Fostering International Exploration: NRPA Reaches beyond Its Continental Shelf to Exchange Ideas with Park and Recreation Agencies Overseas

Article excerpt

Whether it's the kind of stone used in the walkways of Paris, France, or the type of playground surfacing used in Rome, Italy, NRPA has fostered a relationship with international partners to share information benefiting both sides of the ocean.

NRPA belongs to the International Federation of Park and Recreation Administration (IFPRA), which includes senior public officials in many of the world's major (and other) public park systems, and private national recreation, park and/or leisure organizations in more than 20 nations.

We have a long history of participating in the world recreation scene. NRPA and its predecessor groups laid the groundwork for the application of values and 'best practices' that arise from connections with informed citizens, and professional and technical people internationally: The National Recreation Association (NRA), a principal merging group in 1965, was instrumental in fostering the exchange of philosophy, policy and practices, most notably in the context of the social aspects of recreation. NRA designated its periodic annual conferences as international, and many delegates from around the world joined their American counterparts.

The American Institute of Park Executives (AIPE) (another principal merging group) reinforced its members' desire to learn from and share their know, ledge with their foreign counterparts through a close working relationship with the IFPRA, headquartered in Reading, England. In fact, NRPA even hosted IFPRA's 1989 triennial Congress in Greensboro, N.C., and will participate in this year's 20th Congress, set for Sept. 6-10 in Hamatsu, Japan.

Not only was the 1989 Congress special because it was held on United States soil, but it resulted in a recommendation of Ralph Bogust, New Zealand's representative to the IFPRA commission.

"We should consider a more aggressive, systematic approach to international exchange for recreation and park professionals," he urged. The commission agreed, accepting NRPA's insistence that citizen policy makers and civic leaders also be encouraged to participate.

NRPA and the New Zealand association's staff developed the format and content of what became international protocols to guide exchange. They are based on principles typical of public and private exchange programs in other areas: reciprocity, seriousness of purpose and intent of participants, and appropriate and continuous follow up. NRPA now has six such protocols, largely but not fully representative of the world regions. Our agreements include the Canadian Park and Recreation Association (CPRA), Colombia's Institute for Leisure and Recreation, National Recreation Association of Japan, Institute for Leisure and Amenity Management (Great Britain), and New Zealand and Australian national associations. …