Mission-driven organizations inspire our team. When the opportunity arose to help American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA) in their mission to promote a positive public perception of agriculture through education, it didn’t take long for our team to say, “We’re in!” AFBFA approached Vivayic in late 2010 with a desire to develop an online game to engage 1 million youth, teachers and parents in learning about agriculture. With Vivayic’s help, this desire was translated into an ongoing educational initiative called “My American Farm” that reaches an estimated 250,000 individuals each year. Here’s how it all began.
To design an effective solution, we not only had to understand the interests of AFBFA, we also had to listen to the needs of teachers, volunteer educators, parents and, ultimately, youth who we wanted to use this new resource. With so many audiences involved, we needed a unique approach to test our assumptions and gather the feedback to do it right. We decided to develop a prototype of a few online games and resources, which allowed us to gather more feedback, and some initial data to inform the development of a more robust educational system. Through this process we were able to check our assumptions, figure out what we had right and identify problem areas before AFBFA sought a corporate partner to make a larger investment in the program. By digging deeper with an initial prototype, we were also able to uncover key requirements as we built the “My American Farm” games and related educational resources. This process also helped us work with AFBFA to write a more targeted proposal to garner funding from a corporate sponsor. This partnership resulted in grants totaling more than $750,000 from their title sponsor for the project, DuPont Pioneer.
Using the information we identified with the early prototype, we created a logic model to help us better define the overall vision, inputs, outputs and outcomes for “My American Farm.” This approach gave us a structured way to identify the longer-term outcomes, or goals, we hoped to achieve (e.g. adoption of the program by a specific number of schools; making a measurable shift in the target audiences’ perceptions about agriculture) and work backwards to identify the short term outputs for the project (e.g. a website, online games, educational resources, etc…) that were necessary to achieve the intended results. It also allowed us to identify opportunities to leverage existing resources the AFBFA had already developed so that resources could be applied more strategically. Another benefit of this approach was that it gave us a way to consider the various aspects of the larger “ecosystem” in which the website needed to operate. This resulted in identifying specific design features to make sure that the games and resources would be accepted in a standards-based educational system. In the end, our methodical and structured approach resulted in a more thoughtful and innovative solution.
In January of 2011, we launched “My American Farm.” You can check it out at www.myamericanfarm.org. We’re only a little proud of this project. Since it launched in 2011, we have added more than six new interactive online games and dozens of new educational resources such as lessons, e-Comics, activity sheets and more. Through the website and the related kiosk version of the program we are able to reach approximately 250,000 individuals each year. Due to its success, AFBFA continues to secure ongoing funding for the continuation of the project. In fact, within the next year “My American Farm” will be going mobile with the development of an app for use on a variety of tablet platforms.