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February 6, 2019
by Hayes Slade, AIA
Hayes Slade, AIA, 2019 President, AIA New York, at the BUILDING COMMUNITY Town Hall. Image credit: Karen Fairbanks.
Hayes Slade, AIA, 2019 President, AIA New York, at the BUILDING COMMUNITY Town Hall. Photo: Karen Fairbanks.
Kavitha Mathew, Director of Engagement and Leadership Initiatives, AIA New York, at the BUILDING COMMUNITY Town Hall. Image credit: Karen Fairbanks.
Kavitha Mathew, Director of Engagement and Leadership Initiatives, AIA New York, at the BUILDING COMMUNITY Town Hall. Photo: Karen Fairbanks.

To kick off the New Year with new ideas, AIA New York hosted a town meeting on Wednesday, January 16 to highlight our commitment to outreach and growth within and beyond the architecture community, through the lens of my Presidential Theme, “BUILDING COMMUNITY.”  The goal was to have an open conversation about gaps we see and initiatives we would like to prioritize for our AIANY community.  This grew out of a conversation on the same topic at the December Board of Directors Retreat.

Executive Director Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, introduced the evening and set the context. I provided an overview of the BUILDING COMMUNITY theme and the overarching goals of that direction as well as the evening. Kavitha Mathew, AIANY’s Director of Leadership and Engagement Initiatives, then took the prompts for our three areas of emphasis for the evening and charged the group to examine and comment. This led to an engaging discussion on how to increase Chapter engagement through our program committees and via outreach to firms and individuals. Attendees, who represented a diverse range of career types and stages within the profession, gave their input on the topics and provided feedback through written submissions.  As you would imagine with a group this size (and as creative as architects are), there was a broad array of responses and a rich conversation. When we reviewed and streamlined to the main threads, we saw these ideas emerge as activation points. The ideas are organized around each of the prompts for clarity:

  • Reaching out to architects who have not engaged with the Chapter

There was a strong and positive response to the idea of reaching out to first year licensees, either via targeted events or through recognition and mentorship opportunities to connect with more experienced professionals. We discussed sending out personalized event invitations, arranging lunch and learn sessions at firms, and implementing to determine what members want. We were encouraged by the vast number of attendees who supported expanding service opportunities for architects.

  • Engaging architects in mid to late career stages

While participants were enthusiastic about member outings and networking breakfasts, many were also eager to understand the Chapter’s advocacy efforts as well as ways that they could be involved in relevant issues impacting the profession.  There is a large group of interested individuals that should be brought into the advocacy efforts more effectively.

  • Engaging architects in small firms

Resources and networking were the major topics we discussed around the issue of how to engage small architecture firms. Participants suggested events where small firms could learn from each other, or from larger firms, as well as creative a consolidated source of support services. The group endorsed a small firm exchange and breakfast programs.

What’s next?

Since the meeting, we reviewed and sorted these ideas into the two major categories: “Business Services” and “Reaching Beyond the Usual Network”.  AIA New York is currently forming a Membership Task Force, which will work with board, committees, and staff to implement progress in both categories. Over the course of the year, the task force will develop initiatives and programs to better serve AIA New York members at various points in their careers and appeal to practices of all sizes. Thanks to all who participated and provided insights into how to best build our community!

If you would like to be involved with this work going forward, please reach out to Suzanne Mecs, smecs@aiany.org, and make her aware of your interest as well as the task force that you’d like to be part of. The extent and impact of this work depends on all our effort.

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