2024: Working the Plan and Prioritizing for Impact

by Mary-Margaret Zindren, EVP/Executive Director

Individually and as organizations, this is the time of year that we make plans to achieve our goals. And the accomplishments and experiences of the year past inform our efforts for the year ahead.

At AIA Minnesota, the three local AIA chapters, and the MAF, our work continues to be guided by the 2022-2026 Joint Strategic Workplan. 2023 involved significant effort and progress on many elements of that workplan, a few of which I want to highlight here, as they are poised to continue on into 2024 in new ways:

 “Expand access to the profession” – specifically, the objective to “Mitigate and remove financial, cultural, and procedural barriers to joining and remaining within the profession.”

After one and half years of engaging on the topic of alternative paths to licensure in Minnesota – at the board level, with a task force, and in seeking comments and perspectives from the full membership – the AIA Minnesota Board of Directors voted on December 22nd to approve the following policy statement: AIA Minnesota supports the creation and implementation of equivalent, equitable pathways to architect licensure in Minnesota, including options equivalent to a NAAB-accredited degree, in order to: (a) Expand access to the profession; and (b) Mitigate and remove barriers becoming an architect in Minnesota, while maintaining significant rigor and focus on protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Both the substance and volume of the arguments made by nearly 200 members who weighed in were considered by the board and informed this final language. During the first few months of 2024, the AIA Minnesota Board of Directors will take up the question of whether and how we will further explore this issue in the near term, especially in the context of a rulemaking process within the Minnesota Board of AELSLAGID that is anticipated to begin in late January and to last for two years. As we learn more from the licensing board and the AIA Minnesota board determines its next steps, we will do our best to keep the full membership and key stakeholders informed.

 “Strengthen the business, working conditions, and culture of architecture.”

AIA Minnesota’s 6+ year effort focused on cultivating culture change in the profession of architecture continued in 2023, with the Community of Practice for Culture Change and the National Intercultural Leadership Program both going strong. In the realm of strengthening the business of architecture, however, our hopes were dashed for a jump start to this work through access to business-focused training content via ACSA/NCARB-developed online modules – our request was denied in Summer of 2023. However, national AIA President Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NOMA, is bringing a business focus to her 2024 AIA presidency and AIA Minnesota will be exploring new programming focused on the business of architecture that complements AIA’s efforts, including a potential reboot of the Mastering the Future Business of Architecture (MFBA) program, convening members to examine alternative business models, and anticipating AI’s potential to reshape architectural practice.

 “Make design for climate change foundational.”

Huge leaps forward were accomplished in 2023 in the realm of climate action supported by our legislative advocacy efforts, including acceleration of changes to Minnesota’s commercial energy code. The year ahead will involve informing implementation of these legislative changes. The partnership between volunteer leaders, staff, and our contract lobbyist, and collaboration with experts at the Center for Sustainable Building Research and other stakeholders, will continue to be key to this transformational work. At the firm scale, the Building Green effort will be transitioning to a community of practice, where members from smaller-sized firms will support each other in implementing best practices for integrating sustainable design approaches in their architectural work.

 “Make room through strategic scale-back.”

One area where there is much work to do in 2024 is right sizing the programs, services, and efforts of AIA Minnesota. The number and scale of our efforts has grown steadily over the past decade. However, pandemic-related impacts on revenue generation and the cost of goods and services has reduced our staffing levels. The year ahead will be one where the board and staff take a five-year view of revenues, expenditures, and opportunity costs, and chart a path forward that recognizes the limits of both staff and volunteer capacity. We will need to prioritize in order to do our best work in furthering your best work. We look forward to engaging a wide array of volunteer leaders and the broad membership in this effort, and expect it to begin in earnest this spring.

On behalf of the whole staff team, I wish you well for the year ahead. May your planning materialize in prosperity and fulfillment. And may the waves you encounter move you in the direction of a brighter future. We will do our best to help make this so for you and for all members of AIA Minnesota.

View the January 2024 edition of Matrix.