AIA SpeakUp | Denver, Colorado | July 19-21, 2017
The AIA’s second annual SpeakUp Event was held last month in Denver. SpeakUp is the AIA’s flagship advocacy training event. Influencing government policy is one of the AIA’s primary responsibilities, one of the primary reasons our AIA exists. Advocacy is about teamwork. Working together, AIA members carry a unique and respected voice to city halls, statehouses, and Congress. Working together at AIA Virginia we advocate for issues that are important to members. Working together we advocate for legislators to enact policies that stimulate the demand for architecture and invigorate members’ capacity to practice.
SpeakUp 2017 provided advocacy training for approximately 100 architects from around the country. The AIA Advocacy team put together a fantastic, well-organized and lively event consisting of compelling talks, roundtable discussions, breakout workshops and the highlight of the event, a “campaign exercise”. Attendees gained insights and skills to enhance advocacy efforts in their respective states.
Several interesting speakers provided useful perspective and insights on successful advocacy. We heard from seasoned veterans about the elements of a winning legislative advocacy program – from member engagement to coalition building. Just to highlight a few, Senator Chris Holbert (R-CO30) implored advocates to start with questions when engaging legislators: Are you familiar with (fill in the blank)? Have you taken a position with it? How will you vote? Veteran Colorado Lobbyist Jerry Johnson, Hon. AIA spoke to the value of having a strong lobbyist at the state capital who builds reliable, long-term relationships with legislators. Caitlin Reagan, AIA National gave a thought-provoking presentation on how architects can communicate more effectively. We heard from seasoned experts Sue Brown, Principal 4Front Strategies and Bev Razon, Vice-president Public Affairs, COPIC on PAC fundraising best practices.
SpeakUp attendees participated in a multi-phased group campaign strategy and team building exercise. Organized in teams of 20, participants were able to apply knowledge gained in the workshops to build a multi-faceted campaign plan that was presented to a jury of political and policy professionals on the final day. This intense, collaborative group work demonstrated that winning legislative and political victories requires a strong plan, teamwork and the ability to deal with the unexpected.
As a profession, we are a relatively small group that has the potential to bring tremendous value to people and their aspirations for a better, healthier life. Architects are not guaranteed a critical role in society. Advocacy allows us to strengthen our profession to the benefit of AIA members and society. The AIA gives us that voice. Through member engagement and coalition building the Government Advocacy team at AIA Virginia continues to build a culture of influence with an annual legislative agenda that fosters the design of healthy, vibrant communities, including: job creation and a growing economy; environmentally sustainable buildings that use resources wisely; public health; systems of mass transit; and responsible land development and urban infill. The Government Advocacy team at AIA Virginia continues to work hard to advance pro-architect policies before government decision-makers and help ensure that architects remain vital to society for generations to come.
Sean E. Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia Director
Government Advocacy Advisory Council
Photos: Sean Reilly, AIA