaluated the program to attain the reported evidence. Include the data collection method (pre- or post-test surveys, interviews, testimonials), sample (number and how selected), response rate and the date of data collection. Remember – a good success story depends on credible information. SRRE reflects UW-Extension’s program development model as seen in the following graphic: 2How do you write a success story for a collaborative program? Often we work with others as we conduct programs. Partnering and collaboration are part of how we do Extension work. You may wonder how you can take credit or write a success story when a project involves teamwork. In any project it’s important to document your achievements, contributions and role in a collaborative effort. When you write a success story, describe your role in the “response” section. Tell what you did as part of the total effort. It’s important for readers to understand Extension’s role and how that role contributes to the results. III Success story template Template that individuals can fill in; with instructions for completing and transferring to web: http://www1.uwex.edu/ces/techservices/prs/teamtemplates.cfm In the template’s narrative section include the following headings – SITUATION, RESPONSE, RESULTS, EVIDENCE and write your success story as a story rather than separate, disconnected sections. Formatting features: • Times New Roman, 12 point • Single space within paragraphs, double space between paragraphs • Left justify headers and text • Bold headers • 1.5-inch margins • Short paragraphs and active tense • Names, not “this agent” • Avoid bullets, special fonts or features since they may not transfer to the web To fit the Planning and Results System, a success story cannot exceed 4,000 characters. To stay within the limit, compose your story in MS Word and use “word count” under Tools to do a character count. Make sure your story fits before copying it into the Planning and Results System. IV Examples Click on the following to see an example success story from each program area. Also, you will find an example with explanatory notes for each. • Agricultural and Natural Resources • Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development • Family Living • 4-H Youth Development 3V How do success stories differ from impact statements? Impact indicators? Annual accomplishment reports? Impact statement An impact statement is a short paragraph with five to nine sentences that describes specific results. ◊ Length: 75 word-maximum ◊ Focus: who benefited and how? ◊ Data: numeric or narrative data that show value Examples: Mary Maker, CRD educator, worked with eight local government units to implement the PASER Road Management System. To date, six units have completed plans. As a result, all six are eligible for more state transportation dollars. Jeff Jeffies, Makin County educator, is helping 25 farm families deal with the financial and emotional issues of property transfer. To date, 17 families have developed agreements for the successful transfer of property to the next generation. Two families decided not to proceed further. Six are still in discussion. Second graders in two cities received education in nutrition, food safety and physical activity using a new set of lessons developed by North Dakota State University. Follow-up tests for one city show 95 percent of the children brought lesson newsletters home, 86 percent tried new foods and 42 percent chose healthier foods as a result of the five-week program. (CSREES example) Black County Summer camp relies on youth leaders to serve as counselors and resource staff for 120 youth, ages 9-12. Before camp, youth leaders receive 12 hours of training. In comparing pre- and post-camp skills, 90 percent of the youth staff reported increased communications skills, 80 percent reported growth in their conflict resolution skills and 50 percent reported an increase in their ability to teach others a skill. Link to “Impact Primer” on Purdue web site. This web site was developed with USDA/CSREES for federal impact reporting. http://www.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/news/impact/impactbkgrd.html Impact indicator An indicator signals something. For example, smoke indicates fire. Healthy food choices indicate a healthy diet. An impact indicator, then, shows an impact or change. Often, describing an impact requires several indicators. 4Examples of indicators: • Number and percent of participants who qualify for a checking and savings account at the end of the program • Number and percent of participants who demonstrate skill in direct marketing • Number and percent of participating students of color who choose science as a career option • Percent of shoreline in vegetative or natural buffers • Ordinance passed for storm water management • Number and percent of dairy producers who adopt a production and/or labor management practice based on information acquired from Extension Self-directed teams identify desired outcomes and impact indicators for specific outcomes. These are listed on the team web page within the Planning and Results System. Annual accomplishment reports Academic departments require an annual accomplishment report (or equivalent document) as part of the UWEX Tenure Portfolio. Do not file the annual accomplishment report in the Planning and Results System. Probationary faculty will find expectations for annual accomplishment reports in the following locations: • Articles of Faculty Governance Appendix II.B • Your program area and/or academic department VI Why write success stories? ◊ To show accountability for public funds ◊ To verify that we are using resources to make a positive difference in people’s lives ◊ To share successes so individuals in and out of Extension can learn from our results ◊ To spread