Starting a Chapter

Starting a chapter may seem difficult, but it’s a rewarding process and the Lobby will provide guidance along the way. Building a strong chapter is an exercise in organizing and it’s best to start the process with the architects and designers you already know.  We realize that every situation is unique, so this guide will surely not address every question you have. Please feel free to reach out to us at info@architecture-lobby.org and we will schedule a call to talk through the document and answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to helping you and learning about the projects and issues your chapter will tackle as you grow! 

1 — Why start a chapter? 

Starting a chapter brings like-minded people together to share experiences and thoughts with each other. Within a chapter setting, members create a space for ideas to incubate, which can lead to discussions, organizing actions, planning events, and other collaborative projects. We often hear that upon starting or joining a chapter of the Lobby, people feel less alone in their workplaces. And there’s power in numbers! Not only will you build a community locally, becoming a chapter connects you with The Architecture Lobby’s international network of activists. Here are some of the major reasons to start a chapter.

  1. Infrastructural support. As a national organization, The Architecture Lobby offers support and capacity-building in the form of informal knowledge-sharing, formal training, and organizing report-backs. Members and chapters are independently run and specific to each locality, but we share processes and best-practices so that we learn from each other. Every month, the Lobby has at least three conference calls: an Administrative Committee call, an Organizing Committee call, and a Members’ Call. Working groups, initiatives, campaigns, and projects hold regular conference calls to plan and coordinate their progress; these are scheduled by Project Coordinators or Campaign Leads.
  2. Discussion and participation. As a dues-paying member of the Lobby, your vote counts in Lobby-wide elections. You gain access to Mobilize, the platform we use to start discussions with each other. This is where collective actions such as statements, walk-outs, and initiatives begin. As a Chapter Steward, you are a voting member of the Organizing Committee; this means you have a voice in the decisions that the O.C. makes, which often affect all chapters.
  3. Funding support. Members of the Lobby pay annual dues to support the organization, which are then redistributed back to members and chapters in the form of financial support. In the past this has covered the cost of putting on events, producing Lobby books and pamphlets, and travel to attend Lobby events. As a member-funded organization we only have to answer to you, the membership!
2 — Getting the word out

Talk to as many people as you can about The Architecture Lobby and the new chapter you’re starting. Invite them to the first meeting. Nothing beats a one-on-one conversation, but announcements made to groups work well too. The following are several ways to leverage your design skills to advertise your chapter.

  1. Instagram. Nearly everyone is on Instagram, all of the time! Create a business profile for your chapter. Post images and stories — and save stories to highlights — to start to get the word out. You get to create or curate the images. Tag other Lobby chapters and members so they can share your posts and stories, which will widen the reach. It’s up to you what your handle will be, but here are examples of handles that chapters have: @arch_lobby_ny@archlobby.la@archlobby_twincities@archlobbypdx.
  2. Twitter. You get 280 characters to compose a hot take about your chapter. If you reply to your own tweet, you’ve made yourself a thread. Be sure to mention @arch_lobby in your tweet so they’ll will retweet you and increase your engagements!
  3. Facebook. Facebook is a great platform for connecting a group of people and sharing information. Create a group for your chapter and create a new event for your chapter meeting. Invite all of your friends, and get them to invite all of their friends too. Tag us on Facebook and we’ll share your post.
  4. Emails. Direct and to the point, but there’s a risk that emails can get buried in people’s inboxes. If you have a list of emails, you can start a mailing list through Google Groups.
  5. Fliers. This is great for university chapters whose members are largely on the same campus. This is an opportunity for you to design a Lobby flier yourself and begin shaping the look of your chapter! You can also reach out to other Lobby members for templates to help get you started.  Post them in the hallways, on doors, in the library, in the bathroom, wherever. Be sure to include your contact and information about the chapter meeting.
  6. Website. If there’s more information you’d like to publish that doesn’t fit on an Instagram post, Facebook event, or tweet, one option is to create your own blog, tumblr, or any other website for the chapter. It can be useful to have a one-stop landing page for interested people to peruse. You can link to this website on your Instagram profile, Twitter profile, Facebook page, emails, and fliers.
3 — Meetings

Chapters have meetings. This is often where the real work of The Architecture Lobby happens. Each of our chapters has a different way of doing meetings that depend on the makeup of the group, their interests, as well as what type of projects/work they are undertaking as a chapter. In general there are a few pieces of advice that we give to chapters beginning the process.

