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Take Five: Restructuring the AIA Board is the Next Phase of Repositioning the AIA

By Robert Ivy, FAIA
AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer

The odds are that your practice has changed in the last 10 years. The new century has brought a raft of fresh challenges for all architects. Have you upgraded your software platforms? Did as many people work in the office after the economy tanked? Do clients want more for less, and more quickly? My guess is, the answer is “yes”—perhaps to all three. Yet, our professional society, the AIA, remains a legacy organization with strong roots way back to 1857.

So how to make our association relevant? But, more importantly, how to heighten the value of the group and its members—you and I? That’s where the Repositioning the AIA initiative began. Two years ago, we embarked on a major journey of change, change, change. Bolstered by elected leaders like Jeff Potter, FAIA, and Mickey Jacob, FAIA, and now Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, and supported by our board, we are working smarter and more strategically, improving public perceptions of architecture and assuming greater leadership in the design and construction industry. We architects want to be heard!

At the same time, we need to become more nimble. One legacy we have inherited, our board of directors, includes 52 great representatives from across the country that care about and advance your needs. I know they care, since I served in that capacity when I was practicing in the Gulf States.

At the same time, it’s time to reconsider this inherited structure. Think of it as the foundation of a building. New demands require new, strong solutions; so with our organizational structure. Forty years of studies by different administrations, groups of leaders, and outside consultants have told us what to do, and now the time has come.

In the future, our elected leaders will have a smaller, operationally-focused board of directors to efficiently deal with the business of the AIA. At the same time, we are convening a council to address the issues we all care about: the future of practice, enhanced opportunities for emerging architects, the environment. These ideas will help fuel the AIA’s strategic vision and planning. We need both.

Why should you care? It’s somebody else’s business, right? Here are a few reasons our elected representatives need to approve a change to our bylaws in June:

  • We can improve our effectiveness. We architects need to be able to move quickly to consider and act on pressing issues, both for our own interests and for the profession. Our current organization requires that we often spend too much time on administrative affairs until the window of action has closed.
  • We can increase our efficiency. The amount of time and effort required for board action will drop with a smaller board (currently forecast at 15 persons, versus 52). And our actions often include redundancy, by an executive committee and a full board.
  • We can maximize diversity and representation. While the current system includes geography, it often misses other voices that could benefit us all, including representatives of Knowledge Communities, or younger architects (who make up a large portion of our community), or experts in specific areas.
  • We can address the issues affecting us all. As mentioned above, the council will raise the vital issues that the board can then adopt.

Two iterations of the national board of directors, after much debate and discussion, courageously approved a new governing structure for the AIA. Think of it as endorsing a new foundation for the 21st century. The next move lies with our member delegates at the 2014 AIA National Convention in Chicago. It deserves their sanctioning and a positive response. We’re ready for fundamental change, and this new structural system will help support it.

Robert Ivy, FAIA

Photo: ©Vincent Ricardel




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