Title:                          Director of Thought Leadership
Department:             Institute for Urban Parks
Reports to:               Executive Director, Institute for Urban Parks
Status:                      Exempt

About Central Park and the Central Park Conservancy:
Central Park is one of the most famous and beloved urban public spaces in the world. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1857, the 843-acre park was the first purpose-built public park in the country and is a National Historic Landmark. The Central Park Conservancy, a private not-for-profit organization, was founded in 1980 to rescue the Park which had fallen into serious disrepair. Since that time, the Conservancy has overseen the investment of approximately $1 billion in the restoration of the Park, and now hosts over 40 million visitors a year.

The Conservancy’s mission is to preserve and celebrate Central Park as a sanctuary from the pace and pressures of city life, enhancing the enjoyment and wellbeing of all. The City of New York has formally entrusted the care of the Park to the Conservancy which is responsible for every aspect of the Park’s care, including landscape maintenance, capital improvements, and the visitor experience. Committed to sharing the best practices in urban park management, the Conservancy also serves as a resource for other NYC parks and for public-private partnerships around the world. The Conservancy employs roughly 325 people and has an operating budget of $80 million.

Position Summary:
The Conservancy‘s success has inspired communities across the country, and for decades the Conservancy has served as an advisor to both public and private groups who want to galvanize improvement in their parks. “Helping Other Parks” is now a core value of the Conservancy and is a part of our organizational mission. The Conservancy’s recently completed strategic plan lays out our future commitment to increase the scope of this work, with an eye to helping more parks in new ways.

The Institute for Urban Parks, founded in 2013, is the nexus of the Conservancy’s commitment to this work. It provides continuing education, capacity building, peer-to-peer exchange, and thought leadership to strengthen the field of urban park management.

The Institute currently has a portfolio of programs that are a resource for urban park managers and the private and community groups that support them. Through both the educational work of the Institute, and the field and administrative work of the Conservancy at large, the organization creates new knowledge and highlights best practices in the care of urban parks.

Looking to the future, we aspire to provoke innovative approaches to urban park management and to set new standards for equitable and sustainable park systems through research, writing, publications and other media. The Institute seeks a Director of Thought Leadership who will lead this effort. We are looking for a team member who is curious and creative in seeking out issues, topics, and best practices within the field, and who will write extensively about these initiatives. Focus topics will include the critical impact of public parks in increasingly dense urban spaces, the role of parks as infrastructure, and issues of equity in public space, among others.

Reporting to the Executive Director of the Institute, the Director will create methods for researching and answering questions, and develop forums for discussing and distributing resulting research and materials. The Institute seeks a team member who is enthusiastic about making a difference in the communities we serve.

The primary responsibilities for this role will be:

Programmatic Responsibilities
  • Ensure the Institute remains aware of new practices and innovations in urban park management and public-private park partnerships so that we can provoke the ongoing evolution of the field via publications, events, and other media.
  • Direct the creation of a robust content agenda and communications strategy for the Institute’s thought leadership work. Create and manage an editorial calendar with the aim of driving thematic content that sharpens the Institute’s point of view.
  • Prepare reports, articles, newsletters, blog posts, and other media to share knowledge and cultivate more frequent touch points that engage the Institute’s growing network of peers.
  • Identify new partnership and event opportunities for Institute programs that advance our thought leadership objectives, as articulated in the Plan for Stewardship, the Conservancy’s 7-year strategic plan.
  • Co-supervise the work of the Manager of Climate Change Research, a new position within the Institute. The Manager will oversee the Conservancy’s role in the Central Park Climate Lab, a new partnership with Yale University and the New York-based Natural Areas Conservancy, The Lab will study of the impacts of climate change on densely used urban parks, and create new, scalable mitigation strategies for parks across the U.S. The Manager has a dual reporting line to the Director of Research and Special Projects in the President’s Office.
  • Support the work of the Institute more generally by:
  • Collaboratively building and formalizing the Institute’s network of alumni with other Institute staff.
  • Participating in conferences, either as a representative of the Institute or as a subject matter expert, when needed.
  • Identifying and implementing knowledge capture systems to support all Conservancy and Institute programs and practices to ensure new knowledge is effectively harnessed so that it can be shared.
  • Facilitating forums, panels, and other interactive learning experiences, as needed.

What We Expect
The Institute is a small multi-disciplinary team that expects collaboration, curiosity, and resourcefulness from all its team members. As a director, you will often find yourself developing solutions to new puzzles and challenges side-by-side with individuals at the Central Park Conservancy and partnering organizations.

Below are some of the key things we care about for this role:
  • Clear, cogent, and crisp writing and communication style.
  • A journalistic approach to (and commensurate experience with) research.
  • Experience with developing and managing communications strategies and the related tools (editorial calendars, etc.).
  • Experience with converting knowledge from tacit to explicit. Familiarity with turning raw materials (discussions, events, work practices, individual experience) into formal learning tools
  • Resourcefulness and ability to adapt in a fast-paced and emergent work environment.
  • Experience with virtual learning, content production, and technology.
  • An initiative-taking individual who feels equally comfortable working independently and as a member of a small, fast-moving team.
  • Willingness to jump into a wide variety of projects, getting up to speed quickly and delivering results; and
  • An appreciative orientation toward customer service.

This is a regular, full-time position (exempt). Some weekend and evening work required as per program schedules.
Salary range:  $120K to $150K annually (commensurate with experience).

Safety Requirements
Establishment and maintenance of a safe work environment is the shared responsibility of this organization and employees at every level. The Conservancy will make every effort to assure a safe environment and follow federal, state, and local safety regulations. Employees are expected to obey safety rules and to exercise caution in all their work activities. Accordingly, employees should be aware of any hazards, which could cause an injury or accident (e.g., spills, obstacles in walkways, etc.). If an employee discovers a potentially dangerous condition, he/she should alert other employees and notify his/her supervisor immediately.

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this classification. They are not to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills required of personnel so classified. All personnel may be required to perform duties outside of their normal responsibilities from time to time, as needed.

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