In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, IIDA Headquarters made the decision to host our annual Advocacy Symposium—which took place last week—virtually over Zoom.
With around 300 registered attendees (our largest numbers ever!), we held six webinars covering topics including the basics of and an introduction to advocacy, conversations with designers who serve in public office, an update from the Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, International Board President of IIDA, and an entire day dedicated to legislative and advocacy updates from our lobbyists and chapter leaders on the front lines.
The “State of Affairs” panel provided a great overview of best practices to use when communicating to legislators, gave updates on how IIDA and ASID have joined forces to streamline our advocacy goals and collateral, and discussed why coalition building is so important when passing legislation. Buddy Julius, an IIDA/ASID Wisconsin lobbyist, gave an interesting perspective on how COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate with legislators—and how it has ironically made them more accessible and easier to reach.
“Legislators are at home more just like the rest of us and typically more available over Zoom or the phone to talk than in person, especially to constituents, so now is a great time to reach out to educate them about interior design,” says Julius. If you do agree to meet with a legislator in person, remember, it’s always acceptable to bring a friend! Bringing an advocacy veteran along can help ease your nerves, and it’s helpful to show strength in numbers.
Legislators like to know what their constituents need and for that to happen, you have to educate them. Bryan Soukup, vice president of government and public affairs for ASID, shared details about his role at the organization and provided examples of how IIDA and ASID have teamed up to create new advocacy collateral for the industry.
The associations partnered with CIDQ to create a series of three videos that help explain what interior designers do, what the NCIDQ is, and how designers affect the health, safety, and welfare of the public in code-impacted spaces. The associations have also authored advocacy action plans for chapters who may not know where to start when it comes to advocacy and to make sure we are speaking from one voice as an industry. Finally, this last year IIDA and ASID have hosted six webinars together every other month covering best practices for educating legislators, how to build coalitions, and the legislative process. You can find the joint explainer videos on the IIDA YouTube channel.
Building coalitions in legislative efforts consist of educating and attempting to expand support from other organizations or groups that might be interested in the issue at hand. According to Abigail Wilson, the public policy and grassroots advocacy manager at IIDA, “Coalition building is so important to our efforts, especially because our issues are very specific to one profession because legislators like to see that the legislation they pass has a positive impact on as many people and groups as possible.” In Ohio, where Wilson has led and overseen the regulation efforts for the past three years, IIDA was able to solicit a letter of support from the Ohio Restaurant Association and numerous public universities including The Ohio State University, which has a strong interior design undergraduate program. Including other institutions or groups in your legislative strategy is a sure-fire way to show that the issue of interior design regulation touches many different people, not just interior designers.
IIDA Headquarters is grateful for the support of all the designers and industry professionals who attended the Symposium and hope to see you all again at upcoming events! Any additional questions that weren’t covered last week can be sent to Emily Kelly or Abigail Wilson.