[SF Chapter] March Meeting Notes

photo 1(AFHSF) Continuing our response to the January announcement of AFH HQ’s closing, the SF Chapter has taken the opportunity, over the past two meetings, to assess our ongoing local role in the Public Interest Design space. This month was focused on leadership structure.

In a nutshell:

  • Matt Baker, Chapter Director, takes us through the eight-year evolution of the SF Chapter, including decisions to streamline and some standing polices that may be out of date
  • Karl Johnson, Chapter Network West Region Representative, shares the latest developments at the International Steering Committee level, and how these dynamics may affect local operation
  • Colleen Mohan, Director of Operations, examines Chapter Member survey results, including participation, percieved value, and additional needs
  • For sake of time, the break-out visioning sessions were compressed into a full-room discussion of the information discussed. Ideas were collected and our development continues!

Survey results attached for reference. -Karl

AFH SF Meeting
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 6:30PM
Perkins + Will SF, 2 Bryant St. #300, San Francisco


I. Gather & Welcome
II. Recap of Feb meeting (5 mins)
III. Introduction of SF Chapter structure – Matt Baker, SF Chapter director (5 mins)
IV. Chapter Network progress – Karl Johnson, regional representative (5 mins)
V. Chapter member survey results – Colleen Mohan, operations officer (5 min)
VI. Breakout sessions – All, in teams (20 min)
VII. Findings – All, 3 mins each team (20 min)
VIII. Next steps (10 mins)
IX. (Suggested) Social hour, offsite


Attendance: Lead members Matt Baker (MB); Karl Johnson (KJ); Colleen Mohan (CM); Seth Dunn (SD); Blaze Gonzalez (BG); Maria Williford (MW); Jason Wilkinson (host, of Perkins + Will); 7 guests

6:30 Gather & Welcome

7:12 Intro to SF Chapter structure (MB)
Digest of the SF Chapter operations manual, created circa 2010 – slides available

  • “AFH San Francisco” – might hold onto that acronym. J
  • What distinguishes our group? Similar orgs: AIASF (community involvement, education, advocacy, public outreach, member services, professional excellence); SPUR (research, education, advocacy), BAYA (Bay Area Young Architects: social, networking, service), CNU (Congress of New Urbanism, actually very similar in providing service with pro bono downtown plans etc.: advocacy, service, networking) AFHSF is: service; social; networking; advocacy; and other?
  • Old logo (“where the green came from). Question of rebranding left somewhat in hands of Chapter Network entity (to be discussed)
  • Mission Statementas posted to AFHSF website. This was adjusted in 2014 from the 2010 version, to include concepts of resilience, advocacy, and enumerate services: improving access to public space, healthy food, affordable living, economic vitality; policy advocacy; resource assessment; design/build projects/community coordination and outreach; design programming; feasibility studies and renders for grant proposals; brainstorming and idea formation.
  • Director positions. Used to be eight: Chapter Director (“all-encompassing knowledge of everything”); Projects (“having a full understanding of all project goals and scope of work”); Marketing (“establish chapter as a recognizable brand”); Outreach (“build community partnerships”); Membership (“ensure all are registered on the chapter network”); Events; Media; Secretary/Treasurer (“manages finances,” a pretty light lift to date). See slide deck for full listed responsibilities.
    • A lot of cooks, but structure allowed for support of / support from one another – you may interpret that as “noise.”
    • Over the last couple years, the positions were streamlined: Chapter Director; Projects; Operations (membership & events); Communications (marketing & outreach); Media (focuses on production); Resilience Program was added. Projects have been waning in past months.
  • Flow chart. Depicting project process – a legacy thing, not applicable to chapters as of this year.

7:35 Steering Committee roundup (KJ) – slides available
Recap of developments at level of the weekly international Chapter Network (CN) steering committee (SC)

  • (First, as mentioned “Architecture for Humanity” has been discouraged from continued use by several consulting lawyers as the trademark works through bankruptcy proceedings. Any affiliation at this point may endanger a chapter’s continuing work)
  • Independence. SC’s first task in Jan following AFH HQ announcement of closing was launching an independent landing page declaring 30 chapters’ intentions of spinning off as an autonomous organization. The page lists twitter accounts, steering committee members, distribution of global regions, and news articles.
  • Partnerships. We’ve signed MOU’s with Public Architecture to be the CN’s fiscal sponsor. Curry Stone Foundation has provided funding for a part-time short-term staff position.
  • Transition Coordinator. That’s the position. Posted to Idealist. For four months starting in April – goal to set all the elements of an autonomous organization in the same direction, filing formal recommendations at the close of July. Even though it’s a modest earning, there have been impressive applications.
  • Structures for Inclusion. Conference hosted annually by Design Corps coming to Detroit April 11-12. Steering committee members have comped travel, lodging and admission. The host also providing an hour-long Chapters session, for which the SC has collected 16 nominations to make a selection of 3, plus a Detroit Chapter project, to be presented. KJ pleased to see even new chapter utilizing the Open Architecture Network.
  • Assets in Question. Resources we face losing with loss of Headquarters. The Open Architecture Network (somebody has to pay to keep the lights on, at least; Drupal version complications also compounding); and the AFH Chapter Network web platform, a one-stop for updates, events, projects, mission statements, members, etc.
  • Q’s that KJ will present to SC: Timespan of OAN? Does Fiscal Sponsorship manage individual chapter funds raised? Does Fiscal Sponsorship nonprofit umbrella apply to international chapters?

7:45 Survey Responses  (CM) – slides available
Charted results of 38 responses of some 1000 solicited SF Chapter Member online questionnaires

  • Chapter Activities. Respondents seem interested in attending events – we need to schedule regularly and offer diversity.
  • Value of Chapter Network. Strong agreement on both member and community empowerment, and partnering the two, impact, and paid positions. Neutral-to-agree on importance of disaster resiliency.
  • Chapter projects. About half have not participated in one. Interests across the board, as well as time available to commit. Continuing education and IDP hours. (Note: The IDP hours were approved by AFH HQ Executive Director (except SF which was a pre-approved provider, and they also had a local sponsor, Gensler, to vouch for social design (MS).) Q for KJ to SC: So – NCARB coordination for individual chapter IDP signoff?
  • National survey. Most members, 0-2 years (like our local one). Paid dues, no (like ours). Active member, no; worked on project, yes (to CM’s point of perpetuating engagement). Room for improvement: communication, website.

7:57 Breakout session – conjoining as one group, given time. (CM & SD)
Operations manual distributed for reference. Noted comments mix of facilitators and from the floor.

Mission Statement

  • Is it specific enough? Is it as simple as connecting with people who need a drawing done? As simple as design services, meeting government requirements of submitting drawings to permit construction.
  • Need a 5-year plan: SWOT exercises etc. Assessing our network (what are its strengths), assessing the need (we do not have an understanding of the need that exists).


  • Projects and programs – to include a soliciting new projects – how does one do that?
    • Calling City Hall – they have plenty of projects. Local governments have backlog.
    • Pavement to Parks RFQ – eyes open to City RFQs. Lay of land is businesses have interest in parklets and seek designers. Two Berkeley businesses funded via Kickstarter.
    • Generally there are people with money to get projects built
  • Engagement precedes projects – other orgs provide events (social, educational, awareness) builds community, identity, strengthen capacity and invite projects. SFC had discussed rotating themes of meetups. Toronto chapter held forums – well-received and civic asset. A little more organization, coordination. Who can direct??
    • Active outreach to related orgs. The City – a most urgent need. Outreach direction.
  • Managing designers – lots of raw talent, but less available technical expertise. Advisors and consultants (pro bono) could be achieved with a straightforward invitation.

Adjourned: 8:52


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