Beyond Green Spaces: Parks as Catalysts for Equity and Inclusion

By Tiff Cunin | Posted on July 10, 2024

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We can all agree that parks and recreation is far more than summer camps, swim lessons and sports leagues. Park and recreation agencies provide communal spaces that act as canvasses for cultural expression and celebration, platforms for environmental stewardship, and conduits to adventures without scoreboards. They are vibrant hubs where nature meets nurture; where every tree, trail and building tell a story of connection, growth and joy. Parks and recreation is a platform for fostering understanding, respect and celebration of the beautiful diversity within each of our communities.

Okay, now that we have that out in front, have you ever wondered about the power you hold as a park and recreation professional, and how you can use that power as a catalyst for moving toward greater equity in your community? If so, you are ready to apply for NRPA’s Equity in Practice Certificate Program!

Tell Me More!

The Equity in Practice (EiP) program is based on the reality that we can all perpetuate racism – and that we can all take action to dismantle it. It is specifically designed for park and recreation professionals who are ready to bring equity to their everyday work, versus talking about it generally. This program marks a pivotal movement in the profession where park and recreation professionals champion equity to shape a future where all community members can experience the benefits of parks and recreation safely and as their authentic selves.

The Equity in Practice (EiP) program is designed as a transformative experience where park and recreation professionals will learn and apply the four competencies for equity in practice: (1) self-awareness, (2) direct communication, (3) relationships across difference, and (4) race equity analysis. Collectively, these competencies promote understanding, dialogue and action towards equity.

Why do we lead with race? As part of our exploration process for creating the EiP program, we learned that park and recreation professionals often find racism the hardest to discuss, yet it is the most detrimental barrier to serving our communities. In short, we lead with race in EiP because racism intensifies all other forms of discrimination. We then use a lens of transferability to intentionally make connections across identities, equipping participants to address inequities related to all forms of discrimination (e.g., ageism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism).

The EiP program excites and motivates park and recreation professionals to take action for equity in their communities. A recent EiP alum said, “For me it [EiP program] has made it clear to me that this is the work I am supposed to be doing. I feel more confident about it, and I’m excited about applying what I have learned.”

This Fall (2024) we are excited to host a cohort for both EiP Certificate 1 and Certificate 2! Read on to learn more about each of these certificates!

Certificate 1: Exploring Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation

In Certificate 1: Exploring Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation, participants will exchange perspectives on race equity in the field of parks and recreation, while generating ideas for creating greater equity. Participants will conduct a critical examination of their own biases, explore how the language they use is connected to equity, and analyze inequities in their agencies, programs and communities. This interactive program will provide support to participants as they draft a doable Equity Action Plan suited to their unique context. Learn more and apply here!

Certificate 2: Pursuing Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation

In Certificate 2: Pursuing Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation, participants practice a mindset and skillset that are essential to putting equity into practice. Throughout this interactive program, participants will employ critical thinking to examine best practices in parks and recreation for moving towards greater equity. Participants will engage in a dynamic exchange of ideas to embed these practices effectively within their organization through the creation and refinement of a STRATEGIC Equity Action Plan. Learn more and apply here!

What Else Does the EiP Program Offer?

In addition to the 12-week training and collaboration built into the program, participants also get access to a wide array of resources and guidance for addressing barriers and inequities in their services and programs like communication skills for equity, needs assessments, mindfulness and more!

One EiP alum shared how the tools and resources support their vision for park and recreation programs that meet the diverse needs and wants of their community:

“Participation in the [EiP] program provided tools to advocate for, speak about and apply practices so that our programs and services are culturally relevant and welcoming to everyone.”

Are You Ready?

Are you ready to put your vision for equity into action? Are you ready to identify and catalyze your power to create accessible, inclusive and equitable opportunities through parks and recreation? Are you ready to join other park and recreation professionals across the country to move the needle toward greater equity?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, NRPA’s Equity in Practice program is a great fit for you!

“There is always progress but never perfection. You will get it wrong and/or forget…that’s OK. We have to acknowledge it, remember to try to do better next time. Change is a process, it is important that we hold each other accountable and be supportive.” – EiP Alum

We invite you to apply to NRPA’s Equity in Practice Certificate Program today! Oh, and share this info with a colleague – we love it when multiple people from the same agency join our EiP cohorts – in fact, we recommend it!


Tiff Cunin (they/them), is NRPA's senior education manager for DEI.