Shifting Sands – the Changing Paradigm of space


In a recent blog, I spoke about “Time to move on – so they say” which was a reflection on a major event affecting an organisation and also a reflection on what role do individuals have post-organisational employment.

The public sector in the western world is gripped in a focus on what “leadership” means and what is integrity. This discussion reminds me of the 1980’s debates on NPM – New Public Management – an era where rigorous debates were encouraged that help reshape the concept of Public Sector Administration into Public Sector Management. The present discussion might just be a process of regaining the heart and soul of what is “public service” in a broader sense and not just the domain of the government. It may lead to defining “Public Sector Leadership” – PSL.

However it is only when you (can) step away from the intensity of a role, may you see what is evolving and what maybe the future. The “lag” time of new concepts (public policy) being developed and being embraced is generally in the decades. And even then when it is adopted, it can be seen as a brave move. An example is the simple concept of connecting “people to nature”, a concept embedded in science through the likes of E.O. Wilson that was further evolved in 1999 as “Healthy Parks Healthy People” and eventually adopted in 2016 by the IUCN through #Natureforall. Even the central theme of the 2016 Victoria Government draft Biodiversity strategy embraces this concept.

So given that the future concepts of parks may already be in the ether, it is timely for organisations under stress to step back and #RethinkParks. NESTA (UK) and the World Urban Parks have been at the forefront of Rethinking Parks and NESTA has already released some very interesting reports. However what are the big ticket items that are already out there that we need to grasp:

No differentiation – At present we categorise and slice and dice parks into topologies that seemingly miss the point- making connections between people and places
(values). The original concept of National Parks did achieve this but even the USA NPS in their 100th year have identified that “parks” are where people make their first connections and they are now generally in an urban setting.

#RethinkParks:The USA NPS in 2015 released a ground breaking strategy for a National Parks organisation called the “Urban Agenda”

Beyond HPHP – This concept has now truly become embedded in the parks and conservation thinking at an international level. Apart from “activating” the concept (it is yet to be a central platform in any government’s health agenda), it is time to go beyond the initial “health” industry dominance of the concept. The social and economic aspects and boundaries of “Healthy People” need to expanded and explored.

#RethinkParks:Yet to be truly explored

Multi-Governance – It is clear just like the coffee sector (think Australia) having multiple management arrangements actually creates diversity, innovation, connection and passion. The examples of this diversity of approaches and the collaborative benefits that are derived can be seen emerging in multiple places around the world but especially the USA.

#RethinkParks:Consider NY for multi-level Governance ideas – Central Park or Governance Models for Parks/Open Space (WordPress – Parks4Life)

Integrated Landscapes – Since the ground breaking ideas from Yellowstone to Yukon, the concept of landscapes have become a fabric of our thinking, however they have generally been a “conservation” based driven concept. There have been some examples more notably out of Africa that would include social and economic drivers. However it is possible and timely to take the concept into the next stage that encompasses social and economic drivers. There are many academic institutes that are at the forefront of this such as the Stockholm Environment Institute and there are emerging areas of practice even locally in Australia.

#RethinkParks: Goulburn Broken CMA Regional Catchment Strategy

Innovation – I am not talking about the self-obvious of improved social-technology (which Parks need to be an early adopter) or interesting scientific research. Well I might be such as Virtual fencing that could (will) change rangeland conservation
dramatically. However I am talking about being open to and embracing change and even being the facilitator of change might be the most important role of parks. Parks have become a very conservative “space” but there are great examples of inspiration.


#RethinkParks:NESTA (UK) exceptional program is the “Rethinking Parks”

People in Parks – Over the last three decades we have seen some amazing developments that bring “people” back into “spaces” – the classics are Melbourne’s laneways, Central Park – NY and the “roads” of Bogota (Colombia). Without re- engaging people with space and more than the connection with nature, parks are generally meaningless and have no context.

#RethinkParks:The London National Park City concept embraces people and spaces at its core and in a way that is redefining what a “park” is


These #RethinkParks do all go hand in hand and are a must do:

“Collaboration is vital to sustain what we call profound or really deep change, because without it, organizations are just overwhelmed by the forces of the status quo.”

― Peter M. Senge