Tobias “Toby” Spanier
Extension Educator, Leadership and Civic Engagement, University of Minnesota
Location: Marshall, MN
Career Summary: Toby has spent the last 30 years working to make improvements in organizations and communities through educational experiences. He has worked extensively in leadership and organizational development around the world helping organizations and communities develop strategic plans to meet their changing environments. Including; U.S. Peace Corps, ACDI VOCA, Maryknoll Mission Association, and USAID
Area(s) of Expertise: Intercultural competency, team building, change leadership, influence, and effective group processes.
Education: MA, General Education, emphasis in teaching, Towson State University, Maryland
BA, Public Administration and Political Science, St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN
Language(s) Spoken: English and Spanish
Name of project: Rural Leadership Farmer-to-Farmer Program
Implementing Partner: University of Minnesota Extension
Duration of Assignment: Program was conducted in three one-week sessions implemented over nine months during June 2014, October 2015 and February 2015.
Volunteer Assignment and Impact: The Morocco Rural Leadership Farmer-to-Farmer Program included virtual and in-person training focusing on increasing leadership competencies of rural farmers to enhance the development of local leadership in farmer-based associations in the Meknes-Tafilalet region. The work plan completed was based on a three-tiered process. The first tier involved the volunteers from the University of Minnesota Extension (U of M) and the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) program. The volunteers worked together to prepare working drafts of agendas and activities to present to the team of four faculty from the National School of Agriculture, Meknes (ENA).
The second tier included a training-of-trainer (ToT) component targeting the four Moroccan professors from ENA. This process included virtual and in-person working sessions. The third tier focused on the ENA faculty applying the leadership components with 22 farmers. The 22 farmers represented 17 different associations across eight value chains (honey, milk, applies, olives, seeds, dates, medicinal plants and meat). Farmers learned processes to help their associations to set goals and strategies for achieving them.
Evaluation results revealed changes in networks among the farmers. The data indicated a clear increase in the number and frequency farmers are communicating with other members in their association and external to their association. Pre and post assessments of leadership competencies indicated positive changes with increased knowledge gained in strategic planning, decision making and critical thinking – key concepts taught in the training. Common action included the farmers’ commitment to ongoing learning and a commitment to actions. The farmers self-organized to strategize how they can continue the cohort because they all found value in learning from each other and from the ENA and Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteers.