One of the frustrating things about this discussion is that it is not looking at AIA holistically. I too, have a small practice. I have been extremely involved at AIA at ever level, including serving as a national board member and Vice President. I can honestly say that the AIA represents all practicioners.
On the local level, my chapter has helped raised the profile of the profession through their partnership with other groups, including the local, suburban newspaper. They also help me meet my state's continuing education requirements and keep my transcript for me, in case I am ever audited.
On the state level, they have effectively lobbied against laws that would harm my practice, such as Interior Design Practice Acts and harmful worker's comp laws. They have passed Good Samaretian Laws and kept our license fees reasonable and directed toward illegal practice enforcement efforts.
Nationally, while it is certainly harder to relate to (much like the Federal Government), I know about the AIA's PR efforts to support all practicioners, with a special effort on small practicioners. The AIA Billings Survey is regularly quoted in places like CNBC and the Wall Street Journal as a precursor to economic activity.
My experience in working with Knowledge Communities outside of my area of specialty has literally changed the way I practice so I now give a more compelling offering to my clients, allowing me to win new business. I am particularly excited about the partnership with the National Institute of Building Sciences in making research more available to members.
Two years ago, things were very tough in my practice. I had to ask for, and recieved, an adjustment in my dues so I could remain a member. This was not an easy thing for me to do, since i was appealing to people who knew me. In the end, it was not a problem. The leadership would rather grant you dues relief than see you give up your membership.
The AIA is its members. Someone once said that it is like a health club you join to lose weight. If you join and don't go work out, you don't have results. If you go and take advantage of what is offered, you will succeed.
Finally, I don't know Brian Lipse, but I do know Kermit Baker. Sending him correspondence will not get a response, as he is the AIA's contract economist. In the case of California, I would highly recommend calling Paul Welch, California Council Executive Vice President. No one can explain AIA better than he can, as he was the Interim EVP of National before Robert Ivy, FAIA came on board.
Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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