Parks & Tech Challenge

Client Need

The Pew Charitable Trusts wanted to host a hackathon to generate creative ideas for using technology to address the National Park Service’s (NPS) $11 billion “deferred maintenance” backlog of repairs to facilities, trails, and infrastructure. Pew’s Restore America’s Parks campaign has long advocated the need for Congress to allocate additional funding to address this compounding budget issue, and they wanted to generate some fresh ideas for innovative, cost-effective solutions.

Our Approach

To steep ourselves in the context of deferred maintenance, we sought out experts in the field and interviewed a dozen active and retired NPS staff. Listening to the stories and challenges of these public servants was endlessly inspiring, and gave us a very good contour of the challenges they faced. During this process, we also met our Challenge Mentors, three career parks professionals with a combined 100+ years in the Service. This discovery phase resulted in a group of Challenge Areas, each with specific Challenge Statements, which we continued to refine with the help of these stakeholders, mentors and the Restore America’s Parks team at Pew. With refined and validated Challenge Statements, we leaned on our Mentors to start compiling background that we could share with participants, including a recorded video call. With this background at the ready, we crafted a flow for the weekend with the following arc: 1) develop context , 2)synthesize “current state” challenges and dream ideal “future states,” 3) form teams and hit the trail,  4) regular check ins with parks Mentors, 5) pitch innovative ideas! Finally, we promoted the event to our community and the larger tech-for-good and parks enthusiast world and reserved a beautiful space in San Francisco’s Presidio.


  1. Fifteen interviews with parks professionals across the country to understand the specific needs and challenges related to deferred maintenance in National Parks.
  2. Recruited 150 registrants for the Parks & Tech Challenge
  3. Designed and facilitated weekend-long event, inclusive of activities and logistics
  4. Formed nine teams and heard nine teams pitch solution at the end of the weekend
  5. Generated nine promising ideas and received press coverage in Mashable, StateCcoop and E&R.


  • Client: Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Dates: September 2017 – March 2018
  • Services: Event design and facilitation, marketing, promotion
  • Team: Lawrence Grodeska, Catalytik, Riff City Strategies


“”The Parks and Tech Challenge was a great event with good facilitation. I’ve participated in a few of these types of events and this one was superior due to the great line-up of experts, excellent organization and guidance.”

– Mike Beebe, participant