Design and Engagement Manager, ECHO Grow Outdoors SC

National Wildlife Federation

Reston, Virginia

Job Type Permanent
Salary Details 65,000-75,000 annual
Deadline Oct 06, 2023
Required Experience 2 - 6 years

Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state and territorial affiliates and more than seven million members and supporters, including hunters, anglers, gardeners, birders, hikers, campers, paddlers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and stripes. The mission of the National Wildlife Federation is to unite all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in our rapidly changing world. We advance this mission through programming focused on conserving wildlife, restoring habitats and waterways, expanding outdoor opportunities, connecting children with nature, advancing environmental justice, and addressing the causes and consequences of climate change.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a longstanding commitment to expanding opportunities for children, families, and communities to receive the benefits of time spent outdoors developing lasting connections with the natural world. The vast majority of children in America spend most of their daily time indoors at child care centers, schools, parks, libraries, or at home. Time in nature-based environments offers lifelong benefits to rapidly developing bodies and brains, along with a greater inclination to become nature lovers and supporters as adults. Therefore, it is critical to advance the creation, activation and stewardship of high-quality outdoor spaces that become places where children, their caretakers, and families can engage with nature and the outdoors on a daily basis.

An initiative of NWF, Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) envisions a world where every young child experiences nature daily. Launched in 2017, ECHO has been working with communities throughout the United States to transform children’s daily environments by enhancing opportunities to engage meaningfully in nature. By providing a combination of thoughtful landscape design and professional development opportunities for early childhood professionals, ECHO employs a health equity model that improves access to the benefits of nature for the children and caregivers who face the greatest barriers.  In turn, naturalized play settings improve environmental health by helping to mitigate the impacts of extreme temperatures and air pollution on young children and their caregivers.

To meet our mission, we are seeking a Design and Engagement Manager for Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) to oversee the application of this model through the Grow Outdoors South Carolina initiative.  A collaborative effort of the Division of Early Care and Education at the SC Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention at the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Grow Outdoors South Carolina aims to transform early childhood outdoor spaces into naturalized environments that spark play and learning. The Design and Engagement Manager will provide leadership for the ECHO Grow Outdoors South Carolina multi-disciplinary education and design team to implement the program’s overarching initiatives.

The Design and Engagement Manager will report to NWF’s Senior Director of Design and Engagement, and will supervise the ECHO Grow Outdoors South Carolina team, based in Columbia, South Carolina. 

Principal Duties:

The primary focus of the Design and Engagement Manager will be to oversee the Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) Grow Outdoors South Carolina team, consisting of landscape designers and educators, in tasks related to engaging and training child care professionals and designing outdoor environments for young children to promote play, learning, and healthy development.

 In this role, the Design and Engagement Manager will be expected to:

  • Apply evidence-based, best-practice design principles for outdoor learning environments at child care facilities, and create developmentally appropriate, custom design solutions driven by the programmatic needs expressed through authentic engagement with programs and community members.
  • Work collaboratively with the Senior Director of Design and Engagement and the Colorado-based ECHO team to align and refine design standards and systems to ensure efficiency and innovation.
  • Develop education and design processes and workflows to ensure that milestones are met according to project schedules and program and community expectations.
  • Oversee design team staff in the creation of site base plans, schematic designs, planting plans, cost opinions, and phasing plans, coordinate with landscape contractors to implement phased construction projects and provide on-call technical assistance to programs.

The candidate should be able to communicate design concepts and ideas through hand sketching, graphics, and rendering skills, have a strong attention to detail, have excellent organizational skills, be flexible, and have strong technical skills (sustainable design, grading, construction knowledge). Candidates must be self-motivated, great communicators, and possess strong leadership qualities. 

The Design and Engagement Manager will:

  • Collaborate with Grow Outdoors South Carolina leaders, partners, and steering committee members, including representatives from the sponsoring state agencies (DSS and DHEC).
  • Engage with programs to facilitate the creation of community-driven and informed design deliverables.
  • Train and mentor ECHO Grow Outdoors South Carolina team members.
  • Maintain office systems and standards for ECHO design team collaboration across offices.
  • Organize and conduct site visits throughout South Carolina with the design team to complete site analysis, site measurements and photo documentation
  • Plan and facilitate participatory design workshops.
  • Support the delivery of trainings for educators and design professionals on design principles for children’s environments.
  • Guide the maintenance and organization of archival systems for photographs and other design components.
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory guidance, and other technical resources as applicable to children's environments in the South Carolina context.
  • Design and implement effective strategies to ensure design team workflow efficiency.
  • Provide on-site and on-call installation technical assistance to clients improving play environments.
  • Promote Grow Outdoors South Carolina through presentations at conferences and events with support from the ECHO team.
  • Form partnerships and collaborate with landscape contractors to implement projects at scale.

