One architect's powerful impact

Architects are passionate about their profession and its future. But translating that passion into effective legislative advocacy does not come easily for everyone. That quandary is exactly what inspired Bruce Herrington, AIA, to create a powerful new tool to engage architects.

Herrington, a member of AIA-Birmingham in Alabama, is an ardent and committed advocate who has been making a difference for architects at all levels of government for years. With numerous colleagues involved in government advocacy in Birmingham and in Alabama, he yearned for a means of energizing other AIA members (and future AIA members) toward active participation in advocacy.  This also provided an opportunity to build on the successes of AIA’s 2015 “Year of the Advocate” and the inaugural “SpeakUp” conference earlier this year.  

He felt that he could use his own passion and experiences to demonstrate the importance of political engagement and motivate other AIA members to take action. He just needed the right tool to share his message. With the help of AIA Advocacy staff, Herrington created Advocacy 101 – The Responsibilities and Opportunities of Government Advocacy.

This engaging new resource “defines advocacy and describes why AIA members should and can be active in government advocacy.” A peer-to-peer resource, the PowerPoint presentation is designed to be personalized and presented by members, to members.  Herrington designed the PowerPoint so that “Advocacy 101 offers numerous opportunities for a presenter to offer topics for which architects can actively advocate and present stories from his or her experience.”

Herrington has already started using Advocacy 101 in presentations throughout the region, and has received extremely positive feedback, particularly in regard to a version he specifically tailored to architecture students. “After presenting to a Professional Practice class of 5th year students at Mississippi State University, many students asked pointed questions about the potential effectiveness of their involvement in a local advocacy issue.  Through discussion I learned that the day before my presentation, their City Council had proposed a severe reduction in funding of arts programs in the community.  The students were primed to get involved,” Herrington observed.

While the seminar format at MSU was well-received, Herrington notes that Advocacy 101 is also effective in roundtable discussions: “During a roundtable-type presentation/discussion with a Young Architects Forum group in New Orleans, the members brainstormed about the best way to approach their city’s mayor.  They discussed the relationships they had with the current administration and identified the city’s staff members who could be approached by AIA members.  It appeared to me that our conversation served as the beginning of the YAF group crafting a vision for local government advocacy and service!”

Research shows us that peer-to-peer communication is the most effective way to get people to engage in advocating for their passions. Herrington’s Advocacy 101 helps AIA members advocate for the profession through sharing their own passion and experiences.

If you are interested in using Advocacy 101 for a presentation, please contact AIA Advocacy staff.

Amanda Stratton is senior manager of advocacy outreach at the AIA.

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