What We Do

Community Development

Community development is the process of helping a community strengthen itself and develop towards its full potential. UW-Extension Community Development Educators help Wisconsin residents, organizations and communities deal with their own unique challenges by providing a variety of education programs, research, and resources to address local issues. Backed by University of Wisconsin research, Community Development Educators work with local government, civic organizations, businesses and community leaders to enhance local decision-making and help communities respond to new challenges and opportunities. These priorities change as local needs change.  Our mission is to strengthen people’s ability to identify and solve community problems through education, citizen participation, group process, and unbiased information – allowing residents to make informed decisions, resulting in better communities.

Our specialists in the Center for Community and Economic Development work together with our educators and partners to create, apply and transfer multidisciplinary knowledge to help people understand community change and identify opportunities.

Economic Development

Economic development enhances local economic health, business development, stable employment and quality of life.  Community Economic Development approaches involve the public and the community with government and private sectors to build strong communities, businesses and markets. It is a multi-faceted approach to community change. Our local Community Development Educators provide research, education and facilitation to meet community economic development challenges.

Our specialists in the Center for Community and Economic Development work together with our educators and partners to create, apply and transfer multidisciplinary knowledge to help people understand community change and identify opportunities.

Leadership and Organizational Development

UW-Extension develops programs and facilitates processes to assist organizations and collaborations in addressing issues, understanding complex situations, and developing creative solutions. Educational programs strive to increase participants’ knowledge and improve their decision-making abilities. Our educators facilitate collaboration, local leadership development, and community-based problem-solving.  Our educators develop community, governmental and lake leaders across Wisconsin.

Flagship programs include:

Leadership Wisconsin is Wisconsin’s premier leadership development organization with a national reputation for producing highly effective leaders. In order to meet community challenges and recognize opportunities, Wisconsin needs leaders who show initiative, listen intently, understand the breadth and depth of issues, assume responsibility, act with civility and exercise sound decision making.

Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute enhances skills and broaden capabilities of people in our lake communities, champion effective and communicative collaboration, and foster responsive and useful networks that support lake citizens.

Strengthening Local Governments

Strong, healthy local governments are critical to the state of Wisconsin.  Our local Community Development Educators and specialists from the Local Government Center partner to offer educational resources for civic engagement and partnerships in local government decision-making.
The Local Government Center  provides focus, coordination, and leadership to UW-System educational programs supporting local government, and to expand the research and knowledge base for local government education.

The Center for Land Use Education  creates learning opportunities for communities to help them make sound land use decisions that result in a sustainable Wisconsin.


Natural Resources

The University of Wisconsin-Extension, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other agencies and organizations, supports a Regional Natural Resources Program. This program includes a network of educators located throughout Wisconsin, with expertise in water resources, forestry, citizen engagement, process facilitation, and design and delivery of natural resource outreach materials. Our local Educators also work in tandem with local partners to deliver training and education on environmental resources, energy management, and land use.

Our Specialists in the Environmental Resource Center, work together with our local educators and partners to  promote informed decision making on natural resource issues in Wisconsin and nationwide by working in partnership with individuals, community leaders, and resource professionals to develop and deliver research-based educational programs and materials.


CNRED educational programs support community based needs, including:

  • Economic development
  • Local leadership training
  • Public policy issues
  • Natural resources education
  • Land-use planning
  • Shared decision-making and consensus building
  • Access to information technologies