The Parks & People Foundation embarked 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.
Building A New Plan
In 2016, P&P drafted its 2016-2019 Strategic Plan. This plan guided P&P to revise its K-12 programming, increase its focus and intentionality on building post-demolition parks in collaboration with Governor Hogan’s Project C.O.R.E. program, and to sunset certain initiatives better done by other NGOs (e.g., for-profit landscaping business). In May of 2019, P&P’s leadership changed with the hiring of Dr. Franklin Lance as its President & CEO. In 2020, with the ending of its 2016 Strategic Plan and the addition of Dr. Lance, P&P decided to engage in the drafting of a new strategic plan to guide the organization through 2024.
Since 2019, P&P has been able to reduce its debt, restructure its operations, expand its donor pool, and increase its awareness around Baltimore. Even with these successes, P&P is aware fully that it must now plan for its next three to five years in a way that makes the organization more relevant, impactful, solvent and sustainable. We did not take for granted that our current programs are what we should offer in 2022 and beyond. P&P performed intensive and introspective analysis of our ability to be relevant and sustainable in Baltimore City’s ever changing landscape.
This deep dive led us to our strategic focus and this plan.