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Remaking the 21st century AIA

The American Institute of Architects is a legacy organization with approximately 84,000 members. If it is to continue to be the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners since its founding in 1857, it must find effective ways to connect, engage, lead, and innovate.

That renewed mission starts at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., where a number of internal, operational changes continue to lay the groundwork for “Advancing Through Architecture,” a statement approved by the AIA Board of Directors on September 20, 2013:

“Together, we agree that the time is now to change the way we think and behave in order to shape our future. To become a more valued, relevant organization, the AIA will focus our priorities to:

    (1) Elevate public awareness

    (2) Advocate for the profession

    (3) Create and expand the sharing of knowledge and expertise to ensure a prosperous future for our members”

New Directions for AIA National

On February 27, 2014, AIA CEO/EVP Robert Ivy, FAIA, outlined three shared goals for 2014 to which AIA National staff will align their short- and long-term responsibilities: member value, organizational effectiveness, and digital transformation.

“The needs of architects are changing, and as AIA staff, we share a commitment to work together as one team to make our Institute as valuable, relevant, and effective as possible,” Ivy said in his note to staff.

To reach those goals, Ivy identified five cross-departmental strategies to reach those goals: invest in best-in-class resources, strengthen communications, work more productively and collaboratively with one another, proactively identify and retain talented colleagues, and adapt the workplace to better support and nurture AIA culture.

AIA National will create four internal cross-teams to aid this transformation, which will address organizational/operational effectiveness, sustainability (centered on design and health as well as energy), digital platform transformation (infrastructure, software, and effective communications), and emerging professionals.

To that end, a newly reformed Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), comprised of Senior Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents at the AIA, continues to review internal operations and opportunities for greater efficiency and effectiveness, as well as conflicts and redundancies that may slow future efforts. The SLT plans to complete its review and make recommendations by June.

AIA Foundation: Stewardship and Leadership

These changes come at a time when the AIA Foundation also looks to grow its influence in three areas: historic preservation, design awards and achievement, and scholarships.

Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop joined the Foundation as Executive Director in 2014, having most recently served as Director of Strategic Development for Architecture for Humanity. Bloodworth Botop’s long-standing philanthropic expertise includes founding Housing Resource Centers with embedded Design Studios following Hurricane Katrina. Following testimony before Congress centered on the value of design in communities, she raised more than $40 million dollars to help rebuild low-income communities across the Gulf Coast. She is a 2014 White House Innovation Fellow and a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

In addition, Erica Rioux Gees, AIA, will serve the Foundation in a new role as Director of the Octagon, one of the Foundation’s three core areas of programmatic purpose. In addition to stewardship of the Octagon House, Erica will help lead the Foundation’s efforts to advocate for preservation of U.S. architectural sites of historical significance as well as administer the scholarship and educational programs.

Proposed Governance Changes

On Thursday, December 12, 2013, the AIA Board of Directors approved bylaws language that outlines a new AIA governance model, moving the AIA toward a bi-cameral structure. The decision creates two houses:

    • A small board of directors composed of 11-15 members chosen for their specific talents and areas of expertise will pursue a defined, strategic set of fiduciary concerns that affect the health of the Institute.

    • A large council composed of 50 or so elected members who represent geographic, demographic, and subject-matter diversity, will pursue a larger set of broad, critical concerns affecting the profession.

AIA members, through their delegates, will vote on the bylaws change at the 2014 AIA National Convention in Chicago, Ill. (June 26-28).

Watch 2013 AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, announce the proposed change.

Throughout the Repositioning process of research and analysis, AIA members desired explicitly to see the AIA become a more agile organization and provide bold leadership for the profession. A streamlined governance framework allows the Board to more effectively address important issues affecting members and the profession. Changes to the governance structure create more time and space for elected leaders to address professional issues that will heighten the AIA’s relevance and value to members. Finally, governance that supports agility will enable the Institute to respond to new opportunities more effectively.

Our Consultants

The AIA engaged Kotter International, the foremost expert in change management, in 2012 to help implement the next phase of Repositioning.

Kotter is the best in the business. More than 70 percent of organizations attempting real change fail at implementation, which is where the rubber meets the road. The AIA is determined to see Repositioning through with Kotter’s expertise in generating broad-based support and willingness among a set of diverse constituents.  

The firm’s tailored approach to change management addresses the Institute’s collective knowledge base and status as a bellwether and beacon for the profession. Like the architecture profession, the AIA has undergone radical transformation in recent years. And, like architecture, the AIA is at a critical juncture—perhaps the most significant in its history.

Kotter has assembled a Change Network, comprised of AIA National staff, Repositioning Ambassadors, AIA Component executives and staff, and general members, who will be the frontlines of change. Members of the Change Network are charged with helping accelerate action to realize this transformation of our AIA and profession. They will be help us define and implement a range of approaches to create a new level of engagement across the Institute and align a large number of our passionate colleagues to help drive these efforts. As their influence expands, so too will the tenets of Repositioning in a grassroots approach that will have a big impact in the coming decade and keep us grounded in what matters to members.

 

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