AIA Minnesota’s 2018-2020 Strategic Workplan

This fall, the Board of Directors set out a three-year workplan for how AIA Minnesota’s Strategic Direction will be made real. (Click here for a PDF summary)

The path to this workplan started early last year.  We reached out to the membership and gained insights — electronically and in person – from hundreds and hundreds of members throughout the state, as well as key industry partners.

The result of listening, interpreting, and synthesizing this input led to our strategic direction: 
Our mission: “Advancing a vital profession, vibrant communities, and architecture that endures,” our core values: Integrity, Passion, Inclusion, and Empathy, and our two strategic priorities, which are shared and complemented by the supporting priorities of the local AIA chapters in Minnesota:

  1. Build and mentor the profession – From the first inspiration and introduction to the profession, through every stage of career growth, development, and achievement.
  2. Make architecture accessible, understandable and highly valued – Engagement to grow awareness of and appreciation for the process, outcomes, and importance of the profession among the general public and key influencers.

As we noted when sharing this strategic direction last year, the path we took to our workplan was different than what many organizations do. Rather than diving straight into specific strategies and tactics, we spent the past year evaluating what we currently do and how we do it – the impact of our programs, services, and partnerships, and the allocation of dollars, staff time, and volunteer time.

We undertook an extensive review of the association’s nearly 80 programs and services and major areas of resource allocation. We utilized an approach called the “Matrix Map.” Key to this analysis was estimating the allocation of staff time to each item, and the development of criteria to assess “Mission Impact.” Those criteria included the degree to which each item:

  • Builds and mentors the profession
  • Makes architecture accessible, understandable and highly valued
  • Exhibits and furthers the four core values of integrity, passion, inclusion, and empathy
  • Demonstrates excellence in execution
  • Broadly impacts members
  • Deeply impacts members
  • Broadly impacts the public
  • Deeply impacts the public; and
  • Fills an important gap

Following the model, we plotted each item by relative mission impact and by net revenue generation and net subsidization, and also showed the level of resources that go toward each item. The resulting Matrix Map showed that the great majority of our programs and services are of relatively high mission impact and are to varying degrees net subsidized – things like Architecture Minnesota magazine, government relations, and architecture in the schools.

As a result, when it comes to resource reallocation to further our two strategic priorities, AIA Minnesota’s path forward is primarily focused on moving each item further up the scale of mission-impact and making sure every dollar – whether it goes toward hard costs or staff time – is spent with efficiency, effectiveness, strategy, and member service in mind.

So that brings us to the plan itself – one that the Board and staff believe is both ambitious and rooted in reality. Here are the core elements of the plan:

