Issues & AdvocacyState
Collaboration Good, Leadership Better
When it comes to visioning the built environment, no doubt architects stand tall above the rest. But when it comes to visioning legislation to protect the earned privilege of being an architect, many architects shrink and retreat from a leadership role and tend to hide behind a veil of “collaboration.” Collaboration, I know, is critical to architecture and, while I’m not an architect, I fully subscribe to the premise that architects are at their best when they’re doing a project that allows them early access to all stakeholders, partners, and interests. It makes sense that the architect is then best positioned to synthesize the issues and vision a design solution that best addresses the current and future needs and wants of the client. However, this collaborative approach to solving design issues doesn’t work in the realm of legislative advocacy, at least not without the critical component of leadership.
A good design process involves an early collective sharing of information with all of the important stakeholders at the table; a comprehensive vetting of all of the problems and issues, with the architect leading the charge to design a solution once the vetting’s been done. This is not so with advocacy. Successful advocacy requires that you come to the table with a concrete idea that is sellable. And while it’s your idea and not the others at the table, it’s your job to make it feel like theirs. This is a process that will undoubtedly involve some mutual compromises, but the compromises must remain mutual. Too often, architects are willing to compromise in the name of “collaboration.” The proof is easily seen in the laws. When you compare the laws that regulate architecture versus other industries like banking, real estate, construction, engineering and others, it’s easy to see that architects are willing to compromise beyond necessity. Some of this comes from fear or concern that architects don’t have political clout. That may be the case in some rare circumstances but usually it’s not. Political clout comes from many sources: money, grass tops and grass roots. A careful analysis usually demonstrates that political clout does indeed exist. So, I say to the architectural profession: engage in politics because it’s the right thing to do (and if you don’t do it, no one else will), but do it right and with vision and leadership and stay true to the premise that “important principles may, and must, be inflexible.” Abraham Lincoln
To learn more about how you can be a better advocate for the profession, read this State Legislative Strategy Guide.
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