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Steps to Starting a New Local Young Architects Forum Group

1. Evaluate the Need for a Local Young Architects Forum Group

In many instances, the formation of a local young architects group is stimulated by the participation of one or more local AIA members in producing an event with the national YAF. These activities can serve as a catalyst, providing examples and insight into what a local component might be and how your group can work with the national YAF Advisory Committee. Before embarking upon the task of initiating a local YAF committee, it is vital to your group's ultimate success to understand the potential market you will serve and the variations within that target group.

2. Acknowledge the Uniqueness of Your Local Group

Your local component has unique strategies that focus on the needs and desires of your particular organization. It is critical to recognize and appreciate the approach that is employed in your chapter. What is successful for one component may prove unworkable for another.

3. Assess Potential Involvement

The most critical item on your list should be to determine your membership field. Review your local AIA component's current programs and activities and evaluate their mission and direction. Then determine if they are targeted toward the prototypical YAF member, and if not, what would be desired. Specifically review the following:

Current involvement of Young Architects within your local chapter. Many chapters already have a thriving contingent of young architects participating at all levels of the component. The mission of the national YAF is not only to develop and support a nationwide network of young architects, but to nurture those already in place. If your chapter has an active group, it will be unnecessary to pursue the formation of a local group. However, if you sense a void in programs or activities that support the growth and needs of young architects within your component, it may be appropriate to pursue the establishment of a local YAF.

Potential Involvement of Young Architects. As you determine the need for a local YAF, discuss your ideas with colleagues and other young practitioners to discern the level of potential involvement among members of your component. Seek a core group of 5-10 young architects to confer with and to serve as your baseline for information. After thorough discussion within your core group, plan a course of action.

Structural Options Based on Membership. Because of the great diversity within our profession and the variety of needs caused by that difference, it is critical to be flexible in your approach. Many of the suggestions provided in this section are applicable in a number of formats and environments. The key is to tailor your group's agenda and approach to local needs.

4. Define your YAF Group

The definition Young Architects Groups are as varied as the number of forums that have started across the country. The primary type of group consists of local young architects who gather together to discuss common goals, problems, experiences and thoughts about their careers, the profession and, of course, design. In the process they hold seminars, community outreach programs, and social events and interact with their local AIA chapters to keep the membership informed about the needs and interests of young architects.

In smaller chapters where young architects are integral to the workings of the chapter, there may be no need for a separate group. Some of these chapters have elected to combine with other chapters in their state to form a statewide association of young architects. Others created a group combining licensed young architects and unlicensed members (Associates or interns) to pool resources while maintaining a "mentoring" relationship between both groups, similar to the relationship between the YAF and COF.

The following information will discuss in detail the aspects of choosing the appropriate leadership organization for young architects in your area as well as how to organize, conduct and sponsor leadership training, seminars and/or conferences.

5. Solicit AIA State and Local Chapter Support

Make it official. Make the local Young Architects Forum a committee of the state or local chapter. This provides the group stature, stability and accountability. The Young Architects Forum committee, just like other committees, should report to the board.

Staffing support (for staffed components). Appoint a staff contact for the group. Provide mailing lists or email lists and assist in distribution of event flyers. Whenever possible, include YAF event announcements in the component newsletters.

Fellows. Get Support from Fellows in your chapter. Fellows are proven leaders on the Architectural community and they can help in everything from planning events to raising funds.

Financial support. Whenever possible, provide a budget for expenses. Expenses may include: the printing and mailing of event flyers (you can avoid these costs by emailing event and program information), exhibits, competitions, and refreshments for seminars and exhibits.

Providing meeting location. Provide a place for meetings and events as needed. Many events will be held at a firm office or a job site. But, from time to time, a neutral professional meeting place may be required.

6. Recruit Strong Leadership

Enthusiasm. The committee chair should be excited about the chance to work with other young architects and the AIA. Since the Young Architects Forum is also a recruitment tool of AIA, the Young Architects Forum leadership should be involved in other aspects of the AIA and should be positive and energetic.

Organizational skills. The chair should be very good at organizing information and people. The chair should also be able to effectively organize and run a meeting.

Communication skills. The chair should be able to effectively communicate to others one-on-one and in large groups. Also, the chair should be able to effectively write a program announcement, a report to the board and a letter.

Other qualifications. The chair must be an active member of AIA and preferably a registered architect.

Co-chair. The chair cannot do all of the work to get and keep a YAF group going. Whenever possible, a vice chair or co-chair should be selected to help direct the group. The co-chair should have the same skills on qualifications as the chair. It is also a good idea to stagger the terms of the chair and co-chair to provide continuity and continued leadership.

Core planning group. Besides the chair and co-chair, a core group of at least 5 people is needed to come up with ideas and plan events.

7. Tie into Regional and National Support

YAF Regional Liaisons. They have usually been involved in the YAF or other programs at the local level before and therefore have practical advice to share. They have information on past events of other chapters, which you can use to create programs in your area. They also have information on National YAF meetings, events and programs (i.e. training programs, design competitions, etc.). They are also in contact with the College of Fellows representative and can assist in getting Fellows involved in events and mentoring programs. They may also have information on other funding sources.

Other YAF chapters. The regional liaisons can but you in contact with other YAF groups in your region. You can share ideas, concerns, etc. And, if you are not to far away from each other, even plan combined events.

National YAF Advisory Committee. The national YAF Advisory Committee plans training and informational meetings for the YAF at the National AIA Convention, AIA Grassroots, and at their fall conference, which occurs every two years. They sponsor an annual design competition (alternating years from the fall conference). They also work with the National College of Fellows to support interaction between the YAF and COF at all levels of the AIA.

YAF Online Resources. A lot of the information from the advisory committee is on the AIA's YAF Web site.


Finally, be creative, use these ideas to help you make your own unique group that meets the needs of the young architects in your area.


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