the word about Extension as a valuable resource ◊ To show that numbers alone don’t tell the whole story of Extension ◊ To reflect and learn from our work ◊ To practice good scholarship VII How are success stories used? 5Administrators, program leaders, communications specialists, Extension legislative liaisons and Extension staff around the state periodically review success stories on the Planning and Reporting System. The following sections list a few of the ways these individuals use success stories in their everyday work. By UWEX administration: • In impact briefings for legislative visits • As stories for the UWEX annual report • In legislative packets for the March leadership delegation to D.C. • In introductory papers when visiting newly elected officials, such as Governor Doyle’s cabinet • In presentations at the annual WACEC meeting • In speeches for the Chancellor, UW President, Dean and Associate Dean • For news stories and public information • In internal communications such as the Dean’s monthly message By program leaders: • In response to requests from legislative and other elected officials • To assess team progress in relation to plans • To share information among partners and generate interest among potential partners • To help internal UW System partners better understand Extension’s work and value • For federal reporting purposes • To post on program-area web sites • As a source of news stories for local media • To document activities and accomplishments of faculty and staff • As input for nominating individuals for awards and presentations By you: Perhaps the No. 1 user of success stories is you. Hopefully, you are using your success stories in a variety of ways, including: • In performance reviews • As part of your tenure review documentation • In county annual reports and monthly reports to stakeholders • In communications with local elected officials • To share the value of Extension with partners and generate interest among potential partners • To celebrate achievements with colleagues and stakeholders • To keep up with colleagues’ accomplishments around the state 6VIII What makes a good success story? A good success story: • Describes results that are valued by clients • Contains compelling, significant facts • Catches your attention • Tells who benefits • Answers: “So what?” • Spells out Extension’s role in achieving results • Is easy to read and understand • Identifies key partners and funders IX When do you submit success stories? • When you have something significant to report and evaluation data to back it up • When you are proud of a program or initiative • On an ongoing basis – don’t wait until the end of the year 7 X Writing tips It’s one thing to have a good story to tell. It’s another to write it so that people will want to read it. Use the following tips and many resources on the Internet for help in writing your success stories. • Use active voice. Example: Passive: Wells were tested by 80 percent of the participants. Active: Eighty percent of the participants tested their wells. For help: http://www.blm.gov/nhp/NPR/hdbk_11.html http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_actpass.html • Use short, complete sentences. For help: http://www.blm.gov/nhp/NPR/handbk_12.html • Be concise. • Choose simple words. • Avoid jargon. • Avoid acronyms. • Use your name, program name or county name rather than “this agent,” “Extension” or “I.” • Write in paragraph style in complete sentences. Ask your communications specialist for help. XI Success story checklist Use the success story checklist at the end of this document to check your success story. Ask a colleague or communications specialist to review your success story before copying it to the Planning and Results System. XII Questions and answers 1. How do I write success stories on the same program over consecutive years? Answer: When you have significant results in a multi-year program, report the new results. You may want to identify stories by date, for example, “Lakeshore Management 2003,” “Lakeshore Management 2004.” 2. Much of my programming is multi-year in nature; there isn’t a neat relationship between what I do in a given year and what results. In fact, results may not appear for several years. How do I report this? 8 Answer: Even though you may engage in multiple activities that interact and evolve over time, keep track of the resources and series of events or activities that make up an initiative or program. These resources and events are inputs and outputs that lead to outcomes. Document outcomes when they occur and link them to the inputs and outputs that occurred previously. 3. Can I include photos, graphics or illustrations? Answer: No. The electronic Planning and Results System only accommodates text. However, if you do have photos or other graphics, indicate that in your success story. They’ll come in handy for communications specialists compiling fact sheets, news stories and annual reports. 4. Can I write a success story that spans more than one year? Answer: Yes 5. How should I write about events or activities that don’t constitute a success story? Answer: Consider writing an impact statement, developing a news story with your communications specialist, or sharing the event in a newsletter, committee report or on your office bulletin board. 6. My success story is too long for the Planning and Reporting System. What should I do? Answer: Edit. Edit. Edit. Keep the vital information. Use short sentences and simple words. 7. Can I write a success story about one person? Answer: Extension programs usually target more than one person. However, showing how an Extension program benefits one individual gives a story human interest and often makes compelling reading. A single testimonial doesn’t constitute a success story, however, describing the personal impact of an Extension program adds powerful evidence of a program’s potential value. 