Call to Action #31 Destination Innovation: Accelerate the spread of ideas, encourage innovation, and inspire peer-to-peer collaboration across the Service. To achieve this we will create a network for innovation and creativity to rapidly share new insights and solve mission-critical problems using online tools such as blogs, discussion forums, and “wikis.”
The "Collaborative" is a bold and forward thinking initiative (Call to Action #31), with the goal to rapidly share knowledge, new approaches, and insights from practical experience to solve mission-critical problems and advance organizational excellence. The Second Century Commission wrote:
"...the National Park Service should establish a Center for Innovation to gather and share lessons learned quickly throughout the organization. Place-based education, leadership, public engagement, and collaboration should receive particular attention. The center should form communities of practice, connecting people engaged in similar work so that they can more easily share ideas and experiences. As a public-private consortium, the center could include the Park Service, universities, foundations, school systems, corporations and professional organizations."
Read about The Collaborative’s Call to Action #5 project on Urban Parks and Programs...
Call to Action #5: Parks for People: Enhance the connection of densely populated, diverse communities to parks, greenways, trails, and waterways to improve close-to-home recreation and natural resources conservation. We will achieve this by proactive Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Programs and collaborative park-based programs that develop a deeper understanding of communities’ needs and connect citizens to the outdoors in the 50 largest urban areas and those with the least access to parks.
Urban Parks - Stepping Into Their Power
The recent NPS Urban Caucus challenged parks and programs to “step into their power” as leaders managing complex and dynamic urban landscapes. Can the National Park Service harness what leaders are doing in individual units and initiatives to accomplish what none can do alone: make the parks more relevant to all Americans? Time will tell, but the ingredients for success are there.
The power of urban parks and programs is latent. Today more than four out of five Americans live in urban areas. The National Park Service was established at about the time that the balance shifted from a rural population to a majority urban population. Yet NPS engagement in urban areas—or at least recognition of that engagement—has not kept pace with that demographic change. Not even close. Though 70 of the 397 NPS units are located in urban areas, and there are no less than 13 nationwide urban river and trail assistance programs, the mental image to come to most Americans when they hear the words “national park” is still mountain peaks, unpopulated landscapes, and bears. That needs to change, or, better said, expand.
The power of urban parks and programs is pivotal. This work is central to the entire National Park system, in several respects. One is covered above, in the issue of relevance. Another may be surprising to some: nature and biodiversity. Scientists recently found a new species of leopard frog on Staten Island, illustrating that nature remains to be discovered in even our most lived-in places. A third is political. All of our national parks—the system—needs the support of the urban majority. To quote the director of another national park system, “The fight for the conservation of the Amazon will not be won in the depths of the Amazon forest. It can and will only be won in Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo, Brasilia, and the other large Brazilian metropolises. … Urban protected areas must be structured to cater for their neighbor, the urban visitor.”
The power of urban parks and programs is overdue. The first significant engagement of the NPS in urban areas began fifty years ago, under Director George Hartzog, who redefined national parks to include recreation areas in major cities. But Hartzog’s agenda stalled. One of our recent caucus participants sent us a report of a meeting with very similar impetus and outcomes…in 1987! We compared the issues, needs and recommendations identified in both meetings. Though the 2012 meeting was developed independently, without knowledge of the events 25 years before, the gaps and recommendations are nearly identical. Why has so little happened in a quarter-century? We can’t say for sure, but likely an action plan was articulated, and groups were tasked to implement action items. A different approach is needed.
The power of urban parks and programs is you. Director Jarvis concluded the caucus by saying that, “You are the people that are going to make this happen.” To realize their potential, leaders in urban programs and parks will have to find new ways of working collaboratively, sharing ideas, innovations, and inspiration. You can be one of those leaders. Even if you were not in the room that day, but are reading these words and bringing your talents to this growing movement, the power is you.
Join the conversation about Urban Matters...
and share your ideas for defining the National Park Service's urban agenda. The Directorate has asked several urban practitioners to facilitate and support communities of practice around strategic issues. Join your colleagues from across the country working collaboratively to advance the NPS urban agenda. Find more information on the Urban Matters website:
Urban Matters Website
Join an Urban Community of Practice
Link to Background Information on The Collaborative for Innovative Leadership.
Conservation Study Institute
National Park Service
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