Advocacy Matters

AIA State and Local Government Network Conference
Providence, RI
July 17-19, 2019

Last month, architects from around the country gathered for the annual AIA State and Local Government Network (SLGN) conference in Providence, the capital city of Rhode Island.  Originally formed in 1991 as AIA State Government Network, “Local Government” was incorporated this year to broaden the focus to advocacy at local as well as state levels, while AIA Grassroots focuses on advocacy at the federal level.  Why do we spend so much time on advocacy?   Advocacy is the backbone of our profession.  Successful advocacy enables architects to remain relevant to society.   Advocacy preserves a positive business and legal atmosphere for architects to practice in. 

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that Americans are instinctively geared toward working together.  That insight also describes advocacy at its core.  Advocacy requires listening and teamwork.  Working together, AIA members carry a unique and respected voice to city halls, county offices, statehouses, and Congress.  Working together, AIA members cultivate relationships with key influencers to advocate for laws that preserve the strength of our profession and improve the built environment. 

The AIA National Advocacy team put together a well-organized and inspiring SLGN event consisting of substantial knowledge sharing, compelling speakers, state policy dinners, presentation of the new AIA State & Local Policy Agenda and breakout sessions to explore the new policy agenda items at a deeper level.  One of my favorite parts of the conference was listening to presentations from state and local components highlighting their advocacy successes.  Not surprisingly, our very own Corey Clayborne, AIA was one of the selected speakers.  Corey highlighted these recent AIA Virginia advocacy success stories with attendees:

  • Shift the culture of the AIA Virginia PAC to the benefit of all members
  • Expand relationships and influence with key lawmakers who support the profession
  • Protect Qualifications Based Selection in Virginia by developing and passing House Bill 2198 to close a loophole in the Virginia Public Procurement Act
  • Architects serve as a vital resource on School Safety through a design-centered approach. This led to the passage of House Bill 1738, which now requires all public school building plans for new construction and renovation to be reviewed by an individual or entity with professional expertise in building security and crime prevention through building design.
  • Connect local Architects with local policy influencers to formulate relationships which will use the knowledge and skills of architects to increase the quality of life in their community.

These advocacy success stories are really good news for all Virginia Architects. 

Robust break-out sessions explored AIA National’s proactive State and Local Policy Agenda for its 2020 legislative agenda, including six strategic areas: 

  • Housing Access and Affordability.  Address America’s housing crisis
  • School Safety.  Stand against school violence through the power of design
  • Sustainability.  Support sustainability upgrades in existing buildings
  • Resiliency.  Support Architects aiding in community resilience
  • Business of Architecture.  Require an Architect on more new projects.
  • 21st-century Architect.  Tailor a position to meet the needs of your community.

AIA state and local chapters across the nation will be equipped with knowledge, insights, tools, and resources to advance legislation related to these six strategic issues.

Ben Franklin once stated “well done is better than well said”.  This quote speaks to many things, and especially about advocacy which is concerned with action, about getting it done.  AIA Virginia’s Government Advocacy team works hard every day on behalf of all members to build relationships with key law and policymakers, advance pro-architect and pro-environment legislation and ensure that architects remain vital to the public it serves for years and generations to come. 

As a profession, we are a relatively small group that has the capacity to bring tremendous value to people and their aspirations for a better, healthier life.  Advocacy enables our profession to remain relevant and strong so Architects can continue to make a lasting difference in people’s lives and the built environment. 

Sean E. Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia Vice-President
Government Advocacy Advisory Council