Partnerships Lab

Photo of the The Lake

A collaborative process of mentorship and engagement for organizations and agencies that care for parks and public spaces.

The Institute developed and launched the Partnerships Lab, our capacity building initiative, in spring 2019. Through an annual application, we identify and engage in a collaborative nine-month organizational mentorship with nonprofit organizations and agencies in New York City and across the country.


Staff Time

An Institute Director will serve as a project manager and will guide the process of mentorship, visioning, and planning with each partner. Additional Institute and Conservancy staff will be available as needed for each partnership.

Foundations of Urban Park Leadership

A customized, multi-day retreat will include leadership and strength training, peer-to-peer exchange and networking, personal and professional reflection, and mentorship engagements with the Conservancy and other prominent park organizations.


As needed, the Institute will engage experts from the Conservancy and other organizations to support efforts that meet the identified challenge. External partners may include professionals who have specific expertise related to the identified project, such as development and fundraising strategists, operations managers, and communications consultants, among others.

Network of Urban Park Peers

On a monthly basis, national and NYC partners will gather together virtually to participate in an informal discussion, focused on relationship building, knowledge sharing, and the workshopping of ideas.

Preferred Placement in the Urban Park Leadership Program

One individual from each participating organization will have the opportunity to apply for early admission to the Institute’s 2022 Urban Park Leadership Program. Participation is not required and admission is not guaranteed. The Leadership Program is designed for senior-level urban park professionals and offers the skills and knowledge critical to the successful management of urban parks and the public-private partnerships that support them.

Capacity Building Grant

A capacity building grant will be provided to each organization at the beginning of the partnership cycle. The capacity building grant must be used exclusively to address the challenges and goals identified by the organization during the Partnerships Lab.

The application period for the 2021 Partnerships Lab is now closed. Please visit this site in November 2021 to apply for the 2022 Partnerships Lab.

To learn more about the Partnerships Lab, the process, and the application, please view a recording of our informational webinar.

Questions? please contact Grey Elam, Director of NYC Programs, [email protected] or Sarah Tracy, Director of National Programs, [email protected].

“The Partnerships Lab helped us step outside ourselves and see from a national perspective…it gave us the wind in our sails, the right kind of push we needed at the right moment.”

Meagan Elliott, Chief Parks Planner, City of Detroit Parks & Recreation

“The Institute team provided invaluable guidance on present-day challenges and worked with VCPA to develop and implement a roadmap for the future. I am ever grateful.”

Stephanie Ehrlich, Executive Director, Van Cortlandt Park Alliance and Park Administrator, NYC Parks