  • We will pursue a more accessible, welcoming, public-facing space for AIA Minnesota. The annual amount spent on our office space is significant – more than we spend on 90 percent of our programming. With this in mind, the dollars we spend on space need to be leveraged for strategic impact to the greatest extent practicable. This is what many metropolitan AIA chapters around the nation have done over the past decade – they have moved to spaces that are integrated in the fabric of their cities and, in one manner or another, portray the values of the profession. After much discussion and in the context of “centers for architecture” that our members have visited in places like Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, and Dallas, the Board of Directors determined that the relative isolation of our space at IMS – including the lack of transit access – is a missed opportunity and it is time to explore other options. Our lease is up in January of 2019.  While the stars may not align to find new space by then, a Task Force will work to find a space that serves member needs while also, ideally, creating space for the public to explore architecture, design, and the future of our communities. Accessibility to students at the U of M and Dunwoody will be a key concern, and the idea of convening and co-working space for architecture firms will also be explored. We will be actively pursuing strategic partnerships that may make such an expanded space possible. We will also take lessons learned from existing “centers for architecture” to inform our efforts.
    • It’s important to note that the Board also dug deep into the idea of a mobile space or pop-up space – shippable displays or a FoodTruck or Bookmobile or disaster response unit for architecture that could travel to different parts of the state. This idea would not be implemented within the 2018-2020 timeframe but it will be explored during the next two years in cooperation with Greater Minnesota members, so that the final idea is one that successfully serves the needs and interests of members and the broader community.
  • We will expand and enhance our “Architecture in the Schools” programming to include teaching tools and additional youth outreach. Both in the member survey and focus groups held last year, and this year’s Mission Impact analysis, “architecture in the schools efforts” ranked at the top in terms of where more resources need to be devoted in order to support a strong future for the profession. Starting in 2018, significant staff time will be reallocated toward these efforts. We will engage with teachers to develop the kinds of tools they can easily integrate into regular curriculum, and will provide updated resources to architects to support classroom visits. We will also continue our strong presence at STEM Day at the State Fair. The on-site activities and take-home projects where kids build models of state fair buildings made our booth the most popular STEM booth by far and provides a model for engagement that could expand to other community events over the next few years, depending on resources. We also plan to pursue grant dollars to support training for AIA Minnesota members who are going into classrooms where the races and cultural contexts of the population of students is different from the member’s own race and cultural context. Effective youth engagement requires communicating well across all types of “differences that make a difference.” The more our members can grow these skills, the more we will move our mission forward.
  • We will re-envision Architecture Minnesota magazine and its related events to focus on current and potential clients, key influencers of policy and public opinion, and leaders across sectors and geographies. Every year, our magazine is recognized by our peers in the magazine industry in Minnesota – this year we won three gold medals and one silver, following last year’s sweep of four gold medals. It is also an endeavor that requires a tremendous amount of staff resources and dollars. The Board of Directors and staff team believe the magazine can do even more to further our strategic priority to “make architecture accessible, understandable, and highly valued” among the audiences members care about. This path forward is reinforced by what we heard from the membership last year – that the vast majority of members want to see the balance of the magazine’s content shift from primarily focused on architects to be more focused on the public. Over the course of 2018-2020, we will engage in reimagining and redesigning the magazine to be more public facing and to help inspire conversation about architecture, design, sustainability, placemaking, and the future of our communities. We will also aim to grow our electronic presence, understanding that the magazine industry and media overall have shifted toward a balance of print and electronic content, in order to have increased timeliness and relevance. And we will continue to host periodic Architecture Minnesota lectures and public events, exploring new partnerships similar to the relationship with the Walker Art Center that we have rebuilt over the past two years.
  • We will engage proactively in state and local advocacy, on issues of concern to AIA Minnesota members. In addition to continuing to defend against legislation that would damage the profession, we will grow our advocacy infrastructure for engagement of state and local policymakers throughout Minnesota, in cooperation with the local AIA chapters. In particular, we will increase engagement on issues related to housing, sustainability and resilience, and equity in education. We will continue to advocate for high-quality design of affordable housing through the Affordable Housing Design Awards program, which is largely funded by the McKnight Foundation. And we will advocate for 21st Century Development – that which is sustainable, resilient, efficient, healthy, equitable, and beautiful – starting with education and tracking tools in 2018 and likely creating a recognition program to launch in 2019 – this effort is also funded by the McKnight Foundation.
  • We will expand and institutionalize equity, diversity and inclusion training and resources to accelerate members’ skill in recognizing and addressing bias, and engaging across all “differences that make a difference.” We will pursue hosting of the biennial AIA Women’s Leadership Summit in the Twin Cities for 2021 or 2023. We will create a new Intercultural Leadership program, modeled on the Leadership Forum, with the intent to pilot a program in 2018 and to create an annual offering starting in 2019 – again, dependent on the pursuit of partnerships and grant dollars. We are actively exploring a partnership with the University of Minnesota’s MSRP program in getting this pilot off the ground. More broadly, the new Equity, Diversity & inclusion Committee will develop regular opportunities for members to explore questions and solutions, including the launch of a new EDI podcast and online learning community, which we anticipate launching in the first quarter of 2018.
  • We will reshape key programs to better engage members and the public throughout Minnesota, and discontinue low mission-impact programs. The Annual Awards Dinner will be reimagined to become more accessible and engaging for more members, aiming to incorporate it as part of the AIA Minnesota Annual Conference as early as 2018. Following the 30th anniversary celebration of the Lake Superior Design Retreat in 2018, we will take a hiatus in 2019 to explore possibilities for reworking the event to draw higher attendance from Greater Minnesota members and the general public, and to engage Greater Minnesota community leaders and design-related entities. We will expand upon the long-standing regional meeting approach of the AIA Northern Minnesota chapter to include three regional meetings each Spring held in various locations in Greater Minnesota, with CE content, networking, and potentially community outreach as well. We will increase the number of on-demand continuing education programs produced by AIA Minnesota, making our programming more accessible to more members – both in Greater Minnesota and the metro area. And we will discontinue two programs that ended up in that were deemed some of the lowest in terms of mission impact in the Matrix Map analysis: Presidential Citations and the Project Announcement Newsletter.
  • Finally, we will restructure AIA Minnesota volunteer engagement, allowing us to reallocate staff time toward other aspects of the 2018-2020 workplan, while also creating the potential to grow the number and variety of member groups. To grow staff capacity in the reallocation of resources toward this strategic workplan, we needed to look not only at WHAT we do but HOW we do it. As a result, we will be staffing member groups a bit differently going forward. We are creating a system of committees and “knowledge communities” with differing levels of staffing – committees being staffed more heavily than knowledge communities. Several committees will transition to become knowledge communities, and a new Health Design Knowledge Community will kick off in January. A few committees will be reconstituted and restructured to sync with the strategic direction and the workplan. We will add volunteer member liaisons – CE Liaisons and Government Affairs Liaisons – to serve as communications conduits between knowledge communities, committees, and the staff team, informing member CE programs and advocacy efforts. And if all goes well with this new Knowledge Community approach, we will explore creation of additional knowledge communities in 2020. Finally, committees, boards and task forces will be staffed through a team approach, allowing for greater back-up and recognizing the specialized skillsets each staff member brings. Even with these changes, when it comes time to implement more public-facing programming, we could be understaffed and under-resourced for the work. The Board and staff will be conducting additional business planning, in cooperation with partner organizations, to determine what is needed to support the work and what level of risk we can reasonably take on. We will keep the membership informed as this work progresses.

A summary of this workplan is posted on the AIA Minnesota website. If members have any questions or concerns you about the plan, please reach out to Executive Vice President Mary-Margaret Zindren or any member of the staff team. The workplan will drive organizational budgeting and staffing decisions for the next three years, as well as the partnerships we pursue.

Download the Strategic Workplan 2018-2020 document (PDF)