Fuel for the Long Haul

by Anna Pravinata, AIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

“Take care of yourself. We need everyday moments. We need joy. We need gratitude. We need love. We need belonging. We need these things to fortify us for this fight.” – Brené Brown

Over the past few weeks and months, many of us and many of those we care about have had times where we’ve felt exhausted. We’ve been exhausted by more than a year of remote work and intensified caregiving during a pandemic-driven recession. We can also feel periodically exhausted from working to create better firms, a better profession, and a better world for future generations.

Mary-Margaret and I will speak to the ways we can fortify ourselves to stay in the work of climate action in a future column. This month, in the wake of the Chauvin trial verdict, I want to speak to staying in the work of equity.

It is hard work. It can make you feel tired in your bones. You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to throw up your hands and say “enough.” That is all real and fair – I feel this way, too, sometimes.

We are complex people and creating equity is equally complex. Multiple things can be true at the same time. We can be committed to the work of justice and eradicating bias in architecture, AND we can – and must – take time for family and friendships, our health, our spiritual lives, and to simply allow ourselves to be happy. Celebrating moments of joy and grounding ourselves in gratitude is helpful in resetting and recharging.

Another thing that helps people stay in the work of systems change is to be in it with people who have shared goals and who can step forward during the times that you need to step back. I am grateful to be part of a leadership team at AIA Minnesota where we look out for each other in this way.

There are many places to find community in the work of equity through involvement in AIA Minnesota. At the April 2021 board meeting, a restructuring of our equity efforts and two new approaches were approved that will strengthen this work and add to the ways it is embedded in all that we do:

  • Equity in the Built Environment Committee – This new committee will be focused on learning and applying promising practices related to equity in architecture; identifying and rooting out inequities in how the built environment is created and maintained, recognizing the ways that the built environment has led to marginalization, and creating spaces that foster feelings of belonging, ownership, and power for all people – particularly those who have not traditionally been represented within or centered by design processes and design outcomes. (If you’re interested in joining this group, reach out to EVP/Executive Director Mary-Margaret Zindren).
  • Equity Council – This new group will be comprised of representatives from more than a dozen AIA Minnesota committees, knowledge communities and partner organizations whose work relates to equity in the profession and/or equity in the built environment. It will meet three times per year to foster collaboration and to ensure efforts across the architecture community are well aligned.

In creating these two new groups, we will be transitioning away from an EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) Committee, yet remain committed to a wide variety of additional ways for members to be engaged in creating equity in the profession and the built environment, including:

  • Community of Practice for Culture Change – people across the profession who are committed to learning, experimenting, and driving change toward a culture that is authentic, equitable, and collaborative.
  • Women in Architecture Committeefocused on overcoming the biases and barriers women face in the profession of architecture and creating a strong network to celebrate and sustain their work and career success.

Many other committees and knowledge communities have integrated equity as a priority in their work, including the Committee on the Environment (COTE), the Committee on Design, the Housing Advocacy Committee, the Building Codes Knowledge Community, and the Government Affairs Committee. Affiliated and partner organizations like the Minnesota Architectural Foundation (MAF) and the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (MSP NOMA) also focus on supporting diversity and equity in the profession, and creating a feeling of belonging and agency.

At AIA Minnesota, our efforts to further equity continue to evolve, responding to what is happening around us, as well as proactively planning of where we should be heading in the months and years ahead.

If you’ve not yet been involved and are asking yourself: “As an architect or a designer, what can I do?” I would encourage you to look at the list above, find what interests you the most, and take that first step to get involved. If you’re currently involved but find yourself asking, “How can I maintain my energy for this work?”, reach out to others in your group for support and talk together about how you can support each other’s need to recharge. The AIA Minnesota staff team is happy to help you get connected, as are any members of the AIA Minnesota board.

Culture change – systems change – is everyone’s work; it cannot simply be the work of those in leadership. It needs all of us, working together, for it to truly to take hold and to be sustained for the long haul.


View the May 2021 edition of Matrix.