Action Tool

Action tools are what we use to act on and change our environment.   Action tools and our choices of tools are a reflection of our understanding of our environment defined by our collective observation, analysis and communication.  Examples include a cover crop roller, a moldboard plow, animal or plant breeding choices, crop rotation choices and related practices.

Activity Data

Activity data is the record of any user action that can be logged on a computer. In the context of agriculture it is the digital record of any management action.  Attribution (knowing who the user is) is invaluable in analysing and building services around activity data such as payment for agricultural data or environmental outcomes. 

Adaptive Management

Adaptive Management is a process of continual improvement by adjusting “action” based on high frequency observations and data driven analysis rather than by expert opinion, best practice recipe or prescription.  It requires a high level of system understanding and observation, analysis and communications feedback.

Agroecosystem Model

A model for the functionings of an agricultural system, with all inputs and outputs. An ecosystem may be as small as a set of microbial interactions that take place on the surface of roots, or as large as the globe. An agroecosystem may be at the level of the individual plant-soil-microorganism system, at the level of crops or herds of domesticated animals, at the level of farms or agricultural landscapes, or at the level of entire agricultural economies.

Analytic Tool

An Analytic tool is any tool used to interpret and make use of observations and observational data.  Examples include tables, charts, statistical tools (i.e. spreadsheets) and models used to predict future system behavior based on past observations

API – Application programming interface

In computer programming, an application programming interface is a set of subroutine definitions, and tools for building software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various components. 

Backbone Organization

A defining feature of the Collective Impact approach is the role of a backbone organisation – a separate organisation dedicated to coordinating the various dimensions and collaborators involved in the initiative.  Supporting backbone infrastructure is essential to ensuring the collective impact effort maintains momentum and facilitates impact.

Collective Impact

Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration.

Successful collective impact initiatives typically have five conditions that together produce true alignment and lead to powerful results: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations.


The COMET tools are the official greenhouse gas quantification tools sanctioned by the USDA. COMET-Farm and COMET-Planner, and earlier versions of COMET, were developed through a partnership between NRCS, the USDA Climate Change Program Office (CCPO) and the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) Colorado State University. The tools are designed to support conservation scenario analysis and greenhouse gas inventories at the farm level for cropland, grazing lands, livestock, forestry, and agroforestry. COMET-Farm uses information on management practices on an operation together with spatially-explicit information on climate (PRISM weather model) and soil (NRCS SSURGO) conditions from USDA databases (which are provided automatically in the tool) to execute a combination of models to simulate sources of trace greenhouse gas emissions and potential carbon sequestration in soils and trees. By integrating NRCS SSURGO database and site-specific climate data, locality-specific results are presented to COMET-Farm users.

Communication Tool

Communication tools are used to share observations and analysis with other individuals and organizations.  Communications tools enable the compounding effect of knowledge and experience.  Examples include printed text, digital text, photographs, and digital media.  This also includes the infrastructure to enable the movement and exchange of observations and analysis over time to enable collaboration.