Building a Public/Private Partnership

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Building a Public/Private Partnership: the Process of Creating a Successful Relationship Between an AIA Chapter and a City Government

AIA chapters bring tremendous value to their members: professional membership, knowledge sharing, communications, public relations, and social and professional connections. Perhaps the most influential – and exciting – role that chapters can fulfill is advocacy with the public sector. By building a strong relationship with local government and making themselves an indispensable part of the public sector’s decision making process, AIA chapters have the opportunity to profoundly change the shape of their communities.

Architects, with their unique training and expertise, can contribute to the public discourse their well-rounded perspectives on design, land use, development, economics, social studies, transportation, urban planning, and the environment. When architects fully engage and contribute that knowledge and expertise through advocacy in the civic realm, it has the potential to make them – and their chapters – relevant and influential parts of the political and decision making process.

Most AIA members would agree that representation and participation, whether before local government, the state capital, or in Washington, is one of the most important functions provided by any professional organization. While governmental relations is one of the five areas required as a basic service by all chapters of the AIA, it can be somewhat daunting for those who have never done it before, or those with little experience. How to begin?

The purpose of this whitepaper is to document a long-term, strategically planned, governmental relations effort at the AIA Central Valley Chapter in Sacramento, California, as a case study for those chapters who wish to build similar advocacy programs of their own.

Only ten years ago, AIACV was a relatively quiet chapter known for hosting continuing education programs and traditional social programs. The chapter met its members’ needs, however, it had little to no connection with local government in an advocacy sense. In the past ten years, however, the Chapter carefully built a very strong relationship with the City of Sacramento, both in the design and construction arena as well as the realm of general planning, giving the Chapter an opportunity to become much more relevant in a broader community context. An added benefit of this new relevance is that the Chapter now has wider acceptance in the architectural community, and has engaged new and existing members and leaders, which has made the Chapter much stronger and healthier as a result.

This whitepaper describes the six-step process used by the AIACV Chapter as it built a relationship with the City of Sacramento.

  1. Building a Relationship with the City: Intention (making the decision to get involved)
  2. Member-by-Member Action and Involvement (getting the first members involved)
  3. AIA Action and Involvement (Chapter-sponsored involvement)
  4. Taking it a Step Further: Becoming Advisors to the City Leaders (how members and the Chapter became advisors to City leaders)
  5. The City’s Response: Cooperation, Collaboration, and Mutual Respect (how the City made sweeping changes as a result of the Chapter’s action)
  6. Bringing it All Together: Creating a Lasting Relationship Between Government and the Chapter and Making a Difference in the Community

Click here for complete whitepaper.


Julie Kniseley

When she's not managing the Sociology department office at The University of Texas at Austin, Julie is a writer for the architectural profession. In the past 15 years, she has worked for the UT System Administration, UT Medical Branch, and UT Austin. Previously she was senior director for the AIACC.

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