Tips for finding the right civic engagement opportunity

Architects engage with our communities every day through the work we do. Clients, contractors, building occupants, local governments, and neighborhood residents are just some of the some of the groups we interact with, educate, and inform.

These skills that we bring to all our projects also create opportunities to be leaders in our communities beyond the practice of architecture. There are numerous ways that members of the architecture profession can really make a difference, no matter what stage of our careers.

Whatever your motivation is, there are both personal and professional benefits to local civic engagement. It can be a networking opportunity to meet potential clients. You can build better relationships with local governments and elected officials. You can develop leadership skills to bring back to your professional life. You can gain better insight on the issues that matter to residents. You can help develop more sophisticated public policy and city ordinances. You can get involved simply to make your neighborhood a better place.

So what should AIA Colorado members go out and do? How can we be most effective? Here’s are some suggestions on how to find the right opportunity for you!

  1. First and foremost, find something based on your personal interests. Civic engagement can be more than community service or supporting a charity. It’s about using your expertise in a way that positively impacts the community.
  2. Figure out a realistic time commitment. We’re all already busy at work and at home. Don’t burn yourself out. Sure, it would be great if there were an architect member on every city council, but be realistic about your commitment. If all you have is one evening a month to attend your neighborhood association meeting, they’re still better off for having an architect involved.
  3. Stick to your time commitment. Easier said than done sometimes, but make a conscious effort to follow through. Your efforts and ideas will go a lot farther as someone who’s regularly engaged.
  4. Be active, not just present. Speak up when you’ve got something to contribute. Earn trust. Lead when there’s an opportunity.
  5. Move on to something new when the time is right. This goes back to point number two, but you’re not making a lifelong commitment to a single effort.
© AIA Colorado 2023