Our Approach

Our Approach

Our Change Makers Report highlights the Institute's passion for strengthening the role of parks in tackling society’s health, climate change, and urban challenges.

Model for Change

A Model for Change

Since the Institute was established in 2008, we have developed a model for changing systems locally, regionally, and nationally. Our starting point is usually a case study, approach, or best practice we feel could be replicated elsewhere and taken to scale.

While every challenge requires a different solution; the Institute's approach often involves several tried-and-tested steps. These include painstaking research, publishing case studies and roadmaps, convening key stakeholders, testing ideas on the ground, and finally, influencing decision makers.

In order to truly effect change, we believe every good policy must become a widely-adopted, common practice. The Institute is fortunate to work with some remarkable collaborators in California, nationally, and internationally to both pilot ideas and to have an impact at scale. We believe that collaboration is the key to scaling up good policy and practice.

Piloting Our Model

One of our first opportunities to successfully test our model for change came in the area of food policy. We were inspired by local examples in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area of cafés serving healthy, delicious, and sustainably-grown food in parks. Several years ago, examples like Muir Woods Cafe were rare in national parks, which often had a reputation for serving food that failed to match the awe-inspiring vistas and other sensory pleasures visitors come to parks to experience. The idea that the mission and values of parks could be embodied in all aspects of the visitor experience—including food service—resonated with us.

Inspired by local efforts to innovate for a better food experience, the Institute researched and published two reports examining how all parks could start to serve food that stands up to a spectacular park experience while also supporting a conservation mission. With the Institute’s support, the U.S. National Park Service adopted standards and guidelines that will affect the nutrition as well as the sustainability of tens of millions of meals served across all of America’s national parks.

With these standards in place, the National Park Service now leads the way for other large food service operators in other sectors such as museums, hospitals, schools, and stadiums, and is sharing its expertise across the country.