Extension Program Planning Process

Program planning is a continuous process that is anchored in the needs and interest of target audiences and results in a response to help meet those needs.  In the world of Extension, a program can encompass a variety of activities that collectively aim to reach one or more common goals.  Program development is an important step of the program planning process paired with strategic collection of data to serve multiple purposes including program improvement and impact reporting.   

Through input from internal and external stakeholders, Extension has defined statewide priorities within five core focus areas that represent areas of grand societal challenges: Community, Economy, Environment, Food, and Health.  This blend of long-range focus, shared expertise, and local accountability is a powerful strategy that ensures we stay true to our mission while we serve communities across the state. 

 Brief description of state priority issues


Statewide Priority Issues

2 women in business location

Economy:  Grow a prosperous economy

  • Workforce Preparedness/Advancement
  • Financial Wellbeing
  • Economic Vitality
woman typing on computer with stethoscope on desk

Health:  Maximize physical and emotional health for all

  • Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
  • Social and Emotional Health
  • Healthy and Safe Community Environments
person kissing baby in arms

Community: Support strong and resilient youth, families, and communities

  • Involvement and Leadership
  • Connectedness and Inclusion
  • Thriving Youth
trees and sunlight

Environment:  Sustain natural resources in home and public spaces

  • Enhancing and Preserving Natural Resources
  • Engagement with Home and Community Landscapes
fruits and vegetables on table

Food:  Maintain a safe and accessible food supply

  • Food Access
  • Food Safety
  • Food Production

Plans of Work


Illinois Extension uses State, Unit, and Educator Plans of Work as road maps showing how Extension engages to address the grand challenges and state priorities both statewide and in local communities. Together, they represent an integrated and comprehensive approach to address locally relevant issues in an impactful way.

State Plans of Work are updated annually to outline the outcomes and deliverables associated with each state plan; one plan for each priority issue.  State plans are posted in PEARS at the beginning of each reporting year and are used to assign each PEARS entry with a state plan (state priority issue) to enable Extension to demonstrate collective effort.

Unit Plans of Work are compiled to provide an overview of the state priority issues that the unit plans to target locally.  In addition, unit plans include goals and progress toward reaching underrepresented audiences in order to continually enhance diversity and equitable access to Extension resources. The deadline for the Unit Plan of Work is November 30. Units have completed the unit impact focused needs assessment by November 30, 2023 will submit multi-year plans. 

Educator Plans of Work provide a detailed description of the outreach activities and outcomes targeted locally either individually or within a team.  Educators in units that have completed the unit impact focused needs assessment by November 30, 2023 will submit multi-year plans with a deadline of November 30, 2023.