When I became board chair, I described three basic strategies that would best represent our support, education and innovation for NRPA members: collaborating, partnering and developing a nationwide parks movement that builds on 10-Minute Walk; earning the nation’s respect by owning the voices of our pillars, taking deeper dives into research that equips members with resiliency, urban revitalization and economic-impact data; and building our philanthropic capacity to provide the resources needed to sustain this nationwide parks movement.
If one of the hallmarks of a great community is a great park system, it is this community building through partnering with like-minded organizations and an unyielding commitment to health, conservation and social equity that makes your and NRPA’s work the solution to so many of the challenges this planet and its inhabitants face in the next 100 years. It is this connection and commitment to collaboration that drove the selection of NRPA’s new CEO and our strategic planning.
The fundamentals of a collaborative organizational culture and great partnerships involve entities agreeing to cooperate to advance their mutual interests, increase their reach and ultimately achieve their respective missions through defined strategic outcomes. These partnerships can produce business and nonprofit consortia, joint ventures, advocacy, alliances and shared marketing.
Partnering and collaboration created NRPA. In the early 1960s, several U.S. organizations involved in parks and recreation collaborated to form the National Recreation and Park Association. Today, NRPA is perhaps the leading U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks, recreation and conservation, drawing national focus to the far-reaching impact of our 62,000 members who represent parks and public spaces in urban communities, rural settings and everything in between.
Some of the many NRPA partnerships that have produced great results include:
- 10-Minute Walk, a nationwide movement, has brought more than 220 mayors together to support increasing equitable park access and quality through local policy changes and increased sustainable funding commitments.
- Our Commit to Health campaign supports 2,080 park sites, with 386 agencies pledged and, annually, 481,240 youth receiving improved access to healthy foods and physical activity opportunities.
- Our Great Urban Parks Campaign promotes climate resiliency, while providing increased access to nature and outdoor recreation in underserved communities.
- Our Healthy Aging in Parks campaign expands partnerships with healthcare organizations and collaborates with health insurers for inclusion of evidence-based programs as health and wellness benefits and reimbursement for local park and recreation program offerings.
- The ongoing relationship with our state associations coordinates education, messaging and advocacy and helps develop not only great park professionals, but also the future board members and leaders of our respective organizations.
- Our partnerships with academia are measuring the economic impact of parks and public spaces and making the case for a balanced, sustainable public investment.
One of NRPA’s new strategic goals involves harnessing public will to support parks by engaging public and nonprofit partners. It is coalitions, alliances and partnerships that help build resilient systems of great parks across our nation. If resiliency is our watchword and priority, it is collaboration that ensures best practices and credible messaging. It is partnered campaign tactics and marketing that elevate the aspirations of all citizens to demand great parks in their hometowns. And, it is alliances that produce the political leverage that influences local political discourse and leads to sustainable funding for parks and recreation.
Jack Kardys is NRPA's Chair of the Board of Directors.