Senior Extension Associate
Robin Blakely-Armitage is a Senior Extension Associate and Program Manager with the Community & Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) and a member of the Department of Development Sociology. Her area of emphasis is community development and the use of demographic data for strategic planning and informed decision-making. Robin serves as Managing Editor for the various CaRDI publication series, offers demographic trainings, organizes the Institute's research roundtables and seminar series, and co-organized the CALS NYS Internship Program, which included teaching and mentoring student interns, and working with local partners to support community development initiatives. Robin is co-PI on several applied research projects on topics which include informed decision-making around controversial issues, social indicators of fiscal stress, climate-change based migration decisions, and others.
Outreach and Extension Focus
My extension and outreach efforts cover a wide range of activities. Since 2007 I have been the editor and occasional author of the CaRDI publication series, which include the New York Minute - a bi-monthly one page publication dedicated to highlighting trends and data on an important community development topic (in collaboration with the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics) – and Research & Policy Brief Series – a the bi-monthly two page publication which features applied research and policy-relevant information on current community development issues. In addition to these two publications, I edit the occasional CaRDI Reports, which range in length and topical area. All three publications can be viewed at http://cardi.cornell.edu/cals/devsoc/outreach/cardi/publications/index.cfm
As a trained demographer, I organize and conduct several trainings every year on accessing and interpreting demographic data. These trainings are typically geared towards CCE educators and other local leaders who use demographic data for a variety of purposes in their programming and planning. My trainings provide a practical approach to thinking about data and indicators, where to find useful data in various subject areas, how to interpret data and change over time, and how to use this information strategically for decision-making purposes, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the well-being of New York State people and communities. Many of the trainings occur within the structure of formal conferences and institutes such as the Cornell Municipal Clerks Institute, the CaRDI Community Development Institute, and various Cornell Cooperative Extension webinars and other events).
The CALS NYS Internship Program is in its fourth year, and includes teaching a one-credit preparation and orientation course in the spring semester (DSoc 4200), supervising interns and their community engagement projects in the summer, and facilitating a one-credit independent study class in the fall. This program has a major outreach component in the student’s community engagement projects, which my colleague Heidi Mouillesseauz-Kunzman and I coordinate.
The range of roundtables and seminars I organize each semester has a key outreach component. The format for most if not all of our seminars is to feature a panel which is comprised of representatives from academic research, practitioners, and policy makers. These seminars are an opportunity for CaRDI to foster a productive dialogue around important community development issues and for cross-disciplinary and cross-practice collaborations to occur. The seminars are well attended by members of the Cornell community as well as off-campus partners such as CCE educators, local leaders, non-profit representatives, and policymakers.
Our current Hatch-Smith Lever-funded project, Informed County Decision Making, is another example of how I blend applied research and outreach. Local officials allocate resources and make key decisions regarding complex, challenging issues. In a time of increased fiscal constraint and heightened political tensions demanding greater accountability and efficiency, officials face pressure to work more efficiently, collaboratively, and to be well-informed about the issues. In turn, land grant institutions, along with other universities, need to ensure that the research, data, information and programming they produce to inform local decisions is relevant and accessible while conforming to academic standards.
A central goal of this project is to improve local government oriented Extension and outreach practice. Our project is a preliminary pilot intended to enhance the effectiveness of research based information and other university resources in the decision-making processes of local officials. This project will advance research to improve CaRDI’s, CCE’s, and, more generally, the University’s effectiveness in engaging stakeholder groups via the communication of appropriate data and analyses to enhance local decision-making capacity. This project will result in better informed and improved decision-making at the local level.
Through focus groups and follow-up meetings with elected officials in our pilot study counties, as well as a literature review and several conference calls with various advisors, we have identified four main categories of influence in how or why data/information/research may or may not be used in the decision-making process. We are also focused on the role of trusted intermediaries in the decision-making process as we move forward. Indeed, we see trusted intermediaries as a potential point of leverage for our outreach efforts.
In addition, I play a central role in planning and participating in many of CaRDI’s conferences and institutes (Community Development Institute, CMCI, State of Upstate, State of NY Cities, etc). In all of my extension and outreach activities, I consider Cornell Cooperative Extension to be a primary partner, as well as stakeholder.
Presentations and Activities
- Strategies for connecting with local officials on controversial issues. NACDEP/ANREP annual meeting. June 2016. NACDEP/ANREP. Burlington VT.
- Understanding the Impacts of Fiscal Stress: Developing Community-Driven Indicator Models. NACDEP/ANREP annual meeting. June 2016. NACDEP/ANREP. Burlington VT.