Saturday, March 1, 2008

AIA Grassroots 2008

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the AIA annual Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference, which was held February 20-23, 2008, in Washington, D.C. The conference was designed to bring together the Institute's component leaders for a unique blend of networking and learning to work across components, knowledge communities, and special member groups. AIA-SWO was represented at Grassroots by Jody Heady, AIA (2008 AIA-SWO President), Don Kahle (AIA-SWO Executive Director), and myself.

As is the case every year, the Grassroots Conference is intended to accomplish several things:

  • Help attendees to align their component's short and long-term goals with AIA National's strategic plans.
  • Enhance skills and knowledge in the art of political influence so that component leaders can advocate the AIA's collective message.
  • Cultivate talents and teaching skills applicable to the profession such as volunteer recruitment, inspiration, and engagement.
  • Develop key leadership skills and techniques that will prepare members for a future leadership role in their component, knowledge community, or special member group.
As a first-timer to Grassroots, I was impressed by the quality of the event and the individuals that comprise the Institute's leadership, most notably 2008 AIA National President Marshall E. Purnell, FAIA and 2009 President-elect Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, and AIA Executive Vice-President/CEO Chris McEntee. All three are resolutely optimistic for the profession and the AIA. They envision the AIA as a respected knowledge-centered organization, that pulls together and shares knowledge for the benefit of all, keeping AIA members competitive and increasing their value. I believe that the AIA has a real competitive edge thanks to the unique access members have to the network of many inter-related AIA constituencies—components, Knowledge Communities, associates, and College of Fellows, to name a few. Going to Washington to meet and talk with AIA leaders and staff was eye-opening because the range of resources at the National level available to all of us as members is vast. We should all take advantage of these resources to improve our practices and our value as architects to the public.

I was likewise impressed by my counterparts from around the country who attended Grassroots, all of whom positively radiated with energy and enthusiasm (if you didn't know better you'd think you had stumbled into an "Up With People" alumni gathering). The peer group sessions and other opportunities to share ideas and discuss common problems about our respective local chapters were invaluable. Attendees quickly realize that we all have a lot in common and thus have much to offer and learn from one another.

One of the themes of this year's event was "Walk the Walk," which posits that AIA architects should be leaders of the sustainable evolution. Like many other influential organizations, the AIA recognizes a growing body of evidence that demonstrates current planning, design, construction, and real estate practices contribute to patterns of resource consumption that seriously jeopardize the future of the Earth’s population. Architects need to accept responsibility for their role in creating the built environment and, consequently, must alter our profession’s actions and encourage our clients and the entire design and construction industry to join with us to change the course of the planet’s future. In Eugene, we as architects should be prominent in our support of our City's commitment to sustainability principles; indeed as a profession we have a responsibility to alter our current practices of design and construction (if we haven't already done so) to realize significant reductions in the use of natural resources, non-renewable energy sources, and waste production and promote regeneration of natural resources. Talk is cheap; to "walk the walk" takes commitment and action.

No comments: