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Neelay Bhatt: Helping Agencies Embrace the Future

Neelay Bhatt: Helping Agencies Embrace the Future


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Neelay Bhatt, the founder and CEO of Next Practice Partners. Let’s learn what’s happening there and how Neelay is making a positive impact in the world. 

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Neelay! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Next Practice Partners?

Neelay: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Next Practice Partners is on a mission to help organizations (municipal governments, parks and recreation agencies, non-profits, etc.) move away from status quo and embrace innovation but in an inclusive manner. In other words, shed the best practices of the past and embrace the next practices of the future. We do it in two ways: 1) Externally, we help plan the future of cities for parks, recreation, arts, and sports through master and strategic planning; and 2) Internally, we help organizations create a culture of innovation, inclusion, and magical guest service. Our team's experience includes Disney, Olympics, Super Bowl, and Target; and it spans every continent besides Antarctica.  

Spiffy: Very cool! What motivates you to do it?

Neelay: The Covid-19 pandemic was eye-opening as to what truly matters: people. As an immigrant and a father, it matters to me that our plans for the future amplify diverse voices and the youth, and not just the loud, vocal ones. As a futurist, I want to help agencies move away from "the way they've always done it" and embrace change. Ultimately, the vision is to help decision-makers recognize that parks, recreation, arts, and sports are not just nice-to-have infrastructure, but are essential components of quality of life and community-building worldwide. 

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Neelay: The Indianapolis Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan resulted in the single largest philanthropic gift in the City's history: $80million to upgrade infrastructure in under-served areas. Our work with Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation resulted in their scholarship program "Everybody Plays" to increase youth access to programs, swim lessons, camps, etc. for a county serving 12 million people. Overall, our impact is felt in creating equity of access and a sense of belonging in communities; transforming quality of life for generations; training youth for life skills and future employment opportunities; and long term economic development through infrastructure for parks, recreation, arts, and sports facilities. 

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Neelay: We have taken great steps to prioritize intentional inclusion in our community outreach. Most recently, in leading the Strategic Plan for the City of Mountain View, California (home to Google’s HQ) Community Services Department, we led community engagement efforts in person and online simultaneously in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Russian—the first of its kind in the US. In San Bernardino, California, we engaged community members in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language simultaneously.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Neelay—it’s been an honor!

Neelay Bhatt’s global career includes Disney, The Super Bowl, The Olympics, and years of consulting, public speaking, and training. He champions “Ideas Worth Spreading” as the curator for TEDxIndianapolis and TEDxIndianapolisWomen. He dreams of a more innovative and inclusive future for all as the founder and CEO of Next Practice Partners, where he helps agencies prepare for “what’s next” through strategic planning and organizational culture change. He is an alumnus of the University of Mumbai, Harvard Kennedy School, and the number one ranked Sports Management Program at Ohio University. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 10, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.