IIDA Southwest: Building a Grassroots Advocacy Campaign

This post was contributed by Nicki Jensen, Assoc. IIDA, vice president of advocacy for the IIDA Southwest Chapter.

In the spring of 2018, HB 2532 was introduced to the Arizona state legislature. This bill would have stopped any municipality from imposing any licensing requirements or occupational fees on a variety of occupations that didn’t require much education or training, including interior design. Arizona’s current legislative temperature is anti-occupational licensure/registration, even for those professions already holding licenses. This can make it incredibly challenging when newer professions are wanting to achieve registration.

When the IIDA advocacy team made us aware of the bill, our local IIDA and ASID chapters had just begun a partnership. The bill had already passed state House and was on its way to the Senate. With the help of a lobbyist and dedicated members from IIDA and ASID, we were able to change the course it was set to take and educate our legislators. The bill effectively jump started our grassroots campaign.

In collaboration with our local ASID chapter, we immediately began planning for a joint fall event called STRIDES 2018 Advocacy Fall Breakfast. Abigail Rathbun, advocacy and public policy manager at IIDA Headquarters, updated our members on the recent events with the bill and spoke about being an advocate. Jason Schupbach, director of the design school at Arizona State University and former director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, served as keynote speaker. He gave a rousing presentation about the design industry and where it’s headed. After four months in the making, the event was a hit.

And our sights didn’t stop there. This year, we’ve been awarded financial support from the IIDA Catalyst Grant to host another speaker event — this time even bigger and better! In the long-term, we want to achieve legislation to become Registered Interior Designers, which will require us to keep a close relationship with ASID, NKBA, and other aligned organizations. With the Catalyst and Advocacy grants, we’re able to continue hosting events while making strides in educating the public about what we do and how to become the best advocates for the profession.


Get access to tools and resources to help you become an advocate for interior design. Visit advocacy.iida.org.

Why Should You Attend the IIDA Advocacy Symposium?

This post was contributed by Aileen Montelongo, IIDA, RID, NCIDQ, vice president of advocacy at the IIDA Southwest Chapter.

I practice in Arizona where there is currently no legislation for interior design. Even after my appointment as vice president of advocacy, I only had a very vague picture of what my responsibilities would be.

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Last year, Nicki Ahlshwede, IIDA Southwest’s director of advocacy, and I represented our chapter at the third annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium in Chicago. It was astounding to see advocates from all over the country gathered in one room sharing stories, triumphs, and strategies. It was inspiring to har from all the speakers – to hear a singular message from different points of view, for different applications, for different scenarios. It was encouraging to hear the successes – both monumental and small. However, as far as advocacy goes, I think all wins are of the same size.

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The best part of having attended the symposium was being exposed to the resources available and recognizing the many faces advocacy can take on. This particularly became valuable early this spring when a bill made its way to our Senate that would’ve negatively impacted our profession’s future in the state. With IIDA HQ’s help, the bill has been amended but most importantly, it has awakened the “sleeping” advocate in us – we now have a newly formed partnership with the local ASID chapters. With energized spirits, we are working hard together hand in hand to safeguard the profession of interior design in the state of Arizona.

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It was humbling and empowering to sit with seasoned advocates at last year’s symposium and marvel at the amount of work they’ve put in to get to where they are now. And then realizing the long road ahead of us in Arizona? Scary, but inspiring. I was reassured, though, knowing that these advocates were in our shoes not too long ago. With the same passion and commitment, we too, can get to where we want to go.


To learn about the IIDA Advocacy Symposium, visit iida.org.