By The Stratetarians
The magnitude of natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are being increasingly attributed to the effects of climate change. In acknowledging the aftermath of this storm among other natural disasters unfolding across the world, the presence of Architecture for Humanity’s ‘Design Like You Give a Damn’ conference, which was held on November 9, has a more relevant scope than ever. At the conference, Architecture for Humanity enthusiasts and chapter leaders gathered with the goal of addressing the role of designers in developing the built environment and increasing education and awareness to protect citizens’ lives and livelihood. Ultimately, the organization functions as a nonprofit design services firm focused on bringing design, construction, and development services where they are most critically needed.
An exciting challenge the organization faces is how to manage the growing chapter network of volunteers. Presidio team Lily Laurence (C17), Wanda Lowrey (C13), Devon Bertram (C17), and Fritz Smith (C17), self-dubbed “the Stratetarians,” have been fortunate to collaborate with Architecture for Humanity as part of our Experiential Learning (EL) project in both Strategy and Finance courses. Our project partner, Garrett Jacobs, invited us to attend the conference and speak to Architecture for Humanity delegates from all over the world joining live and remotely. We gave a brief presentation on Presidio’s overall orientation toward social innovation and outlined our project to date, which has focused on growth strategy for the US based chapter network. Our major research to date has included the following:
What is the optimal relationship between Architecture for Humanity’s HQ and its US chapters that would allow the organization to thrive, where thrive consists of financial solvency and an active, committed partnership with a decentralized professional network?
We took the amazing opportunity to facilitate a live conversation with chapter leaders, asking for feedback from those present on the key growth areas we had identified over the semester. We presented synthesized findings and asked: Are these right? What’s missing? What is your greatest hope for the network? A lively and largely affirming conversation unfolded. Working on real issues in the context of Presidio coursework is such an opportunity to not only learn about, but actively affect change!
After an update on progress and findings from the research question, we shifted the discussion toward individual chapters and led participants in an interaction designed to highlight recent tensions, success stories, goals, and larger visions for each individual chapter, which then in turn inform a stronger guiding vision for the network as a whole. We heard feedback afterward that the discussion was highly successful in empowering Architecture for Humanity members to share their perspectives, insights, and experiences.
We closed the session on what became a highlight of the day, a “gift circle” led by Lily Laurence, in which participants shared one need their chapter was experiencing, that potentially someone in the room could help them with. This closing circle exercise quickly evolved into a collaborative, generative discussion where participants shared their outlooks and advice on one another’s needs and actions, as well as learning of similar issues they’re facing.
The conference concluded on feelings of positivity surrounding Architecture for Humanity’s progress to date, in addition to feelings of optimism for the future of innovative design stemming from the organization. In the end, a future of growth of the organization’s impact may be increasingly imperative, as their conference page notes how natural disasters currently displace 26 million people worldwide each year, with that number only expected to increase in coming years.
Overall, the Stratetarians, were grateful to have worked with Architecture for Humanity’s Garrett Jacobs and Inari Virkkala and receive the privilege to speak at the conference. The Presidio team would like to thank Garrett and Inari for the opportunity to attend the event, and looks forward to continuing its successful partnership with the organization through the remainder of the semester.
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