Developing Training Tools and Outreach for the USDA National Organic Program

Client: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Project Overview

Nexight Group helped the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) design new templates for online training, and develop and implement an outreach plan for a series of new training products and tools developed under its Sound & Sensible initiative. We designed five online training programs into a new PowerPoint template, creating graphic-rich presentations that made the information easier to quickly read, absorb, and understand. To announce the release of 44 new training products, we wrote a series of blog posts introducing the products and developed an award-winning infographic that provides readers with an at-a-glance overview of the program, its products, and its value to NOP stakeholders.

Need

NOP’s stakeholders include more than 20,000 certified organic operations, 80 certifying agents, and countless producers who are farming using organic methods, but are hesitant to seek certification because they believe it will be a costly paperwork burden. NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiatives created 44 new training products—including presentations, guidelines, videos, and tipsheets—aiming to educate producers and provide them with tools and information resources needed to streamline certification, inspections, recordkeeping, and compliance. NOP needed a targeted outreach plan to release these 44 new training products in an organized way and inform its thousands of stakeholders of the value of these new resources. NOP also wanted to refresh and improve its existing archive of training materials to develop a series of well-designed and well-organized training programs on key topics.

Our Solution

Nexight Group developed and designed a series of outreach and training solutions that analyzed stakeholder needs and designed outreach products to best target its key audiences:

  • Needs Assessment and Training Inventory: Nexight Group conducted nine interviews with representatives of key training audiences (including certifiers, operators, inspectors, and auditors) to determine each audience’s distinct information needs, existing gaps, and content or delivery preferences to help inform future training development. We also inventoried existing training presentations to help NOP identify which presentations required updating or editing.
  • Design of three “101”-Level Training Programs: We designed and developed three introductory training programs and associated reference fact sheets for complex training topics, including steps to certification, development of organic systems plans, organic labeling, and adverse action procedures. We updated existing training materials to add explanatory graphics and design elements that made the complex topics and regulations substantially easier to understand for certifiers, producers, and inspectors (see Figure 1).
  • Outreach Plan and Product Tracker for Sound and Sensible Training Products: We developed a spreadsheet tool to help NOP track the subject matter, audience, and level of completion of 44 new training products as they were developed. We also developed an outreach plan that involved a coordinated series of five blog posts to release the new training products. As part of the outreach plan, we conducted a review of the NOP website to determine the ideal location for new training materials and which pages should link to those materials to increase exposure.
  • Blog Post Development and Infographic Design: Nexight Group developed a series of five blog posts to accompany new training products as they were released, along with an introductory blog post to the Sound and Sensible initiative. To accompany the blog post—and also serve as a separate fact sheet—we designed a one-page infographic to provide an overview of the new products, how they were developed, and how they would provide value to NOP’s key audiences.

Impact

The new training products were launched in fall 2015 and are now available for use by certified organic operators, certifying agents, and producers across the United States. The Sound & Sensible Infographic won an Award of Excellence from the Washington, DC – Baltimore Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).