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

D&D stories logoWe are highlighting another example of dialogue and deliberation in action today, and this time it is a project called Engaging in Aging. This mini case study was submitted by Bruce Jacobson via NCDD’s Dialogue Storytelling Tool, which we recently launched to collect stories from our members about their work.

We know that there are plenty of other stories from our NCDD members out there that can teach key insights about working in dialogue, deliberation, and engagement. We want to hear them! Please add YOUR dialogue story today, and let us learn from you!

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.

Over the winter, a small group of “urban strategists” worked with the NPS Conservation Study Institute and the 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.

What was your role in the project?

I was one of about 8 “strategist” testing methods of engagement and innovation.

Lessons Learned

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.

Where to learn more about the project:

“Greater & Greener Conference:” www.urbanparks2012.org

Conservation Study Institute/Collaborative for Innovative Leadership: www.nps.gov/csi/COLLABORATIVE/COLLABORATIVE.html

The 90-minute WebEx: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi2D1LJoEVM&feature=youtu.be

For more about “Urban Matters”: sites.google.com/site/urbannps/home

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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