  1. Start simple. For the first couple meetings, set reasonable goals for the chapter to achieve. Don’t try and make your first meeting a complex and labor intensive event like a big party, movie premier, or academic panel. Start small! For example: Get some like-minded architectural workers together to discuss a text that pertains to the Lobby’s work, attend an event and discuss it afterwards, or just have some drinks together and talk about your workplaces and the Lobby’s Manifesto. These are only suggestions—improvise with what feels right for your local conditions! What is good about these types of meetings is you get to know one another, find shared interests (especially as it relates to the Lobby’s mission), and they don’t take a lot of effort besides the work of turning people out. Finding people to attend the first meeting can sometimes seem daunting. An effective strategy is to turn people’s complaints about working conditions (long hours, bad bosses, etc) into an opportunity for action. Any complaint is an inroad to talking about the Lobby, and architects love complaining about work! Going to architecture events like exhibitions or lectures and striking up conversations about architectural labor is a good way to invite new people to a chapter meeting and discuss how the Lobby can empower architects to address their working conditions.
  2. Make it regular. Before you end your first meeting a great goal is to set a time to meet again. The most active Lobby chapters meet on a regular schedule. Some chapters meet monthly, others every three weeks or Bi-Weekly. Oftentimes chapters that meet very frequently vary the types of meetings. For example, short working meetings versus longer social meetings over drinks. Though it isn’t always a possibility, it is best to meet at the same place at the same time. We are an organization of architectural workers so we need to keep in mind people’s schedules outside the Lobby. Additionally, it is important to hold meetings in places that are public and safe for all people to access. While it may be easy for your friends to drop by your apartment, new members may feel uncomfortable or be unable to access your second floor walk-up. With that in mind, we should always work towards having meetings in spaces that are accessible and feel safe for any architectural worker to drop into.
  3. Make it organized. Every meeting should have an agenda and notes. Even if your first meeting only has two agenda items: 1. Meet each other and exchange contacts, 2. Set time and place to meet again. THAT’S FINE! It will get more complex. An agenda should be distributed at least one day prior to a meeting and will let everyone know what topics are planned to be discussed, keep the meeting on time, and allow anyone to chair the meeting. Notes keep track of what happened for anyone who wasn’t there, for anything you forget, and for identifying action items.
  4. Keep it fun. The work of improving the architectural profession, its discourse, and the world beyond is just that, work. However, the meetings themselves should not be. If you can, meet at a bar or other place where people can get drinks or order food. If that is not possible, bring drinks! It could be that the first meeting hasn’t yet found that convenient happy place, but make it part of what gets determined pretty quickly. However, if we are not embodying the society we’d like to achieve while undertaking this mission, then we’ve lost something in the process. Another way to say it is: keep it fun and democratic. And, if something isn’t working, talk about it together and change it up.
  5. Keep it interesting. As you are beginning to meet as a chapter, it should become apparent where the group’s interests are. The Lobby has many campaigns that run at both the chapter level and national level; these may or may not be the ones of interest to the new chapter, but they are a start. Chapters really get going when they have work to organize around. Pay attention in these first meetings where people’s interests relate to the Lobby mission, existing Lobby work, or where local conditions seem to demand Lobby focus. For example, for some chapters, a reading group is the main point; for others, a reading group is a side forum.
  6. Keep it safe and inclusive. One of the most important things we can do as organizers is to ensure that the spaces and ways we interact are structured for safety and inclusion. That means in those spaces we share authority, are non-oppressive, and actively seek ways of acknowledging and supporting the labor and speech of marginalized groups. One way to work toward that goal is by establishing guidelines for respectful discussion. In some organizing spaces these might be called “group guidelines,” “safe space policies,” or “community agreements.” If you’re facilitating a meeting, feel free to refer to them however you feel most comfortable.In the appendix, the Lobby has provided a list of common community agreements to get chapters started. It’s important to remember that this list is flexible on a per meeting basis. Oftentimes the best way to make sure attendees feel comfortable is to open the meeting with casual introductions and a simple ice-breaker. For example, many chapters begin by asking everyone’s name, where they work or study, and how their week has been. Once all in attendance have introduced themselves, try describing the concept of “community agreements” and why they’re important. Ask attendees what guidelines they’d like to see in place, hold space for response and if there is none offer up a guideline from the appendix. This should start off the conversation and establish a minimum baseline for how the discussion should proceed.
  7. Student Chapters. There is no real difference between the work done in student and local chapters, though there may be a difference in how the chapter is started and the support available. Successful student chapters have been started by students without faculty support or engagement, so one doesn’t necessarily need to wait for this. However, if there is faculty support, that’s great. Many student organizations can or should be registered with the school or university. See if there are advantages, such as financial or administrative support, that are gained by doing so. Successful chapters have also been started by faculty, and their successes have been where students are already curious and engaged. Student chapters often address the concerns of future architectural workers, which may be different than those of local chapters, although they should not feel required to do so. The advantage of a student chapter is a captive audience — organizing across workplaces can be difficult! For example, flyers posted in hallways and placed on desks are an excellent opportunity that should be taken advantage of.
4 — Electing stewards 

