What Does Advocacy Mean to You?

by Amy Kalar, AIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

Advocacy can be something as small as giving kudos to someone in a meeting when they aren’t there, or it can be as big as lobbying for a cause you believe in with public officials. When I think broadly of advocacy, it seems selfless – and often it is.

That wasn’t the case for me though – I fell into advocacy from a personal need. At the time I was working full time, a mother of two small kids, and my husband was also working full time and going to law school at night. I was not thriving at all – I was barely surviving. So, I reached out to a few women architects who were also moms of young children to ask how they were making it all work. But what I discovered is that many women in our profession were struggling – and not just moms.

From this spark of self-interest and shared struggle the Women in Architecture Committee was formed. It became my lifeline. Things didn’t stop there though – I continued speaking all over the country about the challenges that women in architecture face. Suddenly, without really knowing it, I was advocating. My point is, sometimes even seemingly selfless acts arise from very personal needs, and that doesn’t make these acts of advocacy any less powerful. In fact, I think it amplifies them.

We have opportunities to advocate every single day. Again, sometimes these are small actions of our everyday work in architecture, and sometimes they are bigger, with broader impact on the profession or the built environment. There are some great opportunities to engage in those bigger opportunities right now, including partnering with AIA Minnesota on our legislative work to get bills passed at the Capitol during the session that starts February 12:  

  • We are advocating for a bonding package that emphasizes housing and infrastructure, and for one to happen this year to get bonding back “on cycle” after years of unpredictability. This will help ensure a healthy pipeline of business opportunities for our profession and a better built environment for our communities across the state.
  • We are advocating for climate action, particularly via advancing the building code to achieve maximum energy savings, embodied carbon reductions, and materials improvements. Architects are directly involved in the building code process and in shaping the bills that drive funding, staff, and support for climate action at the state level.
  • We are working with industry partners on climate action via discussions about energy benchmarking and embodied carbon in materials, and will advocate for solutions throughout the legislative session that take building performance to the next level.
  • We constantly advocate for a codes process that is driven by experts and all stakeholders, which we have in place, rather than a politicized process that doesn’t center technical knowledge.

You can learn more about our issues agenda by visiting our website. And if you’d like to engage in advocacy on these or other issues, contact Sheri Hansen on the AIA Minnesota staff team. This type of advocacy can be as simple as a 15-minute zoom call, and staff will be with you every step of the way. I hope you will consider adding your voice to these conversations, and sharing your experience and expertise.

So, as you go through your day, consider the many opportunities you have to advocate for someone or something. I know you are all doing those small, and incredibly meaningful acts of advocacy every day in your workplace. Now is the time to consider how you can engage in some of these bigger and broadly impactful opportunities, too.  

View the February 2024 edition of Matrix.