Session 04: Community Engagement

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Date: January 10, 2020
Location: Brookfield Properties–301 Water Street SE, Washington DC, 20003
Led by: Allyson Klinner AIA, and Jenna Bolino AIA

Downloads: Session 04 PDF

This session focused on the much anticipated 11th Street Bridge Park project as a major theme.  The first speaker, Omar Hakeem from BC Workshop discussed his history in the design industry focusing on Public Interest design and community engagement.  During this conversation, he showed his firm’s work related to the Bridge Park as well as other public interest projects across the country.  Ted Jutras of the Capitol Riverfront BID led the group on a walking tour of the park site as the second session of the afternoon.  Scholars then met with Brenda Richardson to discuss her background in the park project and other work she has done for stakeholder engagement over her career. The last sessions of the day were led by Sheldon Clark of the Douglass Land Trust and Allyson Klinner and Jenna Bolino.  The group learned about the history of Community Land Trusts and how the Douglass Land Trust operates and followed up with an interactive workshop to look at the area in Ward 8 just beyond the 11th Street Bridge Park Project.

Design Justice Through Community Engagement

The first speaker was Omar Hakeem, design director of [bc]. Mr. Hakeem presented his history of work that focused on design justice through community engagement. By focusing on the individual design decisions of the thousands that impact the direction and future of cities, he led the scholars on the many local ways they could leverage the needs and wants of local constituencies to push for better solutions to seemingly intractable poverty and catastrophe. Additionally, Mr. Hakeem invited scholars to understand how they could leverage their own work in their firms to express their personal values and shared his own projects from Dallas to Washington, DC. Additionally, he presented ways in which his work had used data analytics to arm residents with the information and context to make their own change and disrupt and re-establish the power structures that keep people poor.

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Discover the Community Site Walk

The second session was a walking tour of the 11th Street Bridge Park project site with Ted Jutras, from the Capitol Riverfront BID. The BID area encompasses around 500 acres between I-395 and the Anacostia River. It is one of DC’s quickest developing neighborhoods. There are 10 acres of park across the area already, and there are plans to bridge across communities with a future 11th Street Bridge Park. After over two years of community engagement, design is underway to be finalized. A major goal of this park will be to not only bridge communities but focus on engagement with the river and environmental education. The scholars enjoyed this walking tour and a chance to chat with Ted about the history of the park project.

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Connecting Communities: Benefits of Stakeholder Participation

The second speaker of the day was Brenda Lee Richardson, a self-described “eco-feminist” and environmental justice advocate who has been involved in local government, oversite and community activism in Ward 8 and beyond for over twenty-five years. Ms. Richardson brought the scholars through her rich history of local engagement including campaigning on behalf of a DC United soccer stadium at Poplar Point, environmental advocacy for the Anacostia River and the 11th Street Bridge Project. Her advice focused on the need to be persistent in engagement, putting in the leg work, seeking those who aren’t consistently engaged being mindful of their mental bandwidth competing with other personal issues and always going back again an again.

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Methods for Ensuring Equitable and Inclusive Development

The last speaker session was led by Sheldon Clark, co-founder of Define Design Group. Mr. Clark is also an adjunct professor at Howard University and the President of the Board of Directors for the Douglass Community Land Trust. He led the scholars in a presentation and discussion about the history of Community Land Trusts and specifically what the Douglass Community Land Trust does in the DC area. In his career, his focus is on community engagement and accountability, and affordability for those in need of housing. The group discussed how CLTs operate, affordable housing in the District, as well as how equitable development plays out in both rental and ownership models.

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Housing in Ward 8 Workshop

The final part of the program involved a brief exercise where groups of four scholars took a parcel in Ward 8 in proximity to the 11st St Bridge project and roleplayed as developer, architect, community activist and local official. Armed with the zoning information and site context, these groups then brainstormed an ideal development scenario that would balance the interests of appropriate density, public and community needs, commercial use and existing infrastructure. Though most teams devised some scheme that included an affordable housing component in addition to market rate, there was a diversity in programmatic additions like community space, retail, green space and supportive services.

