AIA Grassroots – Leadership Conference: March 8-10, 2017

AIA Grassroots 2017 – A Leadership Conference – Washington D.C.

Conference Recap by Mark Barone, AIA – 2017 AIA WJ President 

The 2017 Grassroots conference is attended annually by the leaders of AIA National, State and Local Components and offers the opportunity to learn about how the Institute operates and its agenda for the coming year.  Attendees also meet and discuss programming ideas with AIA leaders from Components across the country at a number of networking sessions and interactive seminars.  This year, I was fortunate to attend as the representative from AIA West Jersey.  New Jersey as a whole was well represented with members from each of the state’s six sections in attendance.  Not only did we attend, but AIA NJ and WJ Emerging Professionals hosted a seminar on “Building an Emerging Professionals Network” at this national conference.

Wednesday, the delegation from New Jersey met for its Regional Meeting and heard reports from Bruce Turner, AIA, the New Jersey Regional Representative on the AIA National Strategic Council and AIA New Jersey President, Ben Lee, AIA.

Thursday kicked off a full day of presentations, briefly summarized below:

Design Impact Matters: Architects Shape Lives, Opportunities and Challenges for the Profession.

Carl Elefante, FAIA, AIA First Vice President, challenged architects to position ourselves and the profession for success by addressing two mandates.  First, to proactively plan for growth to accommodate the anticipated population boom from 7 to 10 billion people in the lifetimes of today’s practicing architects.  Second, to substantially reduce or even eliminate human causes of climate change resultant from the building sector.

Keynote Speakers: Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlement Program & Peter Calthorpe, Architect, Urban Designer and Urban Planner.

Dr. Joan Clos spoke to conference attendees via video about the recently held Habitat III Conference, held every 20 years, where member nations engage in discussions regarding housing and sustainable urban development.

Peter Calthorpe shared highlights from 30+ years of work that reflect global trends towards New Urbanism planning principles.  Mr. Calthorpe emphasized towns and cities with a diverse users and uses, streets focused on the pedestrian scale that promote human interactions, and built to be environmentally sustainable.

Archi-Talks: Rapid Fire TED-style Talks on Key 21st Century Issues

Conference attendees were treated to four consecutive talks on key issues for cities in the century ahead. The four presentations were: Walkable Cities, by Jeff Speck; Heritage Cities, by Jean Carroon, FAIA; Resilient Cities, by Michael Berkowitz; and 21st Century Cities, by Thomas Dellessio. After the talks members selected one of four break-out sessions on each topic to attend for further discussion and analysis.  The discussions were facilitated by members of the Strategic Council, and attendees’ responses will be complied and reported out to membership later this year.

Networking Lunch

Members received information regarding a number of grants available to components and the Component Excellence Awards were announced.  One particular program was organized by AIA Phoenix, entitled Arizona Kids Build, where K-8 students learned about the process of architectural design over the course of several weeks by designing and building a model of their our shade shelter guiding by AIA Architect members.

Leadership Workshops 1 & 2

After lunch, attendees selected two leadership development workshops.  I was fortunate to attend “Building an Inspiring & Sustainable Practice through Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” and “How to Talk about Architecture with Clients & the Public”.  The first seminar was led by Dr. Shirley Davis, who discussed characteristics of winning cultures and tips for effective leadership.  Happy, engaged employees exhibit increased productivity and lower stress.  One memorable quote from the session, “If you are a leader and nobody’s following you, you aren’t leading, you are just taking a walk”.  In the second session, AIA communications staff presented the new AIA Message Book, a document produced from the work of the AIA National Public Outreach Committee.   The book offers guidance for speaking to clients and public in a way that advocates the value of architects and the profession to the public.  I suggest downloading a copy for yourself here: AIA Message Book

Welcome Reception – AIA National Headquarters

In the evening, conference attendees enjoyed some light fare and cocktails while touring AIA National Headquarters.  We met face to face with AIA staff, networked with colleagues and viewed an exhibit featuring designs by emerging professionals.

On Friday, the conference continued with members attending seminars, keynote speeches and presentations as summarized below:

Peer Group Networking Breakfast

Over breakfast conference attendees network with another leaders from similarly sized components.  I had the pleasure of meeting and discussing our local initiatives with leaders from Tampa Bay, Long Beach Austin and Spokane.

Leadership Workshop 3

My final seminar, “Building an Emerging Professional Network”, was not only attended by AIA NJ and AIA WJ members, it was presented by us.  AIA NJ Emerging Professional Community (EPiC) and AIA California’s Academy for Emerging Professionals (AEP) presented each organization’s structure, successes and failures to a packed room of component leaders.  Jessica O’Donnell, AIA WJ Secretary, and AIA NJ EPiC Chair was a featured presenter.

Concluding Session: Keynote, Town Hall and Candidates for National Office

In the final general session, ARCHITECT magazine editor, Ned Cramer moderated a panel discussion with the candidates for national office: 2018-2020 At-large Director (one to be elected) Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA and Daniel S. Hart, FAIA, and 2018-2019 Treasurer Patrick Panetta, AIA.

During the Town Hall, questions submitted from members prior to the conference, as well as inquiries from the members in attendance were addressed by Institute Leaders: Thomas Vonier, FAIA, AIA President, Carl Elefante, FAIA, AIA First Vice President, Heather Koury, Hon. AIA, CACE President, Robert Ivy, FAIA, AIA Chief Exectuive Officer, and Jason Winters, AIA, Moderator Strategic Council.

Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore gave the final keynote address, calling on architects to get involved in city planning and team up with elected officials to use their unique problem solving skills to improve communities.  Mayor Pugh discussed her work with AIA Batlimore to realize the Baltimore Design School, a new community school offering students an education in architectural, fashion and product design while providing public meeting spaces for the surrounding community.

Get Involved!

If you have made it this far, you may be a good candidate for leadership in the local component.  I encourage you to start small and ask your local AIA component leaders to help organize a meeting, or take RSVPs.  Then jump in on a Committee, or take on another leadership role in an area you are passionate about.  Email us at westjerseyaia@gmail.com to begin developing your leadership skills today.  Maybe it will be you that gets to represent AIA West Jersey at Grassroots in the years to come!

Respectfully submitted,

Mark Barone, AIA – 2017 President

mark barone photo 2014b

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