Patrick Riccards: A Trailblazing Visionary Shaping the Future of History Education

Patrick Riccards - Future of History Education | Driving Force Institute | The Enterprise World

The business world is full of inspiring and visionary leaders who continuously push the boundaries of innovation and success. Among them, one individual stands out as a driving force in American history education. Meet Patrick Riccards, the CEO of Driving Force Institute (DFI), a trailblazing organization that has revolutionized how history is taught and learned in the United States. With an unwavering passion for educational growth and a fearless approach to business, Patrick has established himself as one of the most successful and influential leaders to watch out for in today’s ever-evolving landscape.

Through his dedication to innovation, strategic thinking, and relentless pursuit of excellence, Patrick Riccards has emerged as a transformative figure, shaping the future of history education and inspiring others to reach new heights.

The Creator 

Patrick Riccards, being the son of a presidential historian and a history lover, considers himself a natural creator with a passion for innovation and growth. He started his first business, Exemplar Strategic Communications, 15 years ago to balance his career growth with being a father to his two children. The boutique communications and public affairs firm became a top player in the education space.

Building on the success of Exemplar, Patrick Riccards established Eduflack Strategies, which provided strategic development, messaging, and consulting services to the C-suite. In 2017, he became the Chief Communications and Strategy Officer at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, where he delved into ways to improve the teaching and learning of American history.

Patrick Riccards’s passion for improving history education led to the creation of DFI. Today, DFI is the largest producer of American history education videos in the United States. The institute works with some of the top brands in the field, including the NY Historical Society, the Smithsonian, and the American Battlefield Trust. DFI’s videos have been widely praised, with learners and educators finding them engaging and informative.

Patricks’ businesses are built on the premise of not fearing failure. He believes in failing fast and not repeating mistakes, recognizing that failure is one of the greatest learning tools for a new business. By embracing failure and setbacks, Patrick Riccards believes his companies are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Entrepreneurial Journey

Patrick has achieved significant milestones throughout his entrepreneurial journey. In his first CEO position, he acquired the skill set to effectively raise funds and ensure his team comprehended the organization’s objectives. Later, as an executive director of an established non-profit, he introduced an innovative startup mindset that enabled him to explore uncharted territory despite the institute’s extensive history and significant revenue.

As the founder and CEO of Exemplar Strategic Communications, Patrick Riccards risked everything to create a thriving business from the ground up. He believed in himself and his vision but recognized the importance of success due to his new family’s financial responsibilities.

Patrick Riccards merged his experiences and knowledge to create DFI, a social enterprise that uses video to make history captivating and relevant for high school students. Although not the first to use video for educational purposes, the institute has produced over 500 films that have undergone extensive testing and proven effective. Thanks to Patrick’s leadership and strategic partnerships, the institute has reached a vast audience of almost 43 million users. Patrick’s entrepreneurial drive and leadership skills have enabled him to build successful businesses that positively impact the education sector.

Revolutionizing American History Education

About five years ago, a national polling effort led by Patrick Riccards revealed that less than 4 in 10 Americans could pass a basic history test. This shocking revelation led Patrick to survey students nationwide, who found history boring and irrelevant, and teachers who stated that traditional history textbooks were not engaging enough. Patrick explored various methods, including online quizzes, simulations, and video games, to make history education more engaging but ultimately settled on short-form videos.

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation, which initially incubated the project, did not see a future in using short-form videos to improve the teaching and learning of American history and terminated the project. Undeterred, Patrick Riccards acquired the few assets they had developed and launched DFI.

In its first year, the institute faced uncertainty, but it persevered and produced 150 new films annually. It added new distribution partners each year, ensuring the content reached millions of American students. The institute believes it has found the secret sauce to making history interesting, relevant, and entertaining for students. 

Overcoming Challenges in the Pursuit of Change

Patrick Riccards faced numerous challenges when trying to revolutionize American history education. One of his biggest difficulties was helping people see the value of change. Many individuals resist change, preferring to maintain the status quo rather than putting in the hard work necessary to create something new. Patrick quickly learned that it was not enough to explain ‘what’ they were doing to pursue change; he needed to focus on the ‘why’ behind it.

To overcome these challenges, Patrick worked hard to build a network of supporters, advocates, and champions who shared his vision for improving history education. However, even with a strong network, the initiative was not successful. 

A Journey of Growth

DFI started with 25 films and no distribution plans. The institute initially planned to rely on YouTube to share its videos. However, after conducting extensive research with educators and students, the institute realized the potential of its content. The institute knew it had something special that could make a difference.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, DFI had a solution to an acute need. In just four years, it established distribution partnerships. The institute is proud to work with Makematic, its video production partner, who has created over 500 videos. Two years ago, DFI established a relationship with The DoGoodery to ensure it effectively reaches educators and other stakeholders. The institute also built content partnerships with some of the space’s most recognized museums, non-profits, and public institutions.

