Leading with Impact:
Community and Civic Engagement

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Practicing impactful leadership in the communities we serve is a fundamental responsibility of architects who are entrusted with public welfare.

The current times demand architects to be more sensitive and responsive to people’s needs and the complex issue communities are facing. Questions that arise are, how can we build trust? How can our solutions contribute to systemic change and make a meaningful impact?

In the April Emerging Leaders session, participants explored these questions in detail. Led by our facilitator, Susan Smith, MBA, participants had an engaging and insightful session focusing on the positive impact that architects can have on their communities. They delved into various subjects such as leadership models, upstream thinking, and the nuances of trust and ethics. Susan used allegories and case studies to illustrate the salient points of how the application of these tools can lead to maximum impact through consensus.

To better understand how groups work together and prioritize goals, session attendees had a fun and interactive exercise where they divided themselves into groups and ranked chocolate chip cookies through a creative variety of criteria.

The exercise helped them understand how logic models are organically formed and the nature of group consensus.

After the cookie-fueled sugar rush, participants reorganized their groups to discuss their community projects. This year, ELP has three exciting projects: the NEF mobile unit for the Northwest ISD Education Foundation, Dallas International Commons, and the Elmwood Redevelopment project. As participants reassembled, they were joined by an illustrious panel consisting of Helena L. Banks, CFRE, Director of Development and External Affairs for Bonton Farms; Susan Alvarez, PE, CFM, Assistant Director of the City of Dallas Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability; and Joanna L. Hampton, AIA, Director at OMNIPLAN. The topic of discussion was “Tackling Community Issues Successfully.” The panelists shared their insights and experiences on how attendees can lead community projects successfully. Joanna highlighted the importance of being available to those in need and building trust by translating planning efforts so that they are transparent to the community. Helena gave examples of how providing resources and being a resource by embedding oneself in the community can allow people to grow and thrive. Susan Alvarez emphasized the importance of respecting the local identity, people, architectural context, as well as natural resources while building the necessary trust for consensus.

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The overall message of the panel was to put people first, rather than design, plans, or policy. As a result of this meeting, the ELP cohort is even more passionate about their community projects. They are committed to using the skills they are learning to lead the industry through the challenges of our time. Let’s put people first and make a positive impact together

Authored by Dequales Thomspon
Photos by Fatima Moufarrige Pacheo

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