ANCA Blue Ribbon Report

In 2014 ANCA commissioned the Blue Ribbon Report, a comprehensive report that explores what leaders in the field view as the societal and economic future of our industry over the next 25 years. The report identifies significant trends and developments and provides recommendations for how ANCA can continue to support the growth of nature centers in the future.

We are grateful to researcher Andrew Revelle and Dr. Corky McReynolds of the Univeristy of Wisconsin Stevens Point for their work on this project.

At the 2016 Summit, Dr. McReynolds provided a summary presentation of the findings of the ANCA Blue Ribbon Report. Click here to view the presentation. Following the presentation, Summit attendees participated in focus groups to discuss six questions based on the report. This article, Nature Centers: Staying Relevant, Achieving Impact by McReynolds, includes the focus group findings as well as findings from a recent survey on evaluation at nature centers.

ANCA Blue Ribbon Report

Andrew Revelle's full research report


Nature Based Preschools were identified as an emerging trend in the profession.
Thanks to Joilet Park District for this great photo!


Major Themes:

Theme 1: Nature centers will need to establish relevancy in an increasingly nature disconnected society.
Theme 2: Nature centers will adapt funding for day to day operations and long-term sustainability.
Theme 3: Nature center programming will evolve.
Theme 4: Nature center professionals will develop modern skill sets.
Theme 5: Nature centers will strengthen their properties.

Recommendations for ANCA:

1. Support the development of nature centers into conservation and restoration leaders.
Champion nature centers which have successfully integrated conservation and/or restoration ethics into their organizations. Develop best practices for nature centers supporting conservation and restoration in their communities.

2. Lead the conversation about education and advocacy concerning climate change.
Investigate how nature centers in currently impacted regions are beginning to address climate change. Provide spaces for directors to discuss how centers can and should react.

3. Develop best practices for integrating technology into programming and business modeles.
Champion nature centers which have integrated technology in significant ways. Due to the fast pace of innovation, focus on ways to leverage social media and mobile technology rather than specific devices such as iPads.

4. Develop best practices for resiliency to future economic downturns.
Identify lessons learned from nature centers that were affected by the recession.

5. Support the promotion of the value of nature centers.
Conduct evaluation and outcome research on nature centers. Develop best practices for promoting the value of nature centers in the community.

6. Be a catalyst for collaboration.
Champion nature centers which have successfully collaborated with other organizations to increase the scale of their impact. Develop best practices for collaborating to win larger foundation grants. Facilitate discussions on the potential for nature center consortiums and coalitions.

7. Promote innovative programming.
Champion nature centers which have created successful programs for high schoolers, college students, and adults. Champion programs which have successfully integrated issue analysis, field research, and citzen science.

8. Explore the horizon beyond school programming.
Facilitate discussions of the value of traditional school programs. Provide spaces for directors to discuss new models of programming.

9. Promote boards reflective of their communities.
Champion nature centers which have benefited from diverse, reflective boards.