Agents of Change


Spring 2018

Shifting the Parks Landscape

A search for new solutions to pressing problems.

In the face of rapid population growth, a competitive fiscal environment, and political pressure to keep up with change, the Agents of Change, an association of metropolitan parks officials, academics, and non-profit parks leaders, turned to Ēlumināt to shift the thinking that shapes our cities’ parks. Thirty parks leaders from around the US traveled to Washington for a two-day workshop to shed light on the challenges facing urban parks and recreation departments today, and to develop new tools to address them.

Using Design Thinking methodologies, participants spilled into DC’s parks to interview park users about amenities and programs. This allowed them to empathize with the people their work benefits - their customers - giving them greater insight into park users’ needs. Back in the workshop, the Agents of Change worked in teams to further define the problems they encountered, ideate about creative change to address those problems, and to prototype and test possible solutions with others in the overall group.

This cooperative, inclusive, and iterative process can be used to tackle the most intractable challenge, and helps us discover news ways of thinking about our everyday work.

Design Sprints

At the end of the workshop, our parks leaders put everything they learned into practice.

Each team of five participants selected an actual challenge from one of the participants’ home agencies and took this challenge through all five Design Thinking steps in two rounds, offering and receiving feedback on one another’s solutions.

Community Engagement Where Everyone Feels Heard

Team A focused on identifying extreme user segments in the community to create cheerleaders for change from a variety of perspectives. Aiming to test its prototype creatively to its audience, the team designed a skit to communicate its message, using actors to represent the various components of their baseball-team design metaphor. In the second round, they designed an outreach kit for a community group.

Integrating Partners and Staying Relevant in a Competitive Environment

Wanting to increase engagement with community partners, Team B designed a summit to coalesce user groups around new ideas. The team used a process video to show their prototype in the first round, and constructed a tabletop model of the event to further demonstrate the concept in the second round of prototyping.

Increasing Accessibility for and Engagement of Bilingual Communities

Setting out to make its park system more accessible to immigrant and bilingual communities, Team C designed a new outreach process around a fictional citizen named Helena. The team imagined the places and people in which she finds value, designing from this citizen profile an outreach and engagement strategy that is tailored to her community.

All-Inclusive Marketing Plan to Gain Trust and Awareness

With a consideration of the trust that is required of cities to run effective parks and recreation programs, Team D developed a multi-pronged marketing strategy for a model department. This included employee training and social media engagement among other efforts. In the second round of prototyping, Team D created a workflow for employees to submit marketing materials that they had developed on their own.

Proactively Managing Budgetary Constraints and Political Pressures

Team E developed a roadmap for employees of parks and recreation departments to use on an annual basis. Using a design metaphor of the four seasons, tasks and events happened quarterly to allow the department to show its value to city stakeholders, and to remain up to speed on currently budgetary and political issues. One stop along the way was an annual gala to impress the city’s top brass.