An exceptional visionary and dynamic leader, Patrick R. Riccards, the CEO of Driving Force Institute exudes an un wavering drive and passion to bring about a positive change in the nation’s education landscape for the younger generations.
Patrick’s passion for history was instilled in him from a young age. As the son of a presidential historian, Patrick was raised on history and its significance. Years ago, while serving as the chief communications and strategy officer at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Patrick did a national survey of high school students, which revealed that today’s learners find American history to be both boring and irrelevant. This propelled him to take a deep dive into how to improve the teaching and learning of American history. It became a passion project for him, leading to the creation of the Driving Force Institute.
Driving Force Institute was conceptualized to transform the teaching and learning of history, providing short, provocative films that could spark an interest in history in even the most dispassionate student. There is nothing more powerful than taking two minutes of time to share the story of a person, an event, a place, or an artifact with a young learner, and having them ask why that wasn’t in their history books. There is nothing more inspiring than having those same learners begin to think like historians, asking questions, pushing back, and demonstrating the sort of critical thinking they need to succeed as adults. That’s what the Driving Force Institute is all about.
An Unwavering Journey Fromn Rejection To Success
The Driving Force Institute was actually inspired by rejec tion. Patrick was incubating a history learning initiative at a former job, and that employer decided there was no future in it. They ended the initiative and eliminated the job in the process. Patrick believes in what was possible.
He shares, “A mentor of mine reqularly tells me that, ifI can dream it, I can do it’I took that to heart. I believed that we could make American history interesting and relevant to today’s learners. We just had to deliver con tent in a way that those learners want to consume. They don’t want dusty old textbooks like their parents or grandparents used. They want engaging, interesting content. So, despite the initial rejection, we moved for ward, developing content that was interesting to both educators and students. We failed often in the early stages, but failed fast and learned from each of those setbacks!”
“We are all shaped by our experiences, both good and bad.”
Today, Driving Force Institute has reached more than 50 million users. They are partnering with top brands like the Smithsonian, New York Historical Society, American Battlefield Trust, White House Historical As sociation, and many others and are working with state departments of education to develop content aligned with their needs.
Transforming The Teaching And Learning Experience
Initially, the team started experimenting on ways to find an interactive learning method to improve the teaching and learning experience. “We are opening minds to the full history of our nation, the good, the bad, and the ugly” Patrick elaborates. “Through video, we are sharing the untold stories in American history, stories that connect our past to today’s learners. We are providing educators with rich learning content that shows the role that women and the BIPOC community played in the development of our nation. We are telling stories that are important, but too often not found in history books. More importantly, we are providing launch pads for learners to have real discussions on our history and its meaning. Our Untold History initiative isn’t about doing well in a trivia contest. It is about equipping individuals to be better learners, better thinkers, and better citizens”
Approach To Thought Leadership
As a leader par excellence, Patrick has always sought to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. He is never afraid of failures. He now thrives on it. “We need to take risks and try new things and learn from our experiences/’ Patrick explains. “If we avoid failure, and if we don’t re ceive criticism, it means we aren’t pushing hard enough. I don’t want to just be a try hard, happy that I checked the boxes or followed a plan with fidelity. I want to be a change agent. I want to push on a big, audacious goal and show what is possible.”
An Unparalleled Career
With an unparalleled professional career span ning over a decade, Patrick Riccards has seam lessly navigated the realms of American history. Before launching the Driving Force Institute, he served as the chief communications and strate gy officer at the WW Foundation. Speaking about how his experience and expertise con tributed in the leadership journey, Patrick shared, “We are all shaped by our experiences, both good and bad. In leading a national effort to improve lit eracy instruction, I learned the importance of under standing one’s audience and meeting their needs. I learned how to take setbacks and learn from them, using those experiences to help me develop my own professional North Star.” He believes that success comes from having clear goals and metrics, working with exceptional teams, empower ing others to do what they do best, and constantly mea suring, readjusting, and improing.
We need to take risks and try new things and learn from our experiences,
Embracing Innovation And Technology
The key to innovation is to embrace failure. Patrick be lieves that innovation is all about change and improve ment. Playing it safe won’t take it to the pinnacle. “We get there by trying, by experimenting, by failing, by learning from it. When you allow yourself to try any thing, when you surround yourself with individuals smarter and more passionate than you, anything is pos sible” Patrick asserts.
Driving Force Institute is not the first organization to use videos to improve instruction. But what stands out is their strategy of incorporating technology in differ ent ways, providing chunks of learning that can be used to launch a class discussion, inspire questions, or trigger an informed argument.
In three years, the United States will be celebrating its 250th birth anniversary. Patrick thinks there is no better way to celebrate the nation’s 250th birthday than to present its learners with the gift of a comprehensive video curriculum comprising of what happened in those twO and a half centuries, and why today’s learn ers should know it, understand it, and care about it. He along with his team is excited to take on the new initiative to teach the learners the essentials of American his tory.
To Patrick, Entrepreneurship is more than just profit. It is also about purpose. “Success can be fleeting. If we channel our energies, our attentions, our time, and our money into that with purpose, we can be successful on more levels than ever imagined. With purpose, we can positively impact our communities and society at large shares Patrick.