AIA Candidate Responses from Member Stakeholders

Earlier this month, candidates for the AIA National Board were given the opportunity to answer questions from members stakeholder groups. Below are four questions that were asked to all with my responses below. If you are curious, here is a link for all of the candidate responses.

1. ENGAGING MEMBERS

As the AIA implements the recommendations of the repositioning initiative, members in the Institute’s 19 regions are perfectly poised to sharpen awareness of the challenges facing the architectural profession, and to help find creative solutions and innovative practices. The AIA, and especially the next generation of architects, needs its members to be fully engaged if we all are to have an opportunity to succeed. How would you propose to engage more members in the AIA’s initiatives?

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA Response:

AIA members cannot engage in a shared future if they are not interacting with the organization. There are three elements of building increased member engagement: leveraging the face-to-face, positive work of AIA components; developing effective communications; and strengthening the value proposition of being an engaged AIA member. Local AIA components are integral. They have a front row seat to the innovative and creative solutions in their communities. They are often the first interaction members have with the organization and serve as a connection between local issues and the core values held at the national level.

Members have more opportunity today to connect with the organization through technology. Leveraging social media aside traditional media enhances our reach with all architects. I have seen practitioners connect and collaborate with each other through online communities. It is great to see peer groups and networks forming. The AIA can either help create these connections or get left behind.

Members want to be part of something that helps them be better architects. Building member engagement hinges on a value proposition—is my involvement worth the effort? The answer must be yes if we are to build a stronger community.

2. UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF SMALL PRACTITIONERS

Given that small firm practitioners are a key membership demographic within the AIA, support of these firm members and practitioners is important to the continued success of the AIA. The needs of small firms are many times different from that of medium and larger practices. How would you propose that the Institute better understand and support the needs of this membership group?

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA Response:

Small firms are the lifeblood of the architecture profession. But I often hear that many small firm owners feel the AIA is out of touch with their day-to-day needs. The diversity and range of small firm practices across the country makes providing a one-size-fits-all solution unrealistic. The AIA can best support small firms by providing a connection to other practitioners, tools for growing prosperity and knowledge, and ensuring that the AIA supports a range of practices from large to small to everything between.

Engaging small firm practitioners is key for the AIA to better understand and support their current and future needs. First, leverage existing networks such as the Small Firm Exchange and their work with the Small Practice Practitioners, CRAN, the Kinetic App, and collaborations with Houzz. Second, develop and support frameworks that allow small firms to learn from each other in all aspects of their business. This will drive the future and ensure small firms will always have a place at the AIA through increased prosperity, innovation, and influence.

3. RESOURCING THE PROFESSION

The AIA has made a clear statement about the importance of diversity and equity in the future health of the profession. Attracting an inspired, skilled, and diverse workforce is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the profession. The Equity in Architecture Commission has outlined 11 specific recommendations for action, one of which is focusing on creating a significant shift in firm culture. If AIA is to succeed in strengthening the profession by attracting the next generation to it, all members from around the globe must play a central role. How can the AIA support this change and how can the Institute ensure adequate resources are focused in this area?

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA Response:

As Chair of the Equity in Architecture Commission, I began with the most important recommendation when presenting last year: for the Board to make Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as a core value. It is also no accident that the AIA 2017 EDI Statement references the international implications twice:

The American Institute of Architects, as part of the global community, champions a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession of architecture to create a better environment for all. Achieving this vision has a direct impact on the relevance of our profession and the world’s prosperity, health, and future.

The AIA can best support the EDI recommendations by keeping this work in the public eye, ensuring continued funding, and striving for full implementation within three years. Work is already underway with a new Board level committee tasked with implementation. To better attract a skilled, inspired, and diverse workforce, we need to raise awareness as architecture professionals of the business case for a more diverse profession— greater creativity, employee retention, cultural awareness, and improved prosperity. Leadership today recognizes that equity, diversity, and inclusion as a critical part of doing business. I am proud that the AIA now recognizes this as well.

4. ADVOCATING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

The Paris Agreement brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort. With this Paris Agreement in place and with a strong emphasis on the need to address the concerns and focus of the New Urban Agenda, how do you see the AIA, its components and its members, becoming stronger advocates and recognized leaders in their communities to meet these challenges?

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA Response:

Architects are uniquely positioned to advocate for sustainability with our creativity, knowledge, and influence. As professionals, we understand how the choices we make creative positive change. I am energized by the recent COTE advocacy effort spearheading a letter on preserving and protecting vital programs of the Environmental Protection Agency signed by 775 firms representing 48 states including my Boston-based firm Arrowstreet. This is a great example of how a national committee can mobilize architects across the country to have collective impact. There are many AIA members recognized as sustainability and resilience leaders on the national, state, and local level, but this is only a fraction of the over 90,000 AIA members. There is more work to do.

Part of the issue is an awareness gap within AIA membership about how COP21, the New Urban Agenda, and the 2030 Commitment impact an architect’s day-to-day work. How can AIA members better leverage design and user engagement as strategies towards creating a more sustainable, resilient future? While continued external advocacy at the federal, state, and local level must continue, the AIA and components must not let up on educating its own members and leading our shared future.

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Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

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