Equipping Park Leadership for Change

graphic facilitation graphic recording strategic visioning visual leadership May 30, 2019


The National Parks Institute (NPI) Executive Leadership Program has made a comeback, and The Grove is once again centrally involved. Over the course of ten days, 22 leaders from 11 countries and eight U.S. Parks immersed themselves in a learning journey, taking them from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the S.F. Bay Area, to UC Merced, and then to Yosemite National Park. It was a powerful experience for those involved, and David Sibbet, The Grove’s founder, was the facilitator throughout.

Three NPI sessions were held in the early 2000s, and Steve Shackelton, former chief ranger at Yosemite and now linked to the new Gallo Management Program at UC Merced, tapped The Grove once again to help lead the process.

“(The program) is a signature statement in strategic management of parks and earth’s most precious protected areas,” Steve said. “The goal is to develop problem-solving leaders and to create a more harmonious global community of practice that highlights the full spectrum of diversity, both in people and culture—and within the natural world.”

In advance of the program, Steve and David co-created a detailed visual agenda to guide the process. During NPI IV, as the program was called informally, David facilitated the open learning sessions with the participants and recorded all other sessions with an iPad. Graduates will join the growing network of park leaders who are connecting through this program, now jointly supported by the Gallo Management Program at UC Merced and the National Park Service. UC Merced’s commitment is to keep the program going annually.


  View a PDF of the above agenda


Some common themes cut across all of the parks. For example, leaders see parks as the frontline educational experience for helping young and old understand new trends in climate and their cascading consequences. In this regard, parks may be seen as the canaries in the coal mine regarding the conservation of precious water, fire management, species and disease migration, and other threats that influence at an international scale. Leaders also see the parks as transformational experiences for young people connecting with the magic of nature and their own inner resources. Because most parks are underfunded, the people who work in them are among the most resourceful and dedicated people you will find and should work as a global team.

“The Grove brings reliable structure (to NPI), ” Steve said. “Because of its expertise in (visual facilitation), I know we can count on a certain structure every year that allows us to live up to our promise for the seminar participants.”

Steve also noted that The Grove embraces the driving values of the NPI, “David Sibbet and The Grove put their heart into the integrity and quality of the seminar because they also see and support the importance of parks as instruments of global stewardship and social justice.”

Steve and collaborating colleague Dr. Erik Rolland also worked closely with David and Gisela Wendling during the recent UC Merced Visioning and Change Alignment Process featured in their new book, Visual Consulting: Designing & Leading Change.



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