IIDA New England: Committed to Interior Design Advocacy Through Action

Over the last 18 months, the IIDA New England Chapter – with help from IIDA HQ – has hired a lobbying firm, actively engaged with ASID legislative leaders, reached out to the Massachusetts design community, met with lawmakers and officials, and introduced an interior design registration bill into the Massachusetts State Legislature. Undertaking an initiative of this size and scope is no small task and requires a team effort as well as strong leadership. Aimee M. Schefano, Vice President of Advocacy for the New England Chapter, has led the charge, working diligently to convey the importance of this initiative both to the Chapter board and local design leaders.

The lesson learned by IIDA New England? IIDA Chapters have power when it comes to advocacy. Board members are leaders in the design community, and as such, have an amplified voice. When those voices are conveying the same message, real change can happen. If an issue is important to the profession, it is too important to sit on the sidelines.

In addition to the amplified voice of board members, IIDA Chapters can reallocate funding to support advocacy initiatives. While there are many priorities in a Chapter’s budget— from professional development initiatives to events—boards can help rearrange how funding is used, create new revenue streams, or prioritize advocacy and legislation above other initiatives. IIDA New England demonstrated this by using their chapter funds to engage with one of the preeminent lobbying firms in New England.

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It has also proven important for the Chapter to work together with other associations in order to build a strong network of professionals working to advance a common goal. Schefano and Past-President Corinne Barthelemy have worked with ASID New England to create the Massachusetts Advocacy Council of ASID and IIDA, operating under the two chapters and facilitating the shared mission to advance the profession of interior design.

“Educating our profession is crucial to progress. Part of that education requires IIDA members to work collaboratively with other industry leaders. We are never stronger than when we all stand together against adversity,” said Schefano. “In Massachusetts, the design community is represented by a multitude of associations. What has helped us evolve our advocacy strategy is acknowledging that ultimately we are all interior designers, and that is what is most important. “

Through unified voices, effective funding, and organizational collaborations, IIDA New England has set a foundation that will surely lead to advocacy successes in Massachusetts.


For more on interior design advocacy, visit advocacy.iida.org

Excellence in Chapter Advocacy & GRA Activities Honorable Mention Award – New England Chapter

Every year, IIDA celebrates its chapters with the Chapter Awards, which recognize individual chapters for their outstanding achievement in specialty categories. The awards are designed to encourage IIDA chapters to develop and maintain excellence in their work to enhance the Interior Design profession at the local level. This year, the New England Chapter was awarded honorable mention for Excellence in Chapter Advocacy & GRA Activities.

On Aug. 21, 2014 after years of dedication and hard work, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick signed House Bill 4303, which allows Massachusetts interior designers to bid on state projects. We asked Aimee M. Schefano, IIDA, vice president of advocacy of the New England Chapter, a few questions about what makes advocacy work in the New England Chapter.

What do you think made your application stand out?

Our application stands out in large part because after three decades of pursuing legislation, the state of Massachusetts has finally recognized Interior Design as a profession with the state now allowing interior designers to bid on state works. While this is an amazing and incredible feat on its own, the true story of greatness here is one of perseverance and collaboration. As a united front, IIDA New England worked with ASID New England and the local Massachusetts Interior Design Coalition (MiDC) to pursue these efforts. It was as a team that we were able to achieve our goals here in Massachusetts with each participating organization playing an equally crucial role.

Why is advocacy important at the chapter level? How do you convey that message to members?

At a chapter level we are ultimately our own worst enemy if we cannot continue to effectively communicate the importance of maintaining current legislative efforts while simultaneously looking to the future. We achieved greatness this past year but need to keep the momentum going. Corinne [Corinne Barthelemy, IIDA, LEED AP, President of the New England Chapter] put this most poignantly when she said, “In order to effectively progress legislation, advocacy needs to be part of the vernacular of the entire design community and not just a few select individuals.”

Right now we have a strong support base but there is so much opportunity to expand our advocate population and the general awareness level among our peers. We will continue to promote advocacy at IIDA New England events and are beginning to strategize new events, either co-sponsored with ASID or MiDC, to deepen our collaborative bonds. We are also in the process of a kind of rebranding so that the voice of advocacy continues to be united across local organizations and to keep it relevant for multiple populations. In particular, our future goals include a broader spectrum of participation from student members so that as they mature into the professional realm, they have a clear understanding of our mission and our message, hopefully ensuring their continued support throughout their careers.

What do you wish other designers knew about advocacy and the legislative process?

In the grand scheme of things, designers should understand that it’s a living, breathing movement — one that needs an ever present voice until we receive full professional equality and recognition within the law. It literally is the future of our profession and that is why it holds such significance. On a more intimate level, designers should also know that advocacy is not just about legislation. It is also an opportunity for support and education. It is a forum for celebrating our accomplishments and brainstorming new ideas for those designers who come after us.


For more information about advocacy in the Interior Design profession, visit the IIDA Advocacy page.