COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

The Total Park Enterprise: 20 Agency Actions to Maximize Public/Private Green Space Partnerships

Dec 31, 2008
Dec 14, 2017

by Steve Coleman

The two most important steps are listed first and last: asking for help, and thanking the people who gave it. Everything else is secondary.

  1. Ask for community help, and mean it. The more you ask and the more different ways you find to ask, the more you will discover hidden assets and talent.
  2. Cultivate park/community leaders. Listen and learn from their stories about the past, their concerns about the present, and their ideas for the future. Train people in asset-based park revitalization. See Stone Soup Park Revitalization.
  3. Share power. As Brian O'Neill, the inspiring superintendent of Golden Gate National Park, has demonstrated, the more power you share with qualified citizen groups, the more power the parks will have, because you and your empowered partners will be able to get so much more done. Without giving up your statutory authority over the resource, you can share a great deal of power creatively and effectively.
  4. Lead Lateral Local Leveraging to advance the parks as the centers of city life and platforms for renewal and reinvestment. This means maximizing programs that bring cultural institutions and community-based organizations of all kinds together in the parks with such other city agencies as education, housing, community development, human services, arts and cultural offices, tourism, public health, transit, public works, planning, and police. See The Ten Invisible Landscapes.
  5. Build high-profile, lasting constituencies for parks through city-wide park promotion and revitalization campaigns that link the renaissance of the parks to the renaissance of the city itself. Advertisements can be paid for entirely through private donations, in-kind graphic and copy labor, and free advertising space in the mass transit system and on the airwaves. See also Five Principles for Media Outreach.
  6. Shine a spotlight on local and national mentors, innovators, and model park revitalization efforts to inspire community leaders about the possibilities.
  7. Help launch and build a permanent city-wide network of park support groups.
  8. Include leading park partners in regular site management, planning, and training meetings with department chiefs and line staff. Be as open as possible in sharing public information. In addition to meetings, a listserve may be an efficient way to boost regular communication with partners.
  9. Set up a Park Asset and Resource Center (PARC), a city-wide information exchange system and clearinghouse to support community-based park revitalization with a tool bank, an in-kind donor bank, a pro bono professional bank (ranging from designers and architects to accountants and attorneys), fund-raising counsel, and promotional resources.
  10. Make government resources directly available to deserving community-based park groups. Look for every opportunity to provide micro or major block grants, state and federal grant application assistance, audit and financial training and support, surplus government equipment, landscape materials, summer youth laborers, and volunteers from the National Civilian Community Corps and AmeriCorps.
  11. Designate in-park office space and signage for partners wherever possible.
  12. Provide park philanthropy briefings on funding opportunities to foundations, corporations, charities, and individual major donors, segmented by issue or category of giving.
  13. Encourage formation of voluntary or formal Business Improvement Districts (BID's) to improve the parks and surrounding communities through special annual assessments.
  14. Support heritage and eco-tourism promotional efforts around the parks.
  15. Launch a park workplace giving program among city employees and major businesses.
  16. Maximize ripple economic development impacts in depressed areas by connecting the parks to nearby job training programs, housing programs, community development corporations, and community service organizations.
  17. Invite involvement of small businesses and neighborhood groups in the development of earned income for innercity parks through interpretive products and services, licensing, special event fees, benefit performances, and concessions. Enlist business and community leaders in developing ways to document the positive economic impacts of the parks on the city.
  18. Promote city-wide park programming links to encourage neighborhood involvement in the parks. See Organizing and Programming Across Cultural Boundaries.
  19. Establish agreements for long-term private endowment and capital fund-raising by park support groups to boost the parks as lasting institutions. Why shouldn't parks benefit as institutions from the same planned giving, bequests, and endowed gifts that ensure lasting stewardship of hospitals, arts, and educational institutions? Einstein was right when he suggested that the power of compounding interest might be the greatest force in the universe: $1.00 invested in the stock market at the beginning of the century, returning the stock market's historic average return of 11%, would be worth $50,000 today! So don't overlook the power of those pennies and nickels thrown into park fountains.
  20. Find regular opportunities to recognize, thank, and celebrate volunteer leaders, partner organizations, in-kind donors, and funders. Provide partners with graphic symbols of their contribution that they can display (T-shirts, arm patches, car and window decals, certificates, photos of award ceremonies, etc.). Evaluate agency officials on the basis of their partnership support. Honor creative, effective partnering leaders within your agency and enlist them in training others.
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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space