2019 Distinguished Individual Award Winner

Torgeir E. Sørensen (Norway) - Presented at the 4th World Urban Parks Congress, Kazan, Russia


Torgeir Esig Sørensen has for many years been working locally, nationally and internationally on furthering urban liveability and sustainability through parks and urban green space agencies, companies, and professional organisations. He has done a great and comprehensive work on urban green infrastructure and open spaces and an  important leadership in different national and international organisations. His most important impact was changing and revitalizing the mission of Ifpra towards a more inclusive urban focus.

His original profession is as a landscape architect from Norway, and he has been working as head of the parks (and sports and streets) departments in the city of Stavanger since 1995. He is accredited as a Certified Park Professional - International from World Parks Academy.
Torgeir has been an important contributor for developing what he calls the ”world’s best urban green infrastructure”. He worked actively to establish and promote the interwoven green structure in the dense city of Stavanger where the green areas are connected to each other, with the result that about 98 % of the citizens have a distance of at most 500m to the next green space from their home.

Torgeir has also a special focus on public health. He has worked as an expert for World Health Organization. In Stavanger he has implemented a special project called “52 daily walks”, a network of multiple walks that is marked in every city district with the purpose to motivate people to use the natural green spaces actively. The project is copied in several other cities.

Torgeir had several assignments as guest lecturer at Stavanger University on Urban Green Space development and at the Norwegian University for Life Sciences on Urban Green Space development and Nature Based Solutions.

Since 1997 Torgeir has been campaigning for urban green infrastructure at the international level. He was Norwegian IFPRA commissioner and chair of IFPRA Europe. He was mainly responsible for organising IFPRA Europe congress in Stavanger in 2003.

He was president elect and president for IFPRA world 2007 to 2013. As president he started the transition process from IFPRA to World urban parks. As deputy chair of the World Parks Academy he was instrumental in developing the Academy and the accreditation programs CPP and CPP-I. He was member of the World Parks Academy Board until 2018 (attached Board letter). Currently he is member of the Board of Directors World Urban Parks.

Torgeir has been a member of several different expert and judging panels nationally and internationally such as the International Liveable Community (LivCom) Awards, expert for the World Health Organization on Urban Green Structure, and the Expert Advisor Group for GRETA.
Since 2017 Torgeir has been working on the EU urban agenda as Leader of the Action “Agreeing on common Targets and Indicators for Urban Green Structure, Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity and Nature Based Solutions for European Cities.” in an international team.


”One of Torgeir's most significant contributions to the industry internationally was as the president of Ifpra who not only recognised that Ifpra required significant revitalisation but also had the capability to implement it by gathering and empowering key vice presidents, including Neil McCarthy for strategy and Dr Christy Boylan for developing the Academy, and Prof Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch as Chair of the Ifpra Science Task Force that developed a major meta-study of research articles on the benefits of parks for Ifpra (as well as the early development of the Academy concept with Dr Christy Boylan and Steve Wolter).

Torgeir had the leadership skills to inspire others that a fresh approach was required, including a strategic review of Ifpra by executives of world national recreation and park associations, that lead, together with Parks for Life (Neil McCarthy and Gil Penalosa), to a new contemporary urban-focused parks organisation.  He and his Ifpra Executive put all the building blocks in place, signed off at Alberta Canada, including appointing a new CEO, for transition to a new organisation that Emanual Trueb, as the last Ifpra President and interim World Urban Parks president, saw through, culminating with the first World Urban Parks world congress in Portugal in 2015. In a sense you could say Torgeir was the Father of World Urban Parks. It was an Executive team effort with major presidential contributions from Emanuel Trueb and Gil Penelosa, but Torgeir had a clear vision, concrete objectives, leadership skills that brought the Ifpra membership along with him, and a necessary unwavering resolve to get the job done.

He also served as deputy chair of the Academy to help cement its establishment and development of world professional credentials, certification and training. At the national level Torgeir was responsible for a significant city parks and streets department at the City of Stavanger and was among the Scandinavian leadership for cooperative professional development and conferencing. More recently he has continued to be involved internationally contributing to the EU Urban Agenda.”

-Dr Digby Whyte

"Torgeir was very adept at building a coalition around the need for change.  His leadership style influenced many people to take some risk, and dream with him which allowed him to build a strong alliance among Ifpra professionals who sought significant change for the betterment of the profession.  His tireless and optimistic character motivated many others to seek a new shared role and purpose for what was Ifpra as it evolved into World Urban Parks.  And, clearly he saw the need for professional development and learning as key to this evolution as he supported the World Parks Academy.”

-Steve Wolter

“I completely agree and fully support [Torgeir's award]. This is one reason why World Urban Parks needs people to continue actively involved with the organization. It’s important to remember World Urban Parks did not begin yesterday and great people have done much work to get us where we are.”

-Gil Penalosa