Beyond Outreach Handbook: A Guide to Designing Effective Programs to Engage Diverse Communities

What Is It?

National Park Service RangerPart of a series in Conservation and Stewardship Publications, this handbook is a guide to engaging the full spectrum of Americans in the stewardship of our parks and special places. It assists the National Park Service managers and practitioners and their partners in developing programs that successfully connect diverse communities with their local national parks, and provides an assessment tool that identifies gaps in readiness and informs the development of an effective engagement strategy. The handbook is based on a research project that examined what constitutes good practices for engaging diverse communities and enhancing the relevency of the national park system. The research was conducted by the National Park Service Conservation Study Institute and the University of Vermont.

  • Context: Relevancy is one of four priorities for the National Park Service (NPS) to address. Opportunities to improve relevancy are found in current societal trends and challenges, and all provide opportunities to work with partners to diversify visitation, engage new communities, and introduce more Americans to the national park system, its partners, and all that they have to offer their communities.
  • Deep Engagement: Opportunities for recreation and education are valued by the public, though most of these experiences are short-term or one-time or infrequent occurances. Research in the aforementioned study for this handbook suggests that deeper engagement holds more promise for connecting people and communities that the NPS has not previously reached. Applying the practices of deep engagement more widely may enable a more effective fulfillment of a mandate to serve all Americans.
  • Designing Effective Programs: Developing new programs and improving existing ones are essential to successfully engaging diverse communities. There are six essential processes identified from the aforementioned research project conducted for this handbook. This section goes into the background of the processes, assessment of the park and programs, and steps for achieving success with different parts of the community within the park staff, its partners, and the public.

Related Tools

Additional Handbooks provided by the National Park Service related to public engagement from the Conservation and Stewardship Publication Series include:

  • (No. 22) Beyond Outreach: Sharing Innovative Approaches for Engaging Youth from Diverse Communities
  • (No. 19) Engaging Young Adults in a Sustainable Future: Strategies for National Parks and Other Special Places
  • (No. 16) Stronger Together: A Manual on the Principles and Practices of Civic Engagement

A full list of publications from the National Park Service Stewardship Institute can be found here.

Related Methods

A needs assessment is a systematic investigation of audiences and issues.

Related Partners

Most people know that the National Park Service cares for national parks, a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural and recreational sites across the nation. The treasures in this system -- the first of its kind in the world -- have been set aside by the American people to preserve, protect, and share, the legacies of this land.