Education and Experience:

  • Professional degree or equivalent experience in landscape architecture, horticultural science, or related field.
  • 5+ years of professional experience in a landscape architecture or design-build firm, or related experience, preferably with familiarity in designing and activating outdoor spaces for children and/or families.
  • Registered landscape architect or working towards professional licensure.
  • Experience managing projects and teams.
  • Demonstrated ability to:
    • Work collaboratively in a team environment and develop positive working relationships.
  • Engage with a diverse range of people and bolster marginalized voices in your work.
    • Communicate effectively across disciplines (e.g., educators, families, construction professionals).
    • Listen and respond with empathy to others’ lived experiences that may be very different than your own.
  • Working knowledge of inclusive design principles, ADA guidelines, sustainable landscape design principles, native plants and landscape materials.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office, AutoCAD, SketchUp, Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign).
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • Growth mindset.

NWF Values:

Your actions are expected to reflect the staff values of the National Wildlife Federation: collaboration, mindfulness, empowerment, inclusivity, and mission focus.  Your competencies should include:

  • Being motivated by values of equity and responsibility to those most marginalized.
  • Consistently bringing a high level of empathy and social skills to work and interpersonal interactions.
  • Actively seeks feedback, direction, and guidance from all team members and keeps staff informed of decisions that impact them.
  • Being dedicated to advancing NWF’s internal equity transformation and compelling partners and allies to incorporate equity into their work; and
  • Passion for and commitment to NWF's mission

Applicants are invited to learn more about National Wildlife Federation’s required equity competencies at https://www.nwf.org/About-Us/Careers.

Travel Requirements:      

Regular travel will be required to conduct site visits and design workshops throughout South Carolina. Occasional travel for training, conferences and meetings with ECHO’s Denver, Colorado-based staff will also be expected in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.

Location and Work Mode: 

This position is based out of Columbia, SC. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to a flexible and empowered work environment with an authentic community of care for all staff. In this position, the employee may work in the office or in a hybrid manner, to be decided jointly with their supervisor in the final stages of the interview process. For more information on Work Modes, please review the benefits section of our careers page: https://www.nwf.org/About-Us/Careers 

Compensation and Benefits:

The salary range for this position is $65,000-$75,000 annually, commensurate with experience.

We are proud of our designation by Mogul as a Top 100 Workplace with the Best Benefits, and by Forbes as one of America’s best small employers! We value work-life balance and a family-friendly atmosphere with flexible scheduling.  We want you to be able to integrate work and personal life with attention to your self-care, so that your work schedule is not depleting.  We offer benefits so you feel restored and fueled through the day and week.

We offer these supports to help manage your mental, emotional, and physical health: 

  • Paid time off: Vacation that starts off at three weeks accrual, unlimited wellbeing (this time can be used for physical, spiritual, emotional, cultural, religious or financial wellbeing for yourself, a partner, or family member – including pets), 10 holidays, and 3 floating holidays
  • We close down for a paid winter break between December 25 to January 1 to recognize end of-year stress, and time for reflection, rejuvenation, and spending time with family.
  • Up to 16 weeks of fully paid Family and Medical Leave
  • Low-cost health, dental, and vision insurance options – all outpatient mental health is covered at in-network rates
  • Therapist available at no cost
  • Pet insurance and discount perk program
  • Annual wellbeing allowance

In addition to your salary, we offer the following supports to your personal finances:

  • Retirement plan with immediate match and vesting
  • Annual year end retirement contribution
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Adoption and Surrogacy assistance
  • Pet adoption stipend
  • Student Loan management

Applicants are invited to learn more about National Wildlife Federation’s benefits package at https://www.nwf.org/About-Us/Careers.


Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Candidates should submit a cover letter, resume and three work samples.

For more information on our recruiting process, please review our Careers page: https://www.nwf.org/About-Us/Careers 

We strive to increase diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) in all elements of our work and with our partners to support the interdependent needs of wildlife and people in a rapidly changing world. We recruit, employ, train compensate, and promote regardless of race, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity (including gender nonconformity and status as a transgender individual), age, physical or mental disability, citizenship, genetic information, past, current, or prospective service in the uniformed services, or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal, state, or local law. We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer. Applicants are invited to learn more about National Wildlife Federation’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at nwf.org/equity.

We recognize that people come with a wealth of experience and talent beyond just the technical requirements of a job, therefore our job descriptions are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.  Your experience, which may include paid and unpaid experience, including volunteer work, helps build the competencies and knowledge that translates to our openings.  Diversity of experience and skills combined with passion is a key to innovation and a culture of excellence.  Therefore, we encourage people from all backgrounds to apply to our positions.

Please let us know if you require accommodations during the application or interview process by reaching us at hrhelp@nwf.org  or 703-438-6244.

If selected for this position, a background check will be conducted.

Category Environmental Education, Outdoor Recreation