September 14, 2012

What does Collaboration mean to you?

by Rebecca Stanfield-McGown from Community Engagement and Partnerships Coordinator, NPS Conservation Study Institute ' . get_the_title() . '' ); ?>

Collaboration is a word we have been hearing a lot recently.  It is easy to define; collaboration is working together to achieve a goal, and we do it every day.  Sometimes, it is also easy to see in practice, such as Search & Rescue teams working together seamlessly to locate lost hikers. But other times it can be harder to see, the interpretation plan that required stakeholders from several organizations and communities to craft or the management of historic resources that requires knowledge and experience from several fields to preserve. In the National Park Service, our daily work often requires that we collaborate, but how do we achieve this when we are an agency that reaches from Maine to American Samoa and works in places as different as New York City and Death Valley?

One way is to use technology- to take advantage of blogs, webinars, conference calls, and social media — to connect and share information. Another way is to strategically use technology and face to face time to build strong networks and provide people with the tools necessary to participate in meaningful dialogue both in-person and virtually.  How to facilitate this way of working is an ongoing question (and always will be as technology and the workforce continually change). It is a question that’s being explored every day by exploring where collaboration is effective and learning from pioneering people and organizations that are putting the best practices of collaboration to work for them.

Action Item #31 Destination Innovation challenges us to use new technology to enhance collaboration — to create a network of practitioners all striving to solve complex problems and share lessons learned through work and experience. The goal of a network is to rapidly share knowledge, new approaches, and insights from practical experience to solve mission-critical problems and advance organizational excellence. These networks can reach beyond organizational boundaries to bring groups together and provide space for the collaborative process we are all striving for. Many of these networks are already in place but we can continue to expand who is engaged and how we engage. How are you using networks to work collaboratively across parks, partners, and communities?  How are you fostering a network park stewards within your organization?


  1. Partnerships are one of the primary ways that we in the Conservation Study Insitute work collaboartively with other groups. Working closely with schools, non-profts, and universities allows us to work with the best minds AND those most connected with communities.

  2. Friendship is a two way street. Two to tango. Parks can lose sight of the real collaborative purposes of partnerships. We often think narrowly of Friends Groups being to serve park needs and purposes, which is entirely appropriate. We need to remember to be a friend to the community and help with their needs and issues that are related to the community needs.

  3. Collaboration is essential to managing Mammoth Cave National Park. Volunteers like the Cave Research Foundation and the National Speleological Society donate thousands of hours performing scientific studies and cave restoration — work that would not be accomplished without their help. The Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning is a key liaison, connecting the park with university researchers and academia in search of the best science for management decisions. The Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition sought grants on the park’s behalf, resulting in an in-park ethanol-biodiesel-propane refueling station, and the donation of propane and electric vehicles from the Department of Energy.

    • I think to honestly eerpxience everything in a relaxing no hectic manner you cannot eerpxience both parks in one day. In fact you might not get to everything in a relaxed manner in two. If you want to eerpxience everything I suggest you plan your day before you start it. And also have a backup plan such as if a line is too long or something is not working at the moment. Hope you have a fun trip

  4. I thought that the way one looked at technology as a collaboration was very interesting. In all my classes studying technology in the NPS everyone always looks at it as a negative and how it is going to destroy the NPS, so this was very interesting to see how it can be positive collaboration instead of a negative one. In the comments it was also nice to see how many parks have volunteers to help the park. I have recently worked with the GGNRA and the Park conservancy is a big help to them. I also think that even though the technology is a positive aspect I think it can be a negative one too.

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