A year ago, at the 2012 AIA National Convention in Washington, D.C., the AIA embarked on a rigorous self-examination as the first step of our comprehensive Repositioning Initiative. Following the advice of our consultants, and in collaboration with our component network, we took a long hard look at ourselves that, in the course of the research over the summer and last fall, gathered over 31,000 information touchpoints from AIA members and interested parties.

The reflection that stared back was sobering: As a group, we aren’t happy with our ability to effect positive change in society, and there is dissatisfaction with the professional community—the AIA—that represents us. We want to wield more influence in business, the community, and politics. We want a broader and deeper understanding of how architecture affects the quality of life. We want an AIA that’s a respected advocate that tells the story of how our work improves people’s lives. And we want to see the results of a commitment to identify and build emerging professionals into effective leaders. From this research, it’s evident that there’s a broad consensus for dramatic change.

Breaking old habits and stepping boldly out of our comfort zones won’t be easy. It will be a challenge to implement the necessary changes to forge a new vision for the future of the profession that goes far beyond our previous realm of thought. But we can, and we will, do it—because we have to.

If there is one thing I learned as a student, a lesson I’ve seen demonstrated during my years in practice and as an AIA member, it is that each of us has a passion for architecture. Even during our most stressful days, we know that architects have the power to change what goes on in this country just by what we do. Our work transforms lives.

Think about the number of times you’ve introduced yourself at a cocktail party. What are the first words out of the mouth of the person you’re talking to? “Man, I always wanted to be an architect!” We’ve all heard it, and it’s powerful. That’s because the public recognizes what we do is special.

The world’s problems are going to be solved, for the most part, by design. Whether it’s hunger, health, energy, or sustainability—all these and more touch directly on what we do. If we fail to act on our own dissatisfaction with the status quo, if we accept business as usual, if we say there are too few of us to make a difference, we will not simply slide toward irrelevance, but we will move there at warp speed.

That’s why, as we meet one year later at the AIA Convention in Denver, I am more convinced than ever that the success of the AIA’s Repositioning Initiative is vital to the healthy and prosperous future of the profession. Because what we do is important. It’s why we get up in the morning; it’s why we are so passionate about architecture.

There may be some who say that whatever we do won’t make a difference either to the AIA or to world. To those who doubt the AIA’s commitment to change or that change is even possible, we say: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has. That’s what the Repositioning is about.

What will success look like? The next time I go to a cocktail party and introduce myself as an architect, someone in that circle will say, “Yeah, I’m an architect, too. And it’s pretty damn fabulous!”

Learn more at convention.aia.org.

Mickey Jacob, FAIA, 2013 President