8. How do I craft a success story that shows my role in a collaborative? Answer: see link to help screen for describing your role in a collaborative or team effort. 9 APPENDICES AND LINKS How do I write a success story for a collaborative program? Success story template Success story examples • Agricultural and Natural Resources • Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development • Family Living • 4-H Youth Development Success story checklist Links to program areas 10Success story template Formatting features: • Bold headers • Times New Roman, 12 point • 1.5-inch margins • Single space, double space between • Short paragraphs, active tense, paragraphs complete sentences • Left justify all headers and text TITLE Situation: Response: Results: Evidence: 11Success story example Agriculture and Natural Resources Crediting on-farm nutrients Situation: Manure disposal poses a challenge for Green County livestock producers, owing to a high number of cows on a limited land base. In fact, Green County ranks fourth in the nation in number of cows per square mile. As part of their production process, farmers apply nitrogen-rich manure to crops. However, many farmers don’t credit the manure as part of their fertilizer application, which results in excess nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen overapplication has two drawbacks: it raises the cost of production and boosts nitrate levels in surface and groundwater, which could lead to contaminated lakes, streams and wells. So not only was this practice costing farmers money, it posed potential environmental and public health hazards. Response: To address the issue, UW-Extension Agricultural Educator Mark Mayer brought together local manure haulers, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Green County Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a UWEX soils specialist. Working with these partners, Mayer conducted three manure management seminars tailored to Green County dairy and livestock farmers. Topics included spreading regulations, manure management and crediting, advantages and disadvantages of commercial application, and guidelines for applying sludge products to cropland. Ninety farmers (13 percent of the livestock producers in Green County) and agribusiness people attended one or more of the seminars. Mayer raised additional awareness of the issue by writing stories in the county newsletter and local newspaper and through six radio broadcasts, reaching more than 1,500 livestock producers. Results: As a result of Mayer’s efforts, more than 40 farmers have begun crediting nitrogen in manure and sludge on their crops and are applying less synthetic fertilizer. On average, producers saved more than 1,500 per farm and will realize an estimated 40,000 of additional net income when they take the full nutrient credit. These farmers have indicated they will follow recommended practices to credit manure as fertilizer. Research shows that farmers save about 10 per acre by crediting nitrogen. In his work with Green County producers, Mayer will continue to stress the economic and environmental benefits of crediting manure and other nitrogen-producing crops. These actions saved farmers money and helped prevent a potential health hazard. 12Evidence: To assess the seminar series’ impact, Mayer conducted a post-seminar survey, with 76 of 90 participants completing surveys. Results show that the seminars motivated farmers to change their nutrient crediting practices. Phone surveys completed with all participants three months after the program show that 40 farmers either developed a nutrient management plan or made recommended changes. 13Example with notes Agriculture and Natural Resources Crediting on-farm nutrients Situation: Describes issue and Situation: Manure disposal poses a challenge for Green County makes the case for Extension’s involvement. livestock producers, owing to a high number of cows on a limited land base. In fact, Green County ranks fourth in the nation in number of cows per square mile. As part of their production process, farmers apply nitrogen-rich manure to crops. However, many farmers don’t credit the manure as part of their fertilizer application, which results in excess nitrogen in the soil. Clearly presents the problem and why we should care- nitrogen Nitrogen overapplication has two drawbacks: it raises the overapplication poses cost of production and boosts nitrate levels in surface and environmental and health hazards. groundwater, which could lead to contaminated lakes, streams and wells. So not only was this practice costing farmers money, it posed potential environmental and public health hazards. Response: To address the issue, UW-Extension Agricultural Response: Describes Extension’s response, stakeholders and Educator Mark Mayer brought together local manure haulers, partnerships. the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Green County Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a UWEX soils specialist. Working with these partners, Mayer conducted three manure Spells out Extension’s role in programming. management seminars tailored to Green County dairy and livestock farmers. Topics included spreading regulations, manure management and crediting, advantages and disadvantages of commercial application, and guidelines for applying sludge products to cropland. Clearly tells who and how many were reached. Ninety farmers (13 percent of the livestock producers in Green County) and agribusiness people attended one or more of the seminars. Mayer raised additional awareness of the issue by writing stories in the county newsletter and local newspaper and through six radio broadcasts, reaching more than 