Growth drivers for 4-H educational materials
The growth in demand for 4-H educational material is due to the organization's successful rebranding efforts and a campaign to attract kids in urban and suburban areas by increasing its offerings in STEM curriculum, encouraging projects and activities such as designing rockets and constructing drones, providing fitness curriculum and activities to combat child obesity, involving celebrity and successful alumni in awareness campaigns, and effective partnerships that has helped boost the reputation of 4-H educational offerings.
OVERVIEW OF DEMAND DRIVERS FOR 4-H EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
There are a couple of factors that have spurred the growth of 4-H and, by extension, the demand for its educational materials. We have provided an overview of the factors identified below.
1) MODERNIzED CURRICULUM
The main growth driver for the demand for 4-H educational material is the organization's renewed drive towards offering and promoting programs that resonate with modern families and kids. The organization, which was born in 1902, was traditionally focused on teaching kids in rural areas farming, cooking and leadership. Most Americans lived in rural areas then, unlike today when 8 in 10 Americans live in Metropolitan cities. However, even then, 4-H was also focused on teaching kids cutting-edge agricultural methods and how to use farming technologies their parents were reluctant to learn, so the organization has always embraced technology.
4-H doubled its emphasis and investment in STEM program (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) since at least mid-2000. The investment included designing and building a new robotics curriculum that has become its most popular curriculum statewide in terms of demand.
Jennifer Sirangelo, CEO and President of 4-H, who was recently recognized by Fast Company as one of the innovative people of 2017 for her role in re-branding 4-H, stated that the focus on STEM programs is to help prepare children for the job of the future. With studies predicting that more than 60% of today's students entering grade school will work in jobs that do not exist yet and that 65% of future job will be in STEM-related area, the organization's drive to prepare children for the future has been well covered by the press and well-received by families which has increased demand for its educational material.
Another popular curriculum from 4-H is its fitness curriculum. The rise in childhood obesity and the increasing publicity on the danger of childhood obesity has helped increase interest in 4-H educational materials and programs to help encourage and build child fitness.
2) EFFECTIVE CAMPAIGN
4-H launched a campaign titled "Grow True Leaders". The campaign is aimed at increasing its reach to 10 million children per year from the 6 million per year it currently serves by 2025. A key part of the campaign is conducting events with successful alumni. For example, one of its publicity campaigns involved Andrew Bosworth, the vice president for advertising at Facebook. Bosworth grew up on a California horse ranch and spent much of his childhood in 4-H where he learned to raise sheep and pigs and how to cook. More importantly, 4-H introduced him to computer programming which changed his life and he went on to study at Havard. The campaign helped showcase the fact that the organization is truly not just about farming and cooking. Many people were surprised that the organization actively teaches computer science and the campaign helped increase interest in the organization and its educational materials. The exploits of astronaut and NASA scientist, Peggy Whitson, was also touted as an example of alumni that got their start from 4-H.
Another similar campaign showcased Aubrey Plaza, the Hollywood actress that starred on the popular television comedy “Parks and Recreation.” She credited 4-H for overcoming her shyness as a child, learning to speak in public, and learning to handle responsibility. According to her, "I think there’s something about 4-H and the different programs they do and the responsibilities they give to younger people that kind of force them to gain confidence at a really young age. Being on a television show and being on a set and understanding how to be a leader in any kind of environment is really useful and I learned that through 4-H."
The push to connect with its Alumni has been well-received and has helped to promote the organization and its materials. Over 96% of Alumni have a positive view of the organization and the Alumni include 10 Governors and 40 members of Congress. The organization's engagement with Alumni has increased by over 40% and has helped create awareness.
The successful campaign and increased push towards STEM program awareness have helped the organization attract a 518% increase in donation since 2008. The ultimate aim of the campaign is to expand to more urban and suburban areas, and the success of the campaign has enabled it to reach more families and kids and increased the demand for 4-H educational materials.
3) EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIP
4-H has been able to attract partnerships and sponsorship from several organizations. An example is its partnership with Google to further its STEM programs. Google is collaborating with 4-H to provide computer science programs that will teach children programming and other essential life skills such as resilience and teamwork. The collaboration is sponsored by a $1.5 million grant from Google and they aim to teach over 100,000 young people across 22 states in the first year.
The organization also has a partnership with NASA that has enabled it to develop an effective space-age stem curriculum that helps introduce youths to science activities and careers. Such partnerships with big and respected organizations have helped increased demand for materials from the organization.
4) YOUTH PROJECTS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Members of 4-H are encouraged to get involved and help solve challenges in their communities, and as they employ the skills learned to help solve pressing challenges in their communities, it helps bolster the reputation of 4-H and interest in their activities and educational material. One of such activities is the 4-H community mapping project. "One example of a community mapping project is that youth mapped the potholes in their street as a starter project. They mapped the information and presented it to a group of adults who thought it was amazing that the kids identified a problem they were complaining about for years and showed where the action really needed to be taken. They then shared that information with the City Council to make a difference in the community's quality."
5) fairs, conferences, and other 4-H events
Part of the way 4-H has successfully promoted its materials is by showcasing the power of technologies through fairs, conferences, and events in communities. This has helped increase interest in its educational materials, as well. Community mapping projects are shown in such fairs at the local level. Currently, there are about "50 state and county fairs that will exhibit 4-H youth community mapping projects to raise awareness about the power of the technology." Such fairs and events have introduced over 4,000 youths to technology who have conducted important projects at the local level and ultimately help raise interest in 4-H and its educational materials.
Possible drivers of growth for the demand for 4-H educational materials include an effective rebranding and awareness campaign with the aid of 4-H alumni, a renewed focus on STEM projects, community impact projects that has helped showcase their work with the youth, and a well-designed fitness curriculum in light of increased awareness and concern about child obesity.