NIFA Calls to Conversation Meeting Series

NIFA is undertaking a series of “Calls to Conversation” meetings aimed at working with stakeholders to seek a shared vision for the future of many agency programming areas. These sessions gather a cross section of extramurally-funded partners, third party stakeholders, and representatives of the ultimate program beneficiaries to discuss opportunities for program enhancement. The invited groups are provided a data intensive analysis of the current situation and engage in a facilitated conversation through a series of questions about the program. These high-level conversations will help drive future stakeholder input, make that input more focused and productive, and in some cases will improve the effectiveness of programs.


While these meetings seek to develop a broad shared vision for the future, it intentionally avoids detailed decision making on specific programmatic points. However, the consensus provided by these Calls to Conversation provides a broad framework of shared principles that will help guide NIFA and its partners in future conversations.

September 2016

On September 22nd and 23rd, Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming, and NIFA hosted the first such Calls to Conversation.

Supporting the Tribal Land-Grant Institutions Infographic

The meeting, themed “Engagement and Success of Land-Grant Universities and Colleges – Respecting Sovereignty, Serving the People and the Land,” was held for the purpose of having a candid and productive conversation between the 1994s and 1862s, to discuss ways to strengthen their relationship, and chart a course for a more collaborative and productive future. According to the attendees, the meeting was positive, mutually respectful, and productive. The organizers produced a progress report that is available on the NIFA website. Sub teams have formed to make progress on opportunities that were identified for future improvement.

View the talking points for the "Supporting the Tribal Land-Grant Institutions" infographic related to this conversation on the web.

If you have input on ways to strengthen these relationships or ways to help the partnership chart a course for a more collaborative and productive future for these institutions, please feel free to email us your thoughts.

February 2017

On February 15th and 16th, the University of Maryland and NIFA hosted the second meeting in this series of Calls to Conversation on the topic of Tactical Sciences.

infographic about biosecurity to protect America's food and ag system

Tactical Sciences refer to a complementary set of programs that offer the tools to protect the integrity, reliability, sustainability, and profits of the U.S. food and agriculture system against threats from pests, diseases, contaminants, and disasters. NIFA is committed to supplying a toolkit of science-based tactics readily available to help prevent, prepare for, detect, respond to, and recover from known and potential pests, diseases, and other natural disasters. NIFA’s Tactical Science priorities are focused in three areas:

A tactical sciences concept paper framed the discussion. Participants considered several issues, including: 1) What economic, political, social, technological, and scientific trends/forces will impact security of the American food system enterprise in the next 10 years; 2) What efforts are currently working related to the Tactical Sciences, and where are opportunities for improvement; and 3) What should a successful approach and strategy for the Tactical Sciences look like moving forward? Over FY 2017, NIFA will work with these stakeholders and others, to increase awareness of the need to create a stronger and more effective Tactical Sciences portfolio to ensure the biosecurity of America’s food and agricultural system.

The final report, entitled "Tactical Sciences to Protect the U.S. Agricultural Enterprise," is available.

In response, NIFA authored a concise document serving to focus future dialogue around the tactical sciences. The document, “Tactical Science: Continuing the Commitment," resulted from more detailed programmatic analysis and further conversations with affected stakeholders.

View the talking points for the "Biosecurity to Protect America's Food and Agricultural System" infographic related to this conversation on the web.

If you have input on ways to create a stronger and more effective NIFA Tactical Sciences portfolio to ensure the biosecurity of America’s food and agricultural system, please feel free to email us your thoughts.

June 2017

On June 14th and 15th, the University of Missouri, Lincoln University, and NIFA hosted a conversation on the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP).

Nutrition Education Programming in America Infographic

EFNEP is a national nutrition education effort undertaken by Cooperative Extension is funded through NIFA, and within the larger context of existing non-profit, public, and governmental programs, have a proven positive return on investment. For instance, studies within individual states have shown health care savings ranging from $3 to over $10 for every federal dollar invested in EFNEP. Consistently, annual data shows that more than 90 percent of adult EFNEP participants report improved behaviors following participation in the program. Since 1969, the program has reached 33 million low income families and youth, and taught them on ways to improve their health by improving their nutrition, food safety, and physical activity practices. In 2016, NIFA provided $67.9 million in EFNEP funding to 76 Land-Grant Universities. Using an evidence-based, interactive approach, EFNEP educators worked directly with 118,976 adults, 365,369 children and reached more than 340,000 family members indirectly.

The main question that the Call to Conversation addressed was: Roughly 47 million people are below the poverty level in the U.S., which includes 18 percent of families with children and 19 percent of children, ages 0-17. Given that EFNEP reaches about 500,000 adults and youth annually, how might we most efficiently and effectively scale up the program to expand the program's reach while also maintaining its high rate of return, i.e., program impact? The conversation was framed by a "Point of Departure" document that outlined the meeting's objective, program background, and questions to be addressed. After the conversation, additional input was received via email and a report was prepared that summarized these findings. An executive summary of this report is also available.

View the "Nutritional Education Programming in America" infographic talking points related to this conversation on the web.

If you have input on ways to most efficiently and effectively scale up the program to expand the EFNEP program's reach while also maintaining its high rate of return, please feel free to email us your thoughts

August 2017

On August 3rd and 4th, the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and NIFA hosted a Call to Conversation regarding Positive Youth Development (PYD).

Fostering Positive Youth Development Infographic

4-H as a model of PYD translates the sciences of engagement, learning, and change with youth and adults who collaborate to create sustainable community change. The ten-year longitudinal Tufts University Positive Youth Development study demonstrates that compared with their peers, youth in 4-H programs are:

  • Nearly four times more likely to make contributions to their communities;
  • Are about two times more likely to be civically active;
  • Are nearly two times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering, and Computer Technology programs, and 4-H girls are two to three times more likely to take part in science programs compared with girls in other out-of-school time activities;
  • 4-H’ers are nearly two times more likely to make healthier choices.
Framed by a "Point of Departure" document, the main point taken up at the Georgia meeting was: 4-H reaches roughly 1 in 12 youth in the United States. While other PYD organizations serve some other children, there are still approximately 14 million youth who are under-served or unserved for PYD programming. How do we build on historical successes as we look to scale up to meet the demands of the future while ensuring both equity and a high rate of return, i.e., impact?

View the talking points for the "Fostering Youth Development" infographic related to this conversation on the web.

If you have input on how to scale up NIFA supported PYD programming to meet the demands of the future, please feel free to email us your thoughts.