Stewards help organize local chapters and represent them in the Organizing Committee, the governing body of The Architecture Lobby. They are integral to chapter start-up, as their main responsibilities are calling meetings and ensuring that active projects are progressing.

  1. Elections. The Lobby is a democratic organization, so all positions of power are elected. At the national level there are formal processes and timelines outlined for elections, however that is not the case for chapters. The only requirements are that the election process is written down and available for members to view and that elections are held at least every two years. In a new chapter with only a few members, the election for stewardship is typically an open discussion to determine who is interested in the role and then casting a voice vote. Larger chapters may have nomination procedures and balloting processes, similar to national elections. It is also common for chapters to have co-stewards, two members who share stewardship responsibilities.
  2. Responsibilities. The chapter stewards’ job is not to do all the work! It is to make sure any work to be done has someone to captain it and that it is progressing. Stewards primary responsibility is calling meetings and guiding new members into the chapter and into the work of the Lobby. They don’t have to run all the meetings (ideally you rotate who’s chairing the meeting) but for the first couple meetings this might be the case. Once the chapter has been formally recognized by the O.C., stewards will be responsible for calling into the monthly O.C. meeting.
  3. Resources. An important resource for chapter stewards is the amazing organizer training that our members Keefer Dunn and Marianela D’Aprile have put on for the Lobby. The organizer training happens each year, but you can find the archived videos in the TAL Membership References folder of the Google Drive. You don’t have to do any of that before your first meeting! But, it’s a great resource for the steward and other chapter members. Finally, another resource we have is a rough collection of various media materials we have put together over the years in the TAL Media Archive, although it is not comprehensive. Handouts can be a helpful reference during meetings, provide examples of work published by campaigns and chapters, and help orient new members. Popular handouts include the Pocket Guide to Labor Law, the Union Pamphlet, the TAL Organization Chart, and the Manifesto. Feel free to adapt any of these for your local chapter or ape the Lobby-style for your own materials. Often chapters that are closely affiliated with a university have had success with flyer-ing or putting up posters for their first Lobby meeting. You can also just use the Lobby-style to make a good looking email blast.
5 — Becoming a chapter

So you’ve had a couple meetings and elected a steward. Now what? To become an official chapter of The Architecture Lobby the Organizing Committee (O.C.) needs to vote to recognize the chapter.

