2016 was a year of both introspection and action here at the Institute. As an organization, we have continued to grow and evolve. The ongoing change allows us to be flexible and dynamic. It has also meant that we need to constantly assess our organizational identity and brand in the context of this evolution.
Last year, we began a strategic communications process that has allowed us to take time out to evaluate our growth, what we’ve accomplished, and who we are as an organization. We have thought deeply about the language we use, pushing ourselves to match our message to the passion and potential of our work.
We see a critical opportunity for parks to be catalysts for social change, reaching outside of their traditional boundaries to embrace a role that moves beyond conservation and recreation. By reframing parks in this way, they become more vibrant, relevant, and valuable to everyone.
Over the past year, we have reaffirmed this mission and will continue to refine both our language and our program approach in 2017. At the program level, we reached a number of milestones in working towards this vision in 2016:
- Climate: Publicly launched the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative, a coalition of environmental educators dedicated to increasing climate literacy and action throughout the region. We also collaborated with the National Park Service and NASA to host a climate change education training for interpreters and educators in the Pacific West Region.
- Health: Created two new websites, hphpbayarea.org and parkrx.org, to connect park and health professionals to resources and to others interested in the nexus of parks and health. We also organized the first Bay Area Health Outdoors! Forum which brought together parks, health, and community organizations to explore new partnership opportunities, such as Park Prescription programs, that can help overcome complex health equity challenges.
- Urban: Supported the National Park Service Urban Agenda. This included building a community of practice in the Pacific West and Intermountain Regions and supporting the one-year gathering of national stakeholders. We also began working with Golden Gate National Recreation Area leadership to identify opportunities to strengthen community outreach and support efforts to ensure that park management and planning processes are inclusive of all community voices.
As we look forward to 2017, it is hard to know what the new year will hold. But I feel confident that, with our amazing team and the inspiring work we have ahead of us, we can take on any of the challenges that we face.
Photo credit: Scott Sawyer