Three-Pronged Approach 

DFI has proposed an integrated set of efforts to improve American history instruction. The institute’s approach focuses on three key components:

  • Supporting instruction for current K-12 American history teachers.
  • Designing innovative curricula for both traditional classrooms and Out-of-School-Time (OST) environments.
  • Providing direct-to-learner engagement through a digital platform.

The first component involves supporting American history teachers, helping them improve their understanding of American history and better connecting with their students. The aim is to make history an exciting and worthwhile pursuit of study. The second component focuses on curriculum design, changing how American history is taught in communities nationwide.

This includes designing curricula for both traditional classrooms and OST environments. The approach’s third and final component is direct-to-learner engagement through a digital platform. This platform provides interesting and dynamic learning opportunities to students and their families.

Supporting American History Teachers

DFI seeks to improve American history instruction by providing classroom teachers with resources, support, and professional development. Recognizing that many teachers are hungry for such assistance, the institute has developed an online platform that offers source materials, mini-content courses, and mini-pedagogy courses.

One of the key features of the DFI is its commitment to ensuring that teachers know how to use the materials provided to them. Teachers are trained to implement these resources effectively and modify them to suit their classroom needs better. This includes instruction on differentiating teaching methods for students with diverse backgrounds and abilities, such as English-language learners and special education students.

DFI also recognizes the challenges many teachers face daily, such as limited Internet access or other constraints. To address these concerns, the institute provides training on navigating these issues while delivering effective instruction. As an incentive for teachers to participate in the program, DFI awards micro-credentials and badges to those who complete the training. The credentials signify that teachers are part of a national network committed to improving American history instruction.

An Entrepreneur’s Responsibilities

Patrick Riccards believes in purpose-driven work that can positively change society. He sees himself as a coach, an innovator, and an agitator, each of which plays an essential role in leading his portfolio. Patrick says purpose-driven work may be challenging and chaotic, but it is necessary. He emphasizes the importance of seeing the world not as it is but as it can and should be. As a coach, Patrick guides his team towards a shared vision and inspires them to achieve their goals.

As an innovator, Patrick Riccards constantly seeks new and innovative ways to solve problems and challenges his organization faces. He encourages his team to think outside the box and develop creative solutions to drive progress and growth. As an agitator, Patrick challenges the status quo and pushes for change, even when it may be uncomfortable or unpopular. He believes true progress can only be achieved by disrupting the norm and pushing boundaries.

Fearless Approach

Patrick is motivated by taking on challenges that scare many people away. Early in his career, he led a national effort to ensure that schools used scientifically based approaches to teach children how to read. Through his experiences, Patrick Riccards realized that big, messy societal problems demand attention, and he shouldn’t be afraid to tackle them.

This mentality led him to build DFI. The institute’s long-standing success is attributed to its willingness to tackle challenging problems, provide innovative solutions, and deliver quality content. Patrick’s drive and determination have inspired his team to work hard and stay focused on their mission.

Approach to Short-Form Video Education

While DFI is not the first to use video for educational purposes, it has a unique approach. The institute focuses on short-form videos because it understands that today’s learners consume content in short bursts on platforms like TikTok and YouTube. The institute focuses on untold stories in American history, often overlooked in textbooks. It believes that today’s learners want to learn history that is interesting and relevant to them. Producing the best possible content for the consumer sets them apart from other educational video providers.

Building on Successes

Patrick Riccards is proud of the successes and lessons learned throughout his career. However, DFI is perhaps his greatest achievement. With a mission to make American history interesting and relevant to all learners, the institute has shown that knowledge of American history is essential to being a good student, citizen, and American.

The institute has worked closely with states to help their Departments of Education create new learning content aligned with state standards. Through a model rarely used in the education sector, it has successfully delivered its product to tens of millions of people, making a significant difference in education.

Each quarter, the institute builds on the successes of the previous quarter and learns from the failures. DPI doesn’t repeat mistakes but uses them as valuable learning experiences. This approach has been essential in charting the institute’s growth and success.

Employee Care and Unique Team

DFI’s global team recognizes the importance of partnering with the smartest and most skilled individuals to achieve its mission. As a result, it also works with various other partners, such as the White House Historical Association and iCivics. The team invests in its employees’ growth and well-being, recognizing that they are crucial to the organization’s success. The team’s passion for making history relevant and engaging for high school students makes it unique. The team works diligently to create compelling, informative content that educates and inspires. 

Advice for Budding Entrepreneurs

Patrick Riccards believes that the best advice for budding entrepreneurs is to follow their dreams. He suggests that success can be achieved by focusing on a personal North Star and work that significantly impacts others. Patrick recognizes that innovation work is challenging, but perseverance is key to success.

He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to learn from their mistakes, constantly seek mentorship and guidance from others in the field, and develop a strong toolbox of knowledge and skills. It’s also important to know one’s strengths and address shortcomings continually. Patrick acknowledges that setbacks and mistakes are part of the journey, but success will come by failing fast with purpose and always learning.

The Driving Force Institute’s long-standing success is attributed to its willingness to tackle challenging problems, provide innovative solutions, and deliver quality content. 

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