1,500 livestock producers. Results: Describes results valued by clients; gives the number of Results: As a result of Mayer’s efforts, more than 40 farmers farmers and shows how they have begun crediting nitrogen in manure and sludge on their changed behavior and practices- and saved money- as a result of crops and are applying less synthetic fertilizer. On average, Extension’s response. Answers the producers saved more than 1,500 per farm and will realize an question: “So what?” 14estimated 40,000 of additional net income when they take the full nutrient credit. These farmers have indicated they will follow recommended practices to credit manure as fertilizer. Research shows that farmers save about 10 per acre by crediting nitrogen. Describes Extension’s next step- continue to work with farmers and In his work with Green County producers, Mayer will continue stress benefits of crediting manure. to stress the economic and environmental benefits of crediting manure and other nitrogen-producing crops. These actions saved farmers money and helped prevent a potential health hazard. Evidence: Describes data collection methods (post-seminar Evidence: To assess the seminar series’ impact, Mayer surveys and follow-up phone surveys), response rates and when conducted a post-seminar survey, with 76 of 90 participants data were collected. completing surveys. Results show that the seminars motivated farmers to change their nutrient crediting practices. Phone surveys completed with all participants three months after the program show that 40 farmers either developed a nutrient management plan or made recommended changes. Overall: Concise, easy to read and understand. Uses active voice and gives significant, compelling facts. 15Success story example Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development Building a countywide economic development group Situation: In 2002, a group of business and county government leaders from across Washburn County came together with a common desire: create a single economic development contact point for the entire county. At the time, only Shell Lake had a formal economic development group. Other cities, towns and villages lacked access to the many skills – financial, planning, networking, human resources and business management – needed to grow their communities. To ensure an economically vibrant future, county leaders started the Washburn County Economic Development Corporation. At first, the new organization lacked structure, mission, goals and operating procedures. Response: Washburn County CNRED Educator Beverly Stencel responded, drawing on years of experience in organizational and leadership development. She worked with the group on strategic planning, helping county leaders develop a plan of action, write a mission statement, assess local needs, set goals and create bylaws. She facilitated meetings and developed Power Points, overheads and a brochure for use by board members in presentations to municipalities throughout the county. As an ongoing advisor, Stencel helped create a job description for a director, develop business surveys and find grant dollars. In short, she helped the young organization get on its feet, develop goals and become self-sustaining. Results: In just a year, the new organization has achieved major results. For example, the corporation hired a director and part-time staff member, won a 12,500 block grant, conducted a business retention and expansion study, helped an existing business find financing to expand and recruited a new business into the county. What’s more, the corporation recently developed a school-business partnership with all four of the county’s school districts and won a Northern Edge Initiative grant (one of 15 grants available to Wisconsin’s 29 northernmost counties) to support that partnership. Corporation members rated Stencel’s impact on this project as “very high.” She created an organizational structure, giving the group a process and a timetable for completing steps. In the words of one respondent, “She was a big part of helping get it started, and she continues to be a big part of it. She gave us ideas and examples of how we could set this up. We had a blueprint to follow and Bev brought that to us.” From another, “Stencel’s organizational expertise got us up and running more quickly than we’d have been able to do with out her.” Evidence: To document Extension’s role in achieving these results, Stencel conducted a modified focus-group interview with all corporation members and phone interviews with 16five stakeholders. She included specific questions that helped identify the specific role that Extension played in this collaborative effort. Results show the unique and important contribution Extension made. 17Example with notes Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development Building a countywide economic development group Situation: In 2002, a group of business and county government Situation: Clearly describes leaders from across Washburn County came together with a locally identified problem- lack of a single economic common desire: create a single economic development contact development contact point for point for the entire county. At the time, only Shell Lake had a the county- and sets the stage formal economic development group. Other cities, towns and for Extension’s involvement. villages lacked access to the many skills – financial, planning, networking, human resources and business management – Explains why Extension stepped in- the new needed to grow their communities. To ensure an economically organization lacked structure, vibrant future, county leaders started the Washburn County mission, goals and operating Economic Development Corporation. At first, the new procedures. organization lacked structure, mission, goals and