Park Professionals Work to Advance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Just about every park and recreation agency across the United States has activities and policies in place to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) outcomes, according to the 2023 NRPA "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Parks and Recreation Report" from the National Recreation and Park Association. Two-thirds of agencies currently have formal DEI programs—an increase of eight percentage points from the 2021 survey results—and formal DEI programs are more common at park and recreation agencies that serve highly populated communities. The most common DEI activities at agencies include: hiring practices and policies; staff education and skill development; volunteer education and skill development; commitment to DEI in vision, mission or strategic plan; and community engagement policies.

Some of the report's key insights include:

  • Nearly two in three park and recreation agencies have established formal DEI activities or plan to establish them in the immediate future.
  • 92% of park and recreation agencies offer DEI education and resources to their staff.
  • Six in seven park and recreation leaders agree that park and recreation inequity is a problem nationally.
  • Agencies’ DEI staff leaders include directors, senior leadership, dedicated staff, human resources employees and program staff.

“Starting small and being consistent is better than doing nothing at all when it comes to advancing DEI efforts,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of research, evaluation and technology. “Part of centering equity is progress over perfection, and at NRPA we recognize there’s always more work to be done. We are proud to continue supporting park and recreation professionals in their quest to growing vibrant, inclusive and resilient communities.”

In April 2023, the NRPA Research team surveyed park and recreation leaders to gain a better understanding of their agencies’ efforts surrounding DEI practices. The 20-question survey, a follow-up to a 2021 study, took inventory of park and recreation agency DEI activities, the professional development opportunities provided to agency staff and volunteers, and the challenges organizations face in their efforts to promote DEI practices.

Quality parks and recreation is essential to individual and community health, well-being and resilience. NRPA has a mission to help build vibrant and thriving communities by supporting park and recreation professionals in meeting their emerging and future challenges.

One challenge — and strength — within most communities is difference: in race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, socioeconomic status, age, language, or physical or mental abilities and skills. Differences “meet” on the playground; park and recreation professionals operate at the intersection of those differences.

Since 2013, Equity has been one of NRPA’s Three Pillars: Health and Wellness, Equity, and Conservation. These three areas of focus have moved the park and recreation field from simply communicating what it does to focusing on its impact. This includes NRPA centering equity in all of its work. Conversations, learning opportunities and research have been integral parts of NRPA’s focus.

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