  1. Membership. To become a chapter you must be at least five members large. Becoming a member is easy and can be done here. The Lobby is funded primarily by member dues so that we’re not beholden to outside funding sources. For students the membership is $25 per year and for professionals the membership is 2/10ths of a percent of your salary. Becoming a member will give you access to our communication platform, Mobilize, where all of our national calls are announced and many projects are organized. You’ll also receive a copy of the Lobby publication Asymmetric Labors!
  2. Recognizing the chapter. Once you’re ready to become a chapter, call into the next O.C. meeting. At the beginning of the call let whoever is chairing know that an agenda item needs to be added for the ratification of a new chapter. Exciting! Once the agenda item comes up the O.C. will call a vote to recognize the chapter. Once the chapter is recognized, it will receive its own space on Google Drive and the steward will officially be a member of the O.C. Though this seems overly formal it’s important to keep track of where and when chapters are being created as they have voting influence in the O.C.
  3. The Organizing Committee. Chapter stewards have voting membership in the O.C. and should try to attend all O.C. meetings. The O.C. is comprised of the National Organizer, Secretary, Finance Coordinator, Internal Communications Coordinator, External Communications Coordinator, Research Coordinator, Design Coordinator, and Content Coordinator as well as campaign heads and chapter stewards. These meetings are held monthly and announced with call-in details on Mobilize. This is an opportunity for stewards to present on-going projects at a national level, keep everyone up to date on the chapter’s development, request help or resources, and participate in governance!
  4. Growing and building support. Many chapters, once established, will plan an event that celebrates and announces their recognition as a chapter of the Lobby. One way to achieve immediate local visibility is creating a Think-In, a public event that the Lobby has used to bring the issues of architectural labor into public discourse. A Think-In brings different players in the local industry — workers, firm owners, contractors, AIA officials — together to discuss avenues for change. These events often draw members from other chapters and receive funding from the Lobby.


Community agreements. One of the most important things we can do as organizers is to ensure that the spaces and ways we interact are structured for safety and inclusion. One way to work toward that goal is by establishing guidelines for respectful discussion. Below, the Lobby has provided a list of common community agreements to get chapters started. It’s important to remember that this list is flexible on a per meeting basis.

  1. Assume good faith. Everyone brings their own set of experiences and knowledge. Always assume meeting attendees are there in good faith. Also remember to make you have positive intent for yourself.
  2. Democracy and organizing is messy. That’s OK. The ideas and issues we discuss when organizing are intense and emotion-laden. Try not to be surprised when there are disagreements or when people get frustrated. Remember, this is part of the process, and we need to support each other through those conflicts.
  3. “One diva, one mic.” Only one person should speak at a time.
  4. You do you. Be sure that you’re meeting your physical needs. If you need to use the bathroom, use it. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thirsty, drink. If you need to leave the space to take a break, take that break. Don’t be afraid to communicate your boundaries.
  5. Step up / step back — we’ll call on you. Raise your hand to speak, and be mindful of how much you’re speaking. If you notice that you’re taking up a lot of space, step back, and let others fill in.
  6. Respect the spirit of the progressive stack. Progressive stack is a method of facilitation meant to prioritize marginalized voices. Typically, a stack-taker or facilitator will keep a mental or written list of attendees who have raised their hand to speak and call on them in-turn. With progressive stack, the stack-taker or facilitator may shift that order to prioritize marginalized voices or those who have not spoken.
  7. Jargon Giraffe. If someone uses a term you don’t understand, put your hand in the shape of a giraffe and raise it up. Someone will try to clarify the term.
  8. Be present / active listening. When you’re in the meeting, try hard to genuinely pay attention to those speaking. If something is confusing, try to summarize what you heard back to them and ask for clarification.
  9. Acknowledge and respect peoples’ pronouns. Start your meeting by asking attendees to introduce themselves, say where they’re from (neighborhood, city, etc), answer a random icebreaker, and offer their personal pronouns. Be mindful of those pronouns when/if you address someone else at the meeting.
  10. Use “I” statements. Using “I” statements ensures that you’re speaking from your own perspective and not assuming that your own thoughts, conclusions and experiences are somehow universal.