operating procedures. Response: Describes Response: Washburn County CNRED Educator Beverly Stencel Extension’s unique ability to responded, drawing on years of experience in organizational and respond- Stencel’s years of leadership development. She worked with the group on strategic experience in organizational planning, helping county leaders develop a plan of action, write a and leadership development. mission statement, assess local needs, set goals and create Spells out her specific role and bylaws. She facilitated meetings and developed Power Points, actions in creating the new overheads and a brochure for use in presentations to entity. municipalities throughout the county. As an ongoing advisor, Stencel helped create a job description for a director, develop Tells who was reached. business surveys and find grant dollars. In short, she helped the young organization get on its feet, develop goals and become self-sustaining. Results: In just a year, the new organization has achieved major Results: Describes significant, results. For example, the corporation hired a director and part- compelling results; provides time staff member, won a 12,500 block grant, conducted a specifics that help the reader business retention and expansion study, helped an existing understand the value of business find financing to expand and recruited a new business Extension’s effort. into the county. What’s more, the corporation recently developed Answers: “So what?" that a school-business partnership with all four of the county’s school Extension responded. districts and won a Northern Edge Initiative grant (one of 15 grants available to Wisconsin’s 29 northernmost counties) to support that partnership. 18 Corporation members rated Stencel’s impact on this project as Includes several personal “very high.” She created an organizational structure, giving the statements drawn from group a process and a timetable for completing steps. In the evaluation data showing the words of one respondent, “She was a big part of helping get it value of Extension’s role. started, and she continues to be a big part of it. She gave us ideas and examples of how we could set this up. We had a blueprint to follow and Bev brought that to us.” From another, “Stencel’s organizational expertise got us up and running more quickly than we’d have been able to do with out her.” Evidence: Describes data Evaluation: To document Extension’s role in achieving these collection methods (modified results, Stencel conducted a modified focus-group interview with focus group and phone all corporation members and phone interviews with five interviews); number of stakeholders. She included specific questions that helped identify respondents and type of questions asked. the specific role that Extension played in this collaborative effort. Results show the unique and important contribution Extension made. Overall: Tells an interesting, compelling story. Concise, easy to read and understand. 19Success story example Family Living Curriculum for divorcing parents Situation: In Wisconsin, divorce affects 18,000 children every year. An estimated third of today’s children will experience a divorce before age 18. For a child, divorce can mean a new home, new siblings, new school, new relationships, changed economic and social status. Emotions – anger, resentment, grief, sadness – run rampant. In short, divorce turns a child’s life upside-down, with ripple effects on families, friends, neighbors, schools and communities. Because divorce creates such chaos, not just within families but communities, a great need exists for teaching tools that model practical how-to coping strategies and appropriate behaviors for parents. Response: Family Living Educator Joan LeFebvre had worked directly with divorced parents in Vilas County since the early 90s. In an effort to go a step further and reach parent educators, she formed a partnership with UW-Extension Child Development Specialist Dave Riley and Extension educators representing Adams, Forest, Florence, Green, Waupaca and Bayfield counties. Together, they created “Successful Co- Parenting,” a train-the-trainer curriculum that gives participants the materials, experience and approach for helping divorcing families. The four-hour curriculum was specifically designed to fit a state law that recommends four hours of parent education for divorced parents. In June of 2002, LeFebvre and other educators held a statewide training for professionals who work with divorcing, separated or never-married parents. Altogether, 24 individuals from around the state attended, representing family resource centers, mental health services, Head Start, family court and other agencies. Among other things, the curriculum helps educators show parents how to avoid putting kids in the middle, use specific strategies tailored to children’s behavior and adopt a business-like relationship when dealing with children. Results: LeFebvre and her colleagues created a much-needed tool with practical, ready- to-use resources for educators around the state who work with families struggling with divorce. The new curriculum fits the state’s four-hour education recommendation for divorcing parents, making widespread adoption likely. Feedback from the statewide training was overwhelmingly positive. Overall, 95 percent of the participants said they intend to use the curriculum in their parent education work. Of those, 57 percent said they will definitely use the curriculum, while 38 percent said they will probably use it. One individual said that since she’d never personally gone through a divorce, she didn’t think she could teach the curriculum. Taking the training showed her that she could be a capable teacher without having experienced a divorce. 20

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