In 2013, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported the creation of a professional development and technical assistance center to promote strong implementation and evaluation of University-led, community-based projects serving low-resource populations. Within this center, a coaching cadre was established to provide proactive and responsive technical assistance. Formative evaluation involving coaches and their primary contacts was used for refinement of coaching practices. Initially, coaches were encouraged to build strong interpersonal rapport. This set the stage for trusting, reciprocal interactions, but coaches recognized a need for targeted support and more tools for quality programming, evaluation, and sustainability. Greater emphasis was placed on goal-focused collaboration. Coaches received training and resources on topics such as goal setting, program quality, reduction of barriers (e.g., participant recruitment), and sustainability strategies. To assess coaching model enhancements, a survey of projects was expanded to gauge logic model usage, goal setting, strength of coaching relationships, and project implementation and sustainability progress. Overall, coaching was rated more favorably and effective when contact was consistent, inclusive of face-to-face interaction, met technical needs, and involved collaborative brainstorming and planning. Findings indicate coaching relationships strengthen over time and demand a collaborative, action-orientation to set goals, reduce barriers, and drive stronger outcomes.



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