Moving regional workshops online, getting to know the Farmbook users

An important process before building the open knowledge platform, the Farmbook, which is one of the main outputs of the EUREKA project, is to understand who the potential FarmBook users are: Their requirements for accessing knowledge and how farmers, foresters and advisors would normally tackle issues within their agricultural sector.

To understand this, methods that are used in product development to build user personas and user journeys as well as understanding what the platform should look like from the agricultural sector perspective have been brought into action. In order to collect this information face-to-face workshops were originally scheduled across the EU in Paris, Budapest, Tallin and Perugia. With the significant disruption that COVID-19 has placed on travel and work, the team leading this process of getting to know the potential users, had to work quickly, be innovative and change their approach. The workshops were moved online and designed in an inclusive and engaging format for participants.

Dr. Lisa Williams van Dijk and Emily Bull, from the Royal Agricultural University in the United Kingdom and Dr. Laurens Van der Cruyssen from the Leap Forward Group in Belgium, have had lead roles in planning and executing the workshops. Lisa says: “The change of format due to COVID-19 has been a challenge but we managed to engage successfully with farmers, forester and advisors - and more importantly, we were communicating with people in isolation across the EU, bringing them together to share their experiences online”

Partners across the EU have engaged well with the online workshops, which began in April and were concluded in June.

Emily Bull, who has helped guide both practical and content-related aspects of the workshops, says: “One of our main challenges related to language and reaching people, as we decided to do the webinars in English. The workshops will be supplemented with surveys and interviews carried out in national languages to counter this. We managed to achieve what we wanted in spite of obstacles along the way. And the advantages of moving the workshops online was that it gave us the opportunity to reschedule and adjust and be more flexible in getting the right mix of people to participate.”

The team behind the workshops are right now finalising the findings from the workshops, but indications are, that, among many conclusions, one of the biggest barriers for users finding relevant information online, is language, Emily explains. This emphasizes how crucial it is to have the tools of the Farmbook available in national languages, if they are to be used by practitioners. Key findings also include the attitudes towards knowledge digitisation, the preferences of young users and identification of the future user in the agricultural sector.

What did we do? Getting to know the potential user of the Farmbook

Original plan > 4 regional face-to-face meetings (Budapest, Tallin, Paris and Perugia) with workshops running over 1 full day or 2 half days

- Facilitation of user journey exercise, to understand how farmers, advisors and foresters tackle problems – what their touchpoints are (knowledge sources), emotions and key challenges

- Facilitation of persona development – ensuring that personas that are realistic across the EU are developed

Covid plan > 4 regional workshops online. Due to time commitments and attention span online, each workshop split into:

- Introduction webinar – description of project, Eureka video, explanation of exercises

- 1:1 interview (approx. 1 hour) with participants – to understand in depth their user journey and the context of their problem in each country

- Final webinar – pull together all information and presentation + interactive session to understand how participants would change challenges into opportunities and explored how the participants felt during their search for knowledge

An example of how you can map a user’s (here a forester’s) search for knowledge to solve a problem:

WP2 news story map a user

Visualization of the process carried out and the different steps for the participants:

WP2 news story process

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