Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Lars Björk

Second Advisor

Dr. Wayne Lewis

Abstract

This study examines the interconnectedness of social networks of the early adopter Family and Consumer Science Extension Agents (FCS Agents) of the Mental Healthiness and Aging Initiative (MHAI) pilot conducted in eleven (11) eastern Kentucky counties between October 2007 and April 2009 and compares the social network connections of the FCS Agents in the other six Extension Districts in Kentucky.

This research used whole-network survey analysis applying the social network approach, a conceptual model for explaining the communication of new ideas and information within an organizational network. Organizational networks are important structural elements of organizational systems and key to understanding diffusion of new programs within institutional organizations, such as the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Previous diffusion studies by Extension scholars have concentrated on the classic diffusion model of agricultural technology innovations with individual farmer adopters. Adoption of new programs and ideas is the process by which individuals in a social system decide to use the communicated new idea, program, and/or technology. This conceptual model describes the stages of diffusion through the attributes of the clientele adopters. The social network conceptual model describes diffusion through communication channels. Identified opinion leaders are matched with those who nominate them or closely identify with them in a diffusion network perspective to accelerate the diffusion process through an optimal pairing of network member with influencers.

Data were collected from the FCS Extension Agent network in an online survey “FCS Health Information Communication Network Survey” from July 1, 2011 – July 30, 2011. Participants were asked to rate each of their co-workers in their own district, and in each of the other six districts, on how often they go to each person directly for health education information. Hypothesis testing supports the use of opinion leaders, bridges and communication structures within the social network structure of FCS agents for diffusing health programming within the Cooperative Extension Service.

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