Beyond Outreach Handbook: A Guide to Designing Effective Programs to Engage Diverse Communities


Engaging the full spectrum of Americans in the stewardship of our parks and special places is now recognized as crucial to the future of our national park system. This handbook represents an important tool to assist National Park Service (NPS) managers and practitioners and their partners in developing programs that successfully connect diverse communities with their local national parks. It guides practitioners through an assessment that identifies gaps in readiness and informs the development of an effective engagement strategy.

What you’ll learn

  • Context: National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis identifies relevancy as one of four priority areas for the NPS to address. Numerous opportunities to enhance relevancy can be found in current societal trends and challenges, including declining historical and cultural literacy, the disconnection of youth from nature, a more urbanized and diverse population, concerns over obesity and health, and the use of increasingly sophisticated technologies. These all provide opportunities to work with partners to diversify visitation, engage new communities, and introduce more of the American population to all that the national park system and its partners have to offer.
  • Exploring “Deep Engagement”: The NPS and its partners, through parks and programs, successfully offer opportunities for recreation and education that are valued by the public, yet most of these experiences are of relatively short-term duration and are often one-time or infrequent occurrences (e.g., family visits to national parks, school field trips, and interpretive programs).

  • Designing Effective Deep Engagement Programs: This section provides a guide to developing new programs and improving existing ones in order to successfully engage diverse communities.

  • Assessment of Park and Program Readiness: Organized around the six essential processes discussed above, the material that follows guides managers and practitioners through an assessment of park and program readiness to implement a deep engagement initiative.

  • Provide Feedback on This Model: The deep engagement approach presented here will always be a working model because the readiness assessment can serve as a vehicle for incorporating new learning.

Write a Review

  1. If we have the resources, we should be serving our local communities through sustained and meaningful deep engagement. This handbook illustrates some of the successful and long-standing programs in the NPS working with communities and for communities to accomplish the goals of the Call to Action through internships, service learning, and other programs targeted toward youth.

    The handbook identifies 6 Essential Processes and their associated long term outcomes to accomplish ‘deep engagement.’ Each of the processes are outlined through detailed tables and guiding questions used by the 2 model programs highlighted in the handbook.

    The model simply provides ways to assess the environment at your park or in your program and includes impacts of implementing the Essential Processes. This is a great starting tool to assess your program and develop a plan. One that I plan to use for youth programs at Martin Van Buren and Home of Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Sites.

    Perhaps through the Common Learning Portal we could share resources and feedback on who has used this model and how it was then implemented. Plans are always important, but seeing how they work in the field with successes AND failures is the best way to make this model and information effective for parks and other organizations.


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