Partnerships Lab

Photo of the The Lake

A co-creative process designed to foster change for parks and public spaces.


The Institute for Urban Parks’ Partnerships Lab is a 10-month program that supports urban park and open space organizations as they identify critical organizational challenges and develop tailored strategies to meet those challenges. Through the Lab, organizations enhance their ability to steward great open spaces so that they can better serve the cities in which they operate.

Throughout the program, the Institute plays the role of facilitator, project manager, and advisor, providing access to a diverse array of expert knowledge and training opportunities and connecting your organization with a cohort of peer organizations from across the country.

The application period for the 2023 Partnership Lab is now closed. Thank you for applying.

To learn more about this program, please listen to our 2023 Partnerships Lab Information Session here:

Questions? Please contact Grey Elam, Director of NYC Programs, or Sarah Tracy, Director of National Programs.

Learn more about the 2022 Partnerships Lab cohort below.

2022 Partnerships Lab Participants

Friends of Morningside Park (New York, New York)
Serving the neighborhoods of Manhattan Valley, Harlem and Morningside Heights for 40 years, the Friends of Morningside Park (FMP) is a longstanding, volunteer-led park organization in upper Manhattan. Together, FMP will work with the Institute to establish the systems and processes necessary to support its long-term goal of stewarding Morningside Park so that the surrounding community can enjoy the myriad benefits of this public greenspace.
Prospect Park Alliance (Brooklyn, New York)
With 586 acres located in the heart of Brooklyn, Prospect Park serves a wide range of constituencies and neighborhoods across the borough. The Prospect Park Alliance, in collaboration with the Institute for Urban Parks, aims to develop and implement an innovative, forward-thinking community engagement strategy that will deepen their relationships in each of the park’s adjacent neighborhoods and create a network of engaged partners that represent all the communities surrounding the park and beyond.
Queens Botanical Garden (Queens, New York)
Located in and serving one of the most diverse communities in New York City, Flushing, Queens, the Queens Botanical Garden (QBG) is welcoming a new Executive Director and primed for a transformational era. Through the Lab, QBG will work with the Institute to build a plan for long-term, sustainable growth that will enable the organization to continue serving its diverse constituencies and provide access to safe, beautiful grounds and quality programming for many years to come.
Civic Center Conservancy (Denver, Colorado)
In the wake of COVID-19, Denver’s formerly most-visited public space, like those of many downtowns across the country, faced new challenges around cleanliness, safety, and changes in park use. As the Civic Center Conservancy now looks to the future, the Institute will support the development of a plan for the park’s activation that centers the needs of all of Denver’s communities while charting an equitable path forward as the city braces for redevelopment.
Gathering Place (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Gathering Place’s state-of-the-art park seeks to bridge some of Tulsa’s most persistent racial and economic divides. To do so, the organization has identified a need to support the creation of a community-led vision for the park by building authentic, relevant relationships with stakeholders in the civic and business communities. The Institute will work together with Gathering Place to revise their community engagement model to better understand and meet the needs of the diverse communities the park aims to serve.
Downtown Providence Parks Network (Providence, Rhode Island)
The Institute will support and facilitate the creation of a new parks network in Providence that will reinvigorate the downtown area and ensure that all residents have access to well cared-for greenspaces. The proposed network will span 50 acres of public spaces and trails along the downtown riverfront and will engage stakeholders from across the city to cultivate community participation and a sense of collective ownership.
The Arboretum Foundation, University of Washington Botanic Gardens, and Seattle Parks & Recreation (Seattle, Washington)
The Institute for Urban Parks will work alongside these three entities and the diverse communities they serve to create a comprehensive vision and identity for the 230-acre Washington Park Arboretum and its sister facilities. Utilizing input from community leaders and key stakeholders, the Institute will help to reimagine the governance and operations structures of these spaces with an eye towards equity and inclusion so that these treasured resources function in a way that is safe for, accessible to, and representative of all residents.


“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

Learn more about our work through the Institute for Urban Parks Partnerships Lab Analysis