Advocacy: Minnesota’s Architects in Action

By Sam Olbekson, AIA, AICAE, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

Serving on the AIA Minnesota board for the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to gain greater awareness of our component’s significant efforts to support the mission, values, and professional interests of our members, and to reduce policy barriers that create issues for our profession. Our AIA Minnesota community is doing tremendous work to advocate for high-quality design, equity in the built environment, affordable housing, public funding for community-based projects, and many other related community building efforts. AIA Minnesota serves as an invaluable resource to connect us to opportunities to learn, discuss, and take direct action on the issues important to us as firms and individuals.

Advocacy is an important way we can shape the policies that shape our environment and our work. Our insight into the state, county, and local regulations and processes of development, funding, and building our communities gives us an important perspective on how public policy impacts our day-to-day work. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to create strong communities for the future by sharing our knowledge with elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels .

Our Government Affairs Committee and local chapter advocacy efforts connect us to multiple ways to share our insight and voice with policymakers. Member leaders from all state and local AIA chapters in Minnesota recently participated in AIA Lobby Day in Washington DC during this year’s AIA Leadership Summit. During the trip, we visited the offices of several Minnesota members of Congress, outlining our perspectives in detail on bipartisan pieces of legislation Congress is considering. The Congressional staff members we met with thoughtfully listened to our perspectives and welcomed AIA Minnesota members as an important and highly relevant resource of important knowledge. 

Other ways we have directly advocated for our profession this year have been through advocacy letters on specific legislative issues, in-person testimony, and individual Zoom and in-person meetings with policymakers at the state Capitol on everything from capital investment and taxes to climate action. Our AIA Minnesota advocacy team also works with state agencies and state boards in an advisory capacity throughout the year and keeps our committees and knowledge communities close at hand to share their expertise in specialized areas.

You can get involved in government affairs through AIA Minnesota in many ways that don’t involve a flight to Washington, or even a visit to the Capitol. From a one-time, 15-minute Zoom call with legislators, to visits in person with policymakers, to ongoing participation in the Government Affairs Committee, we invite you to share your expertise about the built environment and creating resilient communities at whatever level of commitment fits your schedule.

The more we are aware of and involved in the legislation and policy decisions being made at the federal, state, and local levels, the more we are able to help legislators build the policy foundation for our future. If you would like to know more about any particular policy proposal, or to learn more about sharing your voice, please feel free to reach out to me or Sheri Hansen. Sheri will also be leading a session recap in early June for all AIA Minnesota members, outlining the progress we made this year on key initiatives for our profession; please join that meeting if you can.

View the May 2023 edition of Matrix.