A guide for current innovators and their innovations is available through reflecting on historical periods. Reflections enable one to learn from similar circumstances and related strategies that brought forth innovations from a particular time. Such innovations serve as documentation and also influence current thinking. This series examines two recent historical periods, the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and American and the 20th century in American. Each period shares a setting within colleges and universities who offered education within both rural and urban areas.
2.1 – 18 th & 19th Century in Europe and America
Time – 1826 – London, England and the development of an organization, “Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge.” This innovation met the growing needs of people moving into the City from rural areas lacking reading skills.
The new urban population came to the attention of two English Colleges, Oxford and Cambridge. The Colleges joined efforts to produce reading material for both rural and urban settings. The rural areas presented an additional educational connection to the Colleges because they had been sending written material to the landowners concerning crop management. However, after the potato famine of the 1850 the Colleges learned that the agricultural materials sent to the landowners had not distributed to those who actually worked the land. Based on this set of facts the Colleges began sending representatives to work with both the landowner and the farmer. This strategy led to the development of an ongoing interaction of shared knowledge directly between the college and the farmer. Developing new farming practices with the knowledge of the local farmer brought forth a new position -that of agricultural extension agent. In addition to improving the status of agricultural work and products, learning to read, write and the introduction of math and science became available to everyone in the community. Indeed an example of innovation.
This knowledge and related practices crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America and led to the development of land grant colleges and further development of agriculture and its related improvement in food sources there.
2.2 – 20th Century in America and forward
America, too, needed both continual agricultural improvements as well as community-based learning. The diverse population arriving American meant increasing human services access to education, health care, and social services within the farmhouse, consolidated school districts, community centers or traveling educational endeavors such as Chautauqua. In 1862, the federal government established the first land grant colleges to improve agriculture. Later these colleges expanded to include both teacher preparation and engineering.
Currently America continues to receive people from other lands and cultures. Just as from past immigration illustrates those who work within human services continue to face high levels of illiteracy. Evidences of the impact of these high levels have a direct impact on the health and education status of both the immediate community as well as adjoining communities. To address these issues now the development of collaborative strategies between communities and human services illustrate both the innovator and outcomes from an innovation.