Participants present their legislative campaign plan at the AIA's inaugural SpeakUp event, in Washington, D.C.
Eli Meir Kaplan Participants present their legislative campaign plan at the AIA's inaugural SpeakUp event, in Washington, D.C.

The AIA brought 150 architecture students, emerging professionals, small-firm owners, and other practitioners together in Washington, D.C., last week for its inaugural SpeakUp event, a three-day-long workshop to teach tactics for advocacy around legislative topics related to architecture and the built environment. As a new initiative, it sought to be a hands-on complement to the Institute’s annual Grassroots conference, which was held earlier this year in Detroit and covers topics such as government policy and legislation.

“We need people to stand up and be counted for architecture,” AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, told SpeakUp attendees on the conference's opening day. “[This event will] give you the tools that you need to be an influential advocate.”

The participants had the opportunity to visit with their Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill, and they spent the remainder of their time using the skills learned or honed during the event to develop a campaign for a hypothetical green-schools legislation that would render institutional buildings 50 percent more efficient than current requirements. To do this, the attendees were divided into four teams of about 40 people, each representing a different region of the U.S.—Sparta (the Great Plains), Corinth (the South), Argos (the Pacific Northwest), and Athens (New England). Each team was tasked with creating a campaign to get representatives in their assigned region to back the bill.

Attendees also participated in education sessions covering topics like building a strong legislative plan, attaining earned-media and utilizing other communications tactics, working with political action committees, and building engagement in policy issues at the local level.

The four teams presented their plan on the final morning of the event for review by a jury comprising: Abigail Gorman, the Institute's chief of staff; Marcus Sebastian Mason, managing partner for The Madison Group, in Washington, D.C.; Kumar Barve, a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and chairman of the environment and transportation committee; Laurie Richards, president at consulting firm LR&A in McLean, Va.; and Marissa Brown, senior director of engagement for the Democracy Initiative, in Washington, D.C. Presentations ranged from a “Greek Tragedy” interpretation of the process of a legislative campaign, to a video.

Attendees met with their House and Senate representatives to discuss the issues that the AIA has deemed relevant to the architecture profession and the building environment in 2016, including the recent 179D energy tax deduction,protecting the 2030 energy targets, and the National Design Services Act.

Read more of ARCHITECT's recent coverage on advocacy in architecture here.