Shared Vision for Partnerships

The National Park Service has established a strong and enduring relationship with all Americans thereby enhancing their stewardship of our natural, cultural and recreational resources. Agency managers and staff at all levels have developed this connection by reaching out to all Americans. A wide variety of partnerships have been developed with individuals, organizations and communities of interest who are interested in helping to ensure the protection, enhancement and enjoyment of the nation's natural, cultural and recreation heritage.

The National Park Service's leadership and employees have embraced the use of partnerships as a primary way of doing business and accomplishing its core mission. Working together, they serve as catalysts for change and empower partners to assist in serving the public. The National Park Service is organized to empower parks, programs, regional offices and service centers to take individual initiative in efficiently and creatively fulfilling the mission of the organization. Partnerships are used effectively in all levels of the organization.

Those outside of the National Park Service view the organization as professional, collaborative, inclusive, open, welcoming and creative. A trusting relationship exists between the National Park Service and its partners. All partnerships are based on a shared vision, equity, compatible goals and mutual respect. All NPS partner organizations benefit from the relationship. All partners share responsibility, accountability and credit for success. Communication is open, interactive, and flows freely between the NPS and our partners.

The evidence of all of this collaboration is apparent throughout the Service's parks, regional offices, service centers, and programs. Employees demonstrate increased leveraging of existing assets to meet unfulfilled needs and improved resource protection, management and visitor services. Congress recognizes and supports the value of and need for NPS to work with the private, public and non-profit sectors to contribute their human and fiscal resources to assist the National Park Service parks and programs. As a result, the National Park Service has become much more effective in carrying out its mission.

On October 16-17, 2003, the National Park Service Partnership Council met to begin the process of creating a vision for partnerships in the Park Service. After several iterations of review by the Council, the following vision was developed and agreed upon by consensus among the Council members. This vision is written to be prospective in nature and reflect a preferred future. It has been prepared for review by the NPS Regional Office and Washington Program and Service Center Managers. When adopted by the Council and approved by the National Leadership Council, it will be used as the blueprint for action for building partnerships throughout the NPS.

Partnership Strategies for Action

The Partnership Council envisions the following strategies as a way for NPS to organize a framework and priorities for realizing the values and benefits of partnerships in working with partners in sustaining and improving parks and programs. The Partnership Council envisions that these strategies will be implemented through existing and future offices, service centers, programs and activities at all levels of NPS with the assistance of its partners.

Strategy 1: Build capacity within the organization to build upon and sustain a culture of partnerships to achieve the NPS mission.


    Develop and sustain a comprehensive training and development program to:

    • Connect partnership development to core mission.
    • Use and coordinate with existing training efforts of the Service and its partners.
    • Develop constructive organizational attitudes and understanding about effective partnerships.
    • Develop core partnership competencies for inclusion in recruitment efforts and appropriate NPS training at all levels in the organization.
    • Teach and share collaborative skills including relationship management competencies.
    • Create an environment where NPS and partners openly share information, abilities, interests, needs, expectations, realities and agree on process.
    • Build a plan upon a comprehensive training needs assessment of the core partnership competencies.
    • Encourage NPS, National Park Foundation (NPF), and partnership practitioners to do short-term details and exchanges with the offices of their collaborators to gain additional job skills and insights about other organizational cultures.

Strategy 2: Identify, document, analyze, reward and share best practices, success stories and lessons learned.


    1. Collect, catalog and share the 100 partnership "best practices" success stories and models.
    2. Make information on partnerships available on the NPS Partnership website representing a wide variety of topics, geography, park size and level within the organization.
    3. Reward and recognize successful partnerships at all levels.
    4. Create de-centralized clearinghouses of how-to information, agreements, activities and partnerships using the NPS Partnerships website, and program, regional and service center offices.
    5. Build capacity through the Partnership website, existing programs, regional office and service center consultation and mentoring services, TELL-courses, self-paced internet course offerings, videos, lesson plans, and mentoring and apprenticeship assignments and details.

Strategy 3: Work with existing NPS communication offices to develop and maintain a marketing and communications message to better communicate the values and benefits of partnerships to accomplish the NPS mission.


    1. For internal audiences:
      • Define audiences and their needs.
      • Implement the April 2003 Near-Term Capacity Building Plan to reach employees on the importance of partnerships.
      • Conduct an assessment of the partnership communication needs of the Partnership Council members, alternates and liaisons.
      • Implement the results of the communication assessment.
      • Identify key messages for leadership to communicate and make this information available to the Council.
    2. For external audiences:
      • Identify relevant audiences.
      • Plan targeted messages.
      • Develop betters ways for our partners to access NPS staff.

    Increase communication and marketing skills at all levels within the organization through the comprehensive training and development program contained in Strategy 1.

Strategy 4: Ensure that existing or new organizational structures and systems further effective partnerships.


    1. Identify and remove barriers in culture, law and policy that discourage partnership development.
    2. Identify and encourage the type of partnership behaviors that we want to replicate.
    3. Develop a Director's Order and other NPS policy guidance that describes and supports partnerships.
    4. For positions where appropriate, include success in partnership implementation and/or development as a critical result (in performance evaluations) and a significant element in a position description.
    5. Establish quantitative and qualitative standards for optimum partnership service and capacity with the NPS.
    6. Encourage programming that use the extensive abilities and expertise of volunteers in carrying out the NPS mission.
    7. Encourage the entire organization to ensure job descriptions require partnership skills, knowledge and ability and reward systems exist to recognize performance using such skills, knowledge and ability.
    8. Make recommendations to the National Leadership Council on what changes, if any, are needed to make the organization more supportive of partnerships based upon an analysis of partnership roles and responsibilities at the park, regional, program office and center levels.

Strategy 5: Provide leadership within the NPS that ensures the integration of collaboration and partnering within the NPS.


    1. Define the philosophy, behavior and expectations of leadership with regard to enhancing a partnership culture in the agency through new policies.
    2. Define and illustrate to managers and staff the desired leadership behaviors.
    3. Ensure that the message about the value and benefits of partnerships is consistent whenever possible through words, actions and results at all levels.
    4. Develop indicators of successful partnership behavior and measure performance based upon these indicators to ensure accountability.
    5. Demonstrate and encourage ethical and respectful behavior to engender trust between existing and potential partners.

Strategy 6: Improve NPS's approach to the development and management of partnerships to ensure the success of major partnership and fundraising efforts, including large - scale National Park Service construction projects.


    1. Reaffirm current NPS guidelines and Congressional mandates for partnerships that involve fundraising to ensure that we properly design, implement and monitor these important partnerships and communicate internally and with Congress.
    2. Respond to the concerns that have been raised by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, for the need for improved communication and consultation with fundraising partners, within the National Park Service, and with the Congress before large-scale commitments are made.