NRPA is dedicated to the advancement of public parks, recreation and conservation with a mission of enhancing the quality of life for all people. In doing this, they are constantly faced with new challenges due to rapidly occurring demographic, social, technological, and economic changes. In order to adapt and meet the needs of the people they serve, NRPA started Innovation Labs in late 2015 as a way to engage their members on cutting edge issues affecting their field.
The labs are held several times a year in different cities throughout the United States. NRPA chooses cities to host that are exemplars of innovation in their field and they then use those cities as “living laboratories” to show-and tell, where, how, and why these innovations have developed.
The Innovation Labs also bring together leaders – both in and outside the field – to collaborate and innovate around some of the current challenges communities are facing across the country.
According to Kevin O’Hara, Vice President of Urban and Government Affairs at NRPA, “Although parks and recreation agencies can offer solutions to a myriad of problems facing cities across the country, we know that we aren’t THE answer. By bringing together leaders in our field and from other professions, and by shining a light on the innovative things happening in a particular place, we leverage the collective brainpower to help us model and disseminate the types of programs, policies, and partnerships that can be replicated in other cities.”
And although NRPA is a national association that offers online learning, they see tremendous value in holding the labs, as multi-day, place-based events.
“Online learning is a critical tool in our toolkit, but in the parks and recreation field we have the unique opportunity to show, experience, and feel how our members are changing lives in their communities – and it’s important for our members to see these for themselves,” says O’Hara.
In addition to the unique approach that NRPA offers with Innovation Labs, they’ve also done a great job making information about them easily accessible, as outlined below:
- Video on the main page with member testimonials highlighting the benefits of attending Innovation Labs, an example using social proof.
- Link to upcoming Innovation Lab includes:
- Video of a member in a different city who plans to attend urging others to join him
- List of learning objectives for the lab
- Complete agenda
- Hotel information with a “Book Your Room” link to make it quick and easy to finalize travel plans, a common barrier preventing people from attending face-to-face events.
- Links to all past Innovation Labs include:
- Video highlighting the issue addressed at the Innovation Labs with testimonials from those who attended
- List of what was learned
- Complete agenda
- All presentations and materials shared at the lab (available to anyone)
- Links to other helpful resources
- Photo gallery from the event
NRPA clearly understands the importance of an outside perspective when trying to innovate and they recognize the value in taking a hands-on approach to solve problems. They also make it super easy for anyone on their website to see the work they’re doing (and have done in the past) with Innovation Labs – something particularly important since they work with people outside their industry and in the community.
Thanks to NRPA and fellow community member Josh Yavelberg, Manager of Online Education, for allowing us to shine this month’s spotlight on you!
And make sure to check out our previous Community Spotlight posts below: