The National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference is the ultimate meeting spot for parks and recreation professionals to share their stories, strategies, and struggles. When you attend an NRPA conference, you’ll find there is no shortage of inspiring educational sessions, social events and vendor displays. No matter who you speak to, their passion for the field comes through loud and clear.
So naturally, we had to be there. Where else could we soak up industry knowledge and meet a large group of our amazing community at the same time?
Here are our main takeaways from the three-day conference:
1) Parks & rec folks are super passionate.
It’s no secret that those who choose a career in parks & recreation do so because it means something to them. Oftentimes their love for P&R starts at a very young age! Public servants are exactly what their name suggests; they aim to serve the best interest of the public, and they’re proud to do so. The passion they felt for the field lingered in the air and came through in every conversation we had. We got the sense that those who work in this field are dedicated to something bigger than themselves. They’re extremely proud to work in a field that is so essential for the well-being of their community.
We had a blast at our Appreciation Cocktail, where we got to mingle with our Amilia community and talk to them about life at their agency.
Follow along with some of our clients here:
2) Sustainability is top of mind. Everyone is thinking not just about current residents of their communities, but about future citizens as well.
Time and time again, we heard that one of the main priorities for parks and rec professionals in 2022 is the safety and well-being of their residents. But what about the citizens of 2050? Incorporating sustainable practices into our work helps us take care of assets for the long haul and ensure that we are protecting our resources. You might be thinking, “we already recycle!” but there’s more to it than just environmental and social factors. At the conference, we attended a fascinating talk by Jamie Sabbach on financial sustainability, where we learned why diving into your agency’s finances doesn’t have to be so scary and can actually save you money in the long run.
3) P&R in one word: resilient.
Following a tumultuous two years, the NRPA Conference highlighted how, thanks to the hard work of the P&R professionals who serve their communities, the field of parks and recreation came stood together to emerge from the COVID pandemic stronger and wiser. Tough decisions were made, but community remained top of mind. Something that came through at all the sessions we attended was how working in P&R means working for the best interest of your community, and that means remaining strong even during times of struggle.
At our booth, we showed our support for the field by donating $5 to the National Recreation Foundation for each badge we scanned; the donation will go towards enhancing the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life of youth. It’s an investment in recreation programs serving those who are economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged. The initiative was well-received by the P&R community!
4) We need to make sure we give space to unheard voices and consider social equity in our decision-making processes.
Parks & rec is all about community engagement, but how do you make sure that everyone in your community has access to your offerings? (Take the “10 Minute Walk to A Park” program, for example).
Equity is (and will continue to be) a crucial part of discussions around accessibility. This could be as simple as including diverse voices as part of a hiring committee or creating a survey to allow for anonymous feedback, or as big as creating a social equity index as part of your city’s 5 or 10 year plan (FYI, we already have a great blog on this topic!)
5) Agencies are looking for the simplest, most user-friendly technology to support their needs and achieve their goals.
We were thrilled to have the chance to speak to so many amazing P&R professionals from across the United States at our booth. No matter their population size or the size of their activity catalog, they all want to make signing up for their programs as seamless as possible for their residents. With Amilia’s eCommerce technology, we were able to show them how they could generate even more awareness, engagement, and ultimately registrations – all while freeing up valuable staff time.
Missed the conference? You can still get insights from the speakers!
The speaker list at the NRPA Conference had no shortage of P&R professionals and thought leaders. Want to continue hearing from your faves? Follow them on LinkedIn! Here are a few to get you started...
- Neelay Bhatt – for diversity and inclusion, leadership, customer service and more
- Justin Cutler – for mentoring, leadership, change management, and more
- Nicole Snell – for self-defense, empowerment, social justice, and more
- Milton Hunt – for leadership, employee engagement, personal development, and more
- Teresa Penbrooke – for community assessment, planning, community engagement, health and wellness, and more
Last but not least…
We’re still buzzing with energy after meeting so many amazing people in the parks and rec community and reconnecting with familiar faces at the conference. Can’t wait for next year!