Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
Take Five: Repositioning Resources
By Robert Ivy, FAIA
By now, many of you know this undeniable fact: Repositioning the AIA depends on you. That message came through loud and clear for the 765 member leaders attending our 2013 Grassroots conference in Washington, D.C., in March, where we convened to discuss leadership together with a new perspective on the profession and the AIA that we call Repositioning—a point of view that puts the emphasis on the member.
Focusing so much emphasis on you, an individual, might sound daunting, without some help. However, at the same time that we discussed what might sound like homework, we shared the news that some of us were already on the path to a 21st century AIA. When we are looking for an organization that meets clients and the public effectively, we don’t have to invent everything from scratch. One answer lies in sharing the good practices already underway. Like a campaign to reach out to the general public called “100 Years 100 Places,” AIA Florida’s wildly successful outreach effort that asked a large audience to name the best buildings of the last century. They answered, and the effort earned a 2013 AIA Component Excellence Award. Or AIA Columbus, which devised an Idea Book that invited ordinary people to step into an architect’s shoes to share their ideas for the future of their community. Initiatives like these make it clear: The AIA is already using innovative ways to bring the public into the design decisions that shape the world we live in every day. The good work simply demands recognition.
But structurally, how can a single member or a component go about Repositioning? Here are some resources at your disposal: First, we announced an Innovation Fund to share best practices that your component has created (or is about to propose), just like the ones mentioned above. We’ve allocated $250,000 to be apportioned by a jury for programs that can be replicated.
Our Repositioning consultants at LaPlaca Cohen and Pentagram clearly saw that we need to make up our minds. At present, we are trying to do too much. At AIA National alone, we are engaged in so many active projects it’s obvious that we cast our nets too wide. These projects are meaningful, but it’s time to focus. The numbers may vary, but the same principle applies at the state and the local level. We AIA architects and our various local, state, and national component staffs support so much! Yet, how can we make a significant difference with any one of them when we are so busy doing so many things? Priority-setting thus becomes one of our most important tasks for the coming months.
How can we bring focus to the AIA? In the next few weeks, our board communications committee will soon be announcing a list of Repositioning Ambassadors. These individuals can assist in local community conversations to set priorities for components from the chapter to the national level. In addition, by early June, we’ll have a simple template to help share this information via the dedicated repositioning landing page. Lastly, look for more details soon about Repositioning webinars to be hosted by myself, 2013 AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, and 2013 CACE President Tina Litteral, Hon. AIA, CAE.
At the national level, change is taking place. Already, we’re embarked on an audit of all communications, from the local to the international levels. Communications overload and how to alleviate it will be the centerpiece of the investigation.
At the same time, we’re employing a change management consultant who will help lead us through the larger process, from board composition to the overall structure of the entire organization--clearly a thornier issue, but one we’re addressing together. Change affects us all in different ways, from wholehearted enthusiasm (architects love change) to skepticism (we’ve been this way before). Figuring out how to address each of the 10 recommendations requires a thoughtful process if we are to make real progress. But, we can do it.
Let one thing be clear to all of us: We are buffeted by the winds of change in a way we have not faced before. Our demographics alone demand recognition: a Boomer generation that will peak, followed by another generation that has a distinctly different perspective. This new generation of emerging professionals has to be at the center of any major changes that come to the AIA.
The Repositioning’s exhaustive survey pointed out one fact that needs to be reiterated, which is that we will succeed as a “visionary member organization”—an inspiring recognition of our community “building a better world,” and one that we are trained to succeed at, because we, as architects, design buildings (and institutions) to function and thrive from today, long into the future. We must prepare a place for a new group of architects, and modify our own actions, and we will. The time is now, and this moment is our opportunity. What will be your own role to bring about this new reality?