By Drew Allen, AIA | Project Architect, AECOM | Chair, Editorial Committee
On July 22, 2020, during the State of the Association Address, the AIA Colorado Board of Directors shared a new mission and vision, discussed organizational transformation, and here, Editorial Committee Chair Drew Allen captures the three top imperatives shaping our path ahead.
When the idea for holding a State of the Association Address first came up for the AIA Colorado Board of Directors and staff, a Zoom meeting is probably not what they had in mind. Nevertheless, a Zoom meeting was had on July 22, when more than 100 AIA members gathered virtually to learn about the current state of AIA Colorado and direction for where the organization is going. From the onset of the presentation, the primary messages relayed had a consistent theme: AIA Colorado is focused on positioning the organization to handle larger societal issues and providing members a platform to tackle those issues when they are ready to take the leap.
In order to provide those platforms for members, the Board envisions three areas of focus for the organization: creating a culture of belonging by way of Local Advisory Councils, taking a stronger leadership approach to the climate crisis, and furthering discussion and action around justice, equity, diversity, and inclusiveness. While these topics have been tackled in some capacity by AIA Colorado for several years, was one of the first times that it was clearly and directly laid out to a broader audience. While there were also operational topics centered around finance, staff portfolios, board roles, and more, these three imperatives laid a path for future advocacy efforts and clear ways for members to become involved.
The Local Advisory Councils, presented by Past President Zachary Taylor, AIA, are a new development in 2020 and stemmed, at least partially, from the way that AIA Colorado was organized a few years ago. Prior to the reorganization in the early 2010s, AIA Colorado was comprised of four separate chapters, all with their own boards of directors, which caused a healthy amount of confusion and redundancy. To streamline efforts, local and state boards consolidated, and local representation was implemented via a new, statewide board. While these section directors have been in place, this additional step remedies any confusion and bolsters opportunities for involvement in all four corners of the state.
By focusing on a culture of belonging through Local Advisory Councils in each of the four sections, the hope is that sections can focus on issues that are important within those regions. For example, an issue or event of great importance to members in Fort Collins may not apply to members in Aspen. By creating these councils to focus on local issues and events, it creates an opportunity for members to more easily get involved in the organization and to rally around ideas and advocacy efforts that are important to them.
Next, President-Elect Rachael Johnson, AIA, presented the efforts for AIA Colorado to lead when it comes to environmental stewardship. The working group led by Deborah Lucking, AIA, and Brad Bull, AIA, focused primarily on education and training on environmental topics. There is also a strong push from AIA to get more Colorado firms engaged with and signed up for the AIA 2030 challenge, which focuses on transforming the practice of architecture in order to tackle climate change. Additionally, the group helped spearhead a recent state senate bill (SB20-159, championed by Sen. Chris Hansen of Denver) that focused on disclosing and reducing the global warming potential in some of our most common building materials.
Next, Secretary Kaylyn Kirby, AIA, spoke about the ongoing efforts regarding justice, equity, diversity, and inclusiveness, or JEDI. While the EDI committee has been working on these topics for several years, the recent upheaval across the globe has brought these issues even more into focus for members. The recent “Let’s Talk about Race” panel hosted by AIA Colorado came directly from these efforts and the strong foundation that the EDI/JEDI committee had laid. These issues have even surfaced as the topic for the upcoming Practice + Design Conference, the theme of which will be JUST Architecture, focused on justice and equitable projects and approaches to architecture and the built environment.
While it might be said that many of these topics were already efforts within the existing committee structure, this is one of the clearest directives to come out of an AIA Colorado Board of Directors in some time. While there is still a strong reliance on members to step forward and pick up the mantel for these causes or any others that they feel strongly about, there is now a clearer structure on how members can do this. By presenting the association’s imperatives now and into the future, members can know that having those three letters after their names stands for something more meaningful and—should they reach for it—that there is a place for them at the table.