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Challenges Facing the Oklahoma 4-h Program in the next Five Years: A Delphi Study

Knight, Kristin Elizabeth

The 4-H program has “evolved into a complex and forward-thinking system that was unimaginable more than 100 years ago” (Borden, Perkins, & Hawkey, 2014, para. 3). Borden et al. (2014) noted an increasingly large need for accountability in youth development programs. As the 4-H program has continued to evolve and grow, Extension professionals are faced with the challenges to address the ever-changing needs of their clientele. Moreover, Astroth (2007) indicated working in youth development organizations has become more complex and presents numerous difficulties to professionals. In order to maintain the longevity of the Oklahoma 4-H program, Extension professionals must address challenges prohibiting, discouraging, or discontinuing participation of youth, families, and volunteers in the program. Additionally, state administrators should examine the challenges their staff face in efforts to execute the mission of Oklahoma 4-H. A modified Delphi technique was employed in this study to determine the challenges facing Oklahoma 4-H. Two expert panels were used in this study: Extension educators and 4-H volunteers (panel one) and 4-H parents (panel two). After three rounds of the Delphi technique, the educator and volunteer panel identified 11 challenges and the parent panel identified nine challenges facing Oklahoma 4-H in the next five years. Eight identical challenges were identified by both panels. These eight challenges represent priorities for Oklahoma 4-H to address. Findings of this study should be shared with Extension stakeholders and professionals to promote discussion and identification of potential solutions.