Session 03: The Art of Negotiation

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Date: December 6, 2019
Location: Perkins Eastman –One Thomas Circle NW, Suite 200, Washington DC 20005
Led by: Tom Zych, AIA and Valerie Boudreaux, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP

Downloads: Session 3 PDF

Upon hearing the word ‘negotiation’ in the context of the architectural profession, one may initially think of contracts. This is certainly a fundamental aspect of the business of architecture that drives relationships and agreements; however, through various activities and discussions, scholars soon realized that the term negotiation encompasses more. As architects, we employ persuasion, empathy, and ethics, to not only form agreements, but also to align stakeholders around a collective vision, to effectively communicate complex ideas, and to advocate on behalf of ourselves or others.

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Kurt Robbins from Graceworks, led the scholars through a dynamic workshop he likes to call, “any time you open your mouth training”. These face-to-face interactions, whether speaking at a conference, presenting to a client, or networking, hinge on human connection. The first step to being contagious is to trust yourself and be vulnerable, but ultimately, the presenter’s task is to “help your listener get your message”. Every interaction is not about you, it’s about them.The scholars engaged in a series of exercises to practice essential communication skills such as authentic introductions and handshakes, the craft of listening while you speak, a physical warm-up, body language, and visualizing concepts through a combination of purposeful gestures and thoughtfully edited graphics. Captivating an audience of any size or disposition is not merely the execution of a flawless performance; it involves both verbal and non-verbal discernment to deliver a powerful, visceral experience. Mr. Robbins adeptly demonstrated this balancing act while facilitating the workshop, proving that communicating doesn’t have to be stressful, and in fact, it can be energizing and fun!

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In a change of pace, Jeffrey Morris, AIA, a managing principal of WDG Architecture’s DC office, gave a refresher on contract negotiation fundamentals, while also providing insights gained throughout his career. Using a sample contract, heexplained how almost every section of an AIA contract is revised and how each unique contract serves as a roadmap and costing mechanism to transition from one phase to the next for the project team. Mr. Morris shared advice for establishing fees, schedules, and being very specific in outlining scope of work and additional services. He cautioned against incorporating words such as comply, guarantee, will, must, etc. that imply a promise or ultimatum to reduce liability. It is in everyone’s best interest to not go to court, and once again, the human connection comes into play, as it is key to sincerely understand the owner’s and other stakeholders’ concerns and expectations.

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Every negotiation involves multiples perspectives and the final panel, including Jessica Bloomfield, an attorney at Holland & Knight, Brett Swiatocha and Mary Rankin, architects at Perkins Eastman, and Janice Szymanski, Director for Facility Planning and Design at DC Public Schools, talked about projects they have partnered on and delved into how to navigate the often times arduous process. The panelists described the hallmarks of a successful negotiation as moving the project forward in a positive way through compromise and representation of all voices. The interests ofdistrict agencies and the community don’t always align, and as a result, educating/mentoring, listening, and advocating are essential to arrive at solutions that best meet everyone’s needs. Being transparent and not jumping to conclusions will help to overcome conflict and rally around a mutual end goal. Not surprisingly, the human connection was stated as critical to understand what is at stake for each individual, especially during a process that is messy and complicated. 

A familiar quote by Maya Angelou was referenced not once, but twice, during the session: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This sentiment eloquently sums up the common thread of human connection. Coming to a consensus takes more than rationale or logic. There is always a dimension of humanity and emotion tied to decisions and actions. Despite whether one agrees with the outcome of a negotiation, treating others with compassion and dignity is the mark of an exceptional leader. Scholars learned that approaching negotiation, not by thinking about what is in it for them, but rather by willingly considering what the other parties involved hope to gain, will lead to establishing trust and bring far greater value.

Session 02: Entrepreneurship & Management

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Date: November 1st, 2019
Location: Outrage, 1722 14thSt NW, Washington DC 20009
Led by: Rebecca Soja & Amanda Lewkowicz

Downloads: Session 02 PDF

The second CKLDP