Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Preparing to Shine

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Preparing to Shine

Article excerpt

Tips for achieving agency accreditation.

This is the third in a series offour articles concerning the agency accreditation process for public recreation and park departments in the U.S. This article concentrates on how an agency can prepare for the accreditation visit. This article provides important tips from accredited agency directors and the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies visitors on how to make the self-assessment process more manageable. For the first two articles in the series, see the August and September 2002 issues of Parks & Recreation.

In a recent survey, 60 percent of park and recreation directors from accredited agencies provided their insights on how they managed and survived the agency accreditation process. Their responses were related to gathering factual information about the process; garnering internal and external support for the process; preparing and identifying required changes before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) visit; and identifying the most time-consuming components of the process. In addition, CAPRA visitors have led regional workshops and presented strategies at the NRPA National Congress & Exposition on how an agency can prepare and successfully complete the accreditation process. Their advice will precede the discussion of accredited agency directors' comments.

Gathering Factual Information

Four of the pilot agencies (Asheville, N.C., East Baton Rouge, La., Greenfield, Ind., and Plano, Texas) that participated in the survey indicated there were few resources available when they began the accreditation process, but they believed that the process would move the recreation profession forward. Although there wasn't much information available to the agencies, each challenged itself to be a model for other recreation and park agencies to follow. Their dedication has made the accreditation process easier to accomplish, and professionals from these agencies have provided numerous hours of guidance to other agencies that are seeking accreditation status.

NRPA resources were the information sources about accreditation most frequently used by directors. Those resources include the NRPA Congress, regional and state conference sessions, articles in Parks & Recreation, CAPRA workshops and documents on NRPA's Web site. Directors also relied on their networking abilities to gather information by making telephone calls, using the Internet and visiting other accredited agency sites. A majority of the directors commented on the benefit of professional involvement at both state and national levels, and some have even become CAPRA visitors. Becoming a visitor increased their understanding of the accreditation process and provided insight on how other agencies organized their self-evaluation report and what type of documents were used to provide critical support for a particular standard. The message from CAPRA visitors during other conferences and workshops was for agencies to realize the importance of obtaining and reviewing accreditation materials. Successful agencies fully comprehend the value of the process and are committed to the fundamental principles of accreditation.

Garnering Support

Directors were asked how they sought political approval of the accreditation process and how they gained internal staff support. It was refreshing to read comments about how various communities wanted to be recognized as a national leader in recreation. Others commented on how public officials had a commitment to excellence or a sense of pride because of their community's recreation departments. By receiving a professional stamp of approval, many believed that the process provided their governing body adequate justification for their existence.

Some departments found support from their governing bodies because other districts or departments, such as schools, police and fire departments, were already accredited. …

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