Meet the NPF Team: Eric Bloem
At a time when the issues of the world can seem overwhelming, we turn to national parks for calm, grounding, and a sense of where we've been. That's why Eric loves his role at the National Park Foundation (NPF), because people's love of national parks is also their common ground.
What is your favorite national park memory or experience?
This is a tough one. But I would have to say it was a family trip that I did to Utah with my older brother and our parents just a few years ago. We basically threw my parents (both in their 70’s) into the backseat of an SUV and hit Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Arches National Park. It was amazing to help my folks tick off some bucket list items – for my dad, it was hiking the Narrows at Zion and for my mom, it was riding a horse. It was also cool because, once you grow up and build your own life, how much time do you get to spend with just your parents and siblings, you know?
What Projects do You Normally Work on at NPF?
My primary role is to build new corporate partnerships for NPF. Kim Hirose, Rachel Allen, and I help identify businesses we think would align with NPF’s mission and ones that could achieve greater success by engaging customers and employees through a relationship with national parks. Our goal is to design partnerships that impact national parks positively while creating value for the businesses.
I also plug in to a number of other NPF initiatives and priorities and translate those efforts to our corporate partners. For example, in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, I helped to engage businesses in supporting Stonewall National Monument. I'm also part of NPF’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, helping to provide perspectives to NPF leadership on ways for us to create a more inclusive workplace and reflect our commitment to DEI in our work externally.
What drives you to do this work?
I love the world of public-private partnerships. The private sector has access to incredible resources that can solve some of our most critical challenges – be they social or environmental. Figuring out how to apply these resources in innovative ways is a super interesting challenge to contemplate. One of the interesting things about working with NPF is that our work directly relates to a diverse set of issue areas. When speaking with businesses, we have the ability to tailor our partnerships to focus on impact that matters most to them ranging from education to health and wellness and sustainability.
How did you get started in this type of work?
When I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I took a job working for a big consulting company and was immediately miserable. The experience, however, did provide me with a solid understanding of how businesses work, which ended up being super helpful when I moved to D.C. and took a job leading the Workplace Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). During my time at HRC I helped Fortune 500 businesses create more inclusive and equitable environments for the LGBTQ+ community. It was the first time I could see firsthand how businesses can help move the needle on big, important issues. After my time at HRC, I joined a communications agency where I helped businesses develop their corporate social responsibility strategies and created partnerships with nonprofits that could help to achieve their goals. All these experiences have contributed to my role at NPF.
What is one of your favorite parts of working for NPF and what is one of the biggest challenges?
Everyone wants to hear about and experience the parks. The parks make people happy. In a time where things feel serious and heavy, we can spend our days talking to people about these great places, the role they play in telling our diverse history, and our work to help connect everyone to them. I love the challenge of helping bridge the gap between the big, bold, and often fast-paced ideas our new partners want to bring to life and the necessary considerations that the National Park Service has in place protect the parks and ensure safe operation.
If you could create a park around a current or historical figure or moment, what would it be?
This is something I thought a lot about in the last year as people took to the streets calling for justice following the murder of George Floyd. Seeing the events that took place in Lafayette Square, just a block from the NPF office, where protesters were forcibly removed, were hard to watch and difficult to process. Lafayette Square is a national park site. It already had great meaning in our nation’s history. But after last year, a new layer of meaning and importance was added to its history.
I guess my answer is not so much around what new park to create, but how to interpret an existing one to honor a critical moment in our nation's fight for justice. It may not happen today or tomorrow, but at some point, in some place, the story of Black Lives Matter will need to be told and interpreted by our nation's storytellers.
Inspired by Eric's passion for joining the public and private sectors to benefit national parks? Learn more about NPF's corporate partnerships and the types of work they support in parks across the country.