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Urban Matters: National Parks and Programs in Urban Settings (Featured D&D Story)

Today we’d like to feature a great example of dialogue and deliberation in action, Urban Matters: National Parks and Programs in Urban Settings. This mini case study was submitted by Bruce Jacobson via NCDD’s new Dialogue Storytelling Tool (add YOUR dialogue story today!).

Title of Project:
Urban Matters: National Parks and Programs in Urban Settings

As part of the 2012 City Parks Alliance “Greater & Greener Conference,” 39 leaders from the National Park Service (NPS) met in New York City for an “affinity caucus” on national parks and programs in urban areas. The group identified actions to develop a national urban agenda for the Service.

UrbanMattersOver the winter, a small group of “urban strategists” worked with the NPS Conservation Study Institute/Collaborative for Innovative Leadership to develop engagement strategies to create and then implement such an urban agenda.

I was part of the strategists group, and found it to be rewarding, both personally and professionally. As urban park professionals, we prototyped a process to foster “communities of practice” around the caucus recommendations.

The central tenet of the work going forward is, the National Park Service is relevant to all Americans. NPS must engage a broad spectrum of the country’s diverse population, 80% of whom live in metropolitan areas, with the places and narratives that have shaped America. Our strategy group recognized that an approach is needed that allows NPS staff at all levels in urban parks and programs to “step into their power.” As NPS advisor Meg Wheatley often points out, innovators within NPS already have many of the answers we need. Our task as an agency is to identify “better means to engage everyone’s intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.”

On May 10, the Collaborative began the “Urban Matters Engagement Series,” a series of webinars and other engagement activities which will take place over the coming months. Approximately 65 NPS employees, and some partners, joined in the 90-minute webinar with hopes to re-engage participants from last year’s urban caucus, and to further the charge from NPS Director Jon Jarvis to craft a progressive urban agenda for the Service.

Lessons Learned / Call for Feedback
As is typical we offered the “chat” function on the WebEx, as well as access to a blog immediately following the session with hopes that people would engage in conversation. We were disappointed with the amount of interaction—almost none. We are struggling with how to best bring together those interested in a progressive National Park Service urban agenda in a way that will inspire innovation and community building. Future sessions are tentatively scheduled for June and July. We welcome any ideas for how to proceed. (Email Bruce at results@brucejacobson.net with your feedback.)

Where to learn more about the project:

Add your story today by using the Dialogue Storytelling Tool!

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Elle O'Casey says:

    We’ve now been engaged in this peer-to-peer collaboration with NPS officials and Park Partners for over a month. To see the highlights from the Urban Matters sessions, or to get involved in the upcoming webinars, visit our website at urbannps.net

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