A full report on the 2019 Member’s Congress can be found here: 2019 Members Congress Report.
The 2019 Members Congress was a watershed moment for our organization. Over 45 attendees representing the various offices and chapters of the organization met over the span of three days. The Congress included an in-person meeting of the Board, meetings of the Organizing Committee with the Board, structured conversations with all attendees, and business meeting portions where attendees debated, amended, and approved a new set of bylaws for the organization, and adopted resolutions to direct and inform our work.
The Bylaws Styles and Congress Report Committee noted the following significant developments for The Architecture Lobby:
1. A Commitment to Workplace Organizing
The Congress affirmed that what makes the Lobby distinct is our view of the workplace as the site of political activity. We want to empower architectural workers through, unions, ooperativization, and organizing for jobsite demands. At the Congress we discussed how workplace organizing is a vehicle for empowering and equipping all workers, regardless of status or rank, with the ability to make change. In distinction from our allies who see design-thinking or projects as a vehicle for making change – our aim is to organize architectural workers into the fight to change socioeconomic structures at the office and beyond so we can live our lives with dignity, and fight for an architecture industry that is structurally capable of serving the people at scale.
2. Fighting for Social Justice at the Workplace
Further, we discussed the relationship of workplace organizing to social justice demands – recognizing that as architectural workers our ability to combat racism, sexism, xenophobia, gender based discrimation, and other oppressions is strongest when we collectivize to fight the manifestations of these oppressions at the jobsite (be it an office or a school). This approach can help us articulate our unique contribution as an organization when working in coalition with allied organizations working on these issues in architecture.
It is of course necessary to fight these oppressions on a structural level as well, and this requires working in coalition with groups outside of architecture, as our Green New Deal orking group has demonstrated. In these instances, we will know that what we as coalition members is a group of architectural workers from all walks of life interested in achieving justice for all.
3. Maturing Organizational Governance
2018 and 2019 were years of explosive and positive growth for the organization, and this came along with some growing pains. This was felt keenly by members of the Organizing Committee who in addition to guiding the work of the Lobby were also responsible for simultaneously developing the structures that enabled that work. Further, members were often confused or unclear about where responsibilities lay, or even how we operated.
The Congress went a long way towards solving these issues through the adoption of new bylaws. The revised bylaws bring together the previous mosaic of governance documents and ad hoc procedures into a clear and up-to-date document. While the Bylaws now spell out clearly how we work, it is important to note that it is still incumbent on us as organizers to explain and motivate the values that underpin the procedure. Further, the new Bylaws establish the Members Congress as a regularly occurring, biennial meeting. This development will encourage us to focus on big questions of governance every two years, helping us strike the right balance between organizational introspection, carrying out the work, and facing outward.
4. Targeting Growth
We also frequently discussed the fact that we are pushing against the limits of what is possible with volunteer labor alone. While volunteer labor will always be a core part of our organizing (“no one will save us but ourselves”), it is increasingly clear that we need paid administrative support to manage our member rolls, facilitate meeting logistics, support member on boarding, aid internal communication, and carry out related tasks. How to fund such a position is a more difficult question, the grant landscape for organizations like ours is challenging, and while it would be possible to support the position through dues with a large enough membership, it will be difficult to reach those numbers without administrative support. The idea of targeted fundraising came up, but more discussions will be required.
We further discussed that it is currently difficult for those on the outside to understand who we are and what we do as the Architecture Lobby. This is a limiting factor to our growth that we can rectify through improving publicly available information about our past campaigns, our overall strategy, and improved descriptions of our own self-identity. In some cases it is simply a matter of crafting improved content for wider consumption, and in other cases we will have to embark on a process of self-reflection to craft improved narratives. Improvements in this area over the coming months will likely lead to improved growth.