Passion and Practice in Action at the 2016 Advocacy Symposium

Today’s post is written by Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA, Assoc AIA, who attended the 2016 IIDA Advocacy Symposium in Denver on Sept. 23 – 25, 2016. 

The second annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium flew by – a whirlwind of thoughtful, impassioned conversations dedicated to advancing interior design recognition across the country. Hosted in Denver by IIDA and the Rocky Mountain Chapter, the Symposium was an opportunity for interior design advocates to connect, share best practices, and reinvigorate our collective passion for the profession.

Practicing at the intersection of architecture and interior design, I’ve been supporting interior design recognition since moving to Seattle in 2011 and serving as the Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the Northern Pacific Chapter. Coping with a recent defeat at the capitol, the Chapter had taken a step back to reframe our approach to the legislative process. Our focus shifted to a broader definition of advocacy, which included engaging our city communities and developing a shared vision among our industry professionals. In parallel, the IIDA International Board of Directors prioritized advocacy and launched a series of initiatives to support change, such as the Advocacy Symposium and Advisory Council. 

Symposium 2016 1

As a member of the IIDA Advocacy Advisory Council, I arrived early to the Symposium in order to participate in the supplemental leadership forum. The panel featured a series of lobbyists discussing their strengths and utility in the legislative process. Panelists stressed the importance of consistent face time with lawmakers even when not pursuing legislation directly related to the industry. We were encouraged to sit with attendees from different regions across the country for facilitated conversations directed by the panel discussion.

Officially kicking off the weekend at Coors Field, Bentley hosted a welcome reception on Friday evening. We were right out on the playing field and there may have been a few epic pictures from the dugout! The casual setting provided an opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones.

Saturday was packed with presentations from legislators, lobbyists and interior designers. The keynote panel featured Colorado lawmakers who spoke about humanizing an often inaccessible legislative body; reminding us that legislators are just everyday people with the same needs as you and me. The panelists advised on ways to build relationships, connect beyond our agenda, and nurture future champions within the legislative body.

“If you’re not defining yourself, someone else will.” This comment stuck with me from the keynote. I see our industry caught in competing external definitions, leaving a community wrestling with its own identity. IIDA has encouraged a cohesive voice through intentional conversations and targeted legislative efforts. Interior designers are reasserting control, defining our industry, and shifting public perception to better reflect our role in the design process.

Next, I participated in the panel, Defining Success in Advocacy, by sharing my experience with the Northern Pacific Chapter. Joining me were Holly Meadows Baird, MBA, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, who spoke about success in our civic communities, and lobbyist Amy Coombs, MSW, who discussed success as it relates to legislative engagement. Since I had finished my presentation in the hotel bar the night before, my slides may have included a cameo by community advocate Ryan Reynolds and a few kittens (I blame the wine).

Symposium 2016 2

I was relieved when our panel wrapped up and we took a break from interior design for lunch. Our guest speaker was responsible for spearheading the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado. Understanding the struggle to legitimize a profession, Mason Tvert shared successful advocacy strategies using humor and audacious ideas to deliver clear messaging and shift community perceptions. A valuable takeaway was that it’s not always about winning, but about being heard by the community and creating a shift in public understanding.

Attendees were able to choose between several panels in the afternoon. I joined Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, and Marlene Liriano, IIDA, LEED AP ID +C, for a fireside chat about the future of interior design. It felt like a personal conversation with insight into their visions of the profession. Following the first round of presentations, I was back in the hot seat for the panel, Engaging Students and Universities, moderated by IIDA HQ staff member Ryan Ben.

The Rocky Mountain Chapter and Colorado Interior Design Coalition treated attendees to an evening reception at the Terminal Bar on Saturday night. Joined by the Colorado design community, attendees explored the newly renovated historic train station, enjoying a beautiful Denver evening out on the town. After the reception, I met up with representatives from the Northern Pacific Chapter and the Rocky Mountain Chapter for dinner, drinks, and much laughter.

Sunday morning unveiled a sneak peek at the 2016 Economic Impact Study, undertaken with Chmura Economics and Management. According to the study, the economic impact for the interior design sector is estimated at over 96 billion dollars! I’m beyond thrilled to have substantiated numbers like this to support the personal stories we weave as practicing designers.


Crowning the weekend, IIDA announced two new awards celebrating the interior design advocacy community. Utah State Senate Assistant Minority Whip Luz Escamilla of Utah was awarded IIDA Legislator of the Year for her passionate dedication to passing legislation in Utah. And, one of the pivotal Colorado advocacy champions, Karen Hailey, IIDA, was awarded the inaugural IIDA Advocate of the Year. Congratulations to both Senator Escamilla and Karen!

It was an amazing weekend filled with innovative advocacy strategies, heated conversations, and a lot fun. I was glad to have had the opportunity to join so many passionate advocates for the interior design profession. Like me, I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat to find out where the Advocacy Symposium will be hosted next year. With her concluding remarks, Emily Kluczynski, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, announced that IIDA Headquarters and the Illinois Chapter would be hosting next year’s event at Headquarters’ brand new office! Be sure to join the conversation in Chicago, September 2017!

Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA, Assoc. AIA, is the current Vice President of Advocacy and a Past President of the IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter. She is an interior designer at Mahlum Architects in Seattle, Washington, and also serves on the Board of Directors for Design In Public, an initiative that works to foster an appreciation of the impact design has on urban life. She was the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Leadership Award at the IIDA Annual Meeting in June.

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