In early 2016, Parks & People Foundation decided to embark on a landmark strategic planning process, involving all staff, our board, and a wide range of community stakeholders. Our goals were simple yet ambitious: to better understand who we are, what we do and how we must move forward.

A historic moment

The planning process came at a critical juncture in our history. In the three preceding years, our long-time board chair and CEO both stepped down, and the organization completed a 10-year, $13 million capital campaign to establish our first permanent headquarters.

Our strategic planning also occurred at a critical juncture in Baltimore City’s history. In April 2015, civil unrest broke out just steps from the new Parks & People headquarters in Greater Mondawmin. City residents and elected officials alike agreed that physical disarray in many neighborhoods and decreased funding for youth recreation and education programs contributed to the unrest.

An immense opportunity

In light of these extraordinary circumstances, we saw immense opportunity. Our organization was founded in 1984 on the principle that public-private partnerships are necessary to ensure the survival of the city’s parks and the health of surrounding neighborhoods. We believe that parks and green spaces are tried-and-true resources for strengthening communities. They have been shown to

  •   improve the quality of everyday life for residents by creating a safer, healthier environment,
  •   foster residents sense of ownership in their community, and
  •   serve as catalysts for economic investment.

As we began planning, we asked ourselves important questions, like “What change do we want to see?”, “How can we have the greatest impact?” and “What do we value?” In seeking answers, we arrived at one basic conclusion: parks exist for people.

A vital resource

In other words, parks are not meant to be untouched, unused, uninspired in design, and unloved. Quite the opposite: parks are vital and should be beautiful, safe, active spaces, accessible to all. Based on our history and our future, we realize that we have a role to play in ensuring that all parks and green spaces in Baltimore — from 137-acre Patterson Park to a .137-acre pocket park on Pennsylvania Avenue — are vital.

Through this strategic planning process, we were able to refocus our mission, vision and values to guide our work in uniting Baltimore through parks — where everyone in Baltimore is connected to their community and each other through vibrant parks, gardens, playing fields, landscaped boulevards, and other green spaces.

Our goals

We identified four key areas of focus, and eight ambitious goals, that will allow us to fulfill this mission and achieve our vision by 2019:

Building Greener Communities and Great Parks

Increase access to safe places to play, learn, and enjoy in Baltimore City by brokering the planning, design-development and fundraising for at least one new, transformative, publicly-accessible park project, getting it to a biddable stage.

Complete the landscape plan at Parks & People’s campus to engage at least 1,500 people annually in recreation, education, urban agriculture, training, and technical assistance, utilizing the grounds as active educational space.

Double the amount of funding Parks & People awards to community-based organizations, institutions, and associations annually and provide technical assistance to increase their capacity and knowledge to develop and maintain quality green spaces.

Inspiring Young People to Care for Green Space in Their Community

Improve the environmental and physical literacy of elementary, middle and high school students by ensuring that all youth programs have an outdoor education component that takes place on our campus or in local parks.

Create the next generation of environmental leaders by providing paid employment and a pathway to green careers for 40 high school youth per year through the BRANCHES after-school program.

Advocating for Parks and Green Space in Baltimore

Lead the advocacy effort to improve Baltimore’s parks and green spaces resulting in improving the city’s status in the Trust for Public Land’s ranking on parks by ten points.

Strengthening the Organization for the Long Term

Strengthen organizational sustainability by diversifying funding sources, capitalizing on earned income opportunities, such as facility rentals, and identifying opportunities for greater operational efficiency, resulting in an unrestricted cash reserve of $500,000.

Be able to demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of our programs and projects by implementing a performance management process that includes developing outcomes, indicators for success and program evaluation methods.

 

Conclusion

These strategic goals are designed to be ambitious, yet achievable. We acknowledge that our goals and vision can only be achieved through collaboration and partnerships (one of our core values) with local communities, fellow nonprofits, government agencies and our supporters. In other words, people like you. So we hope that you will join us by supporting our effort to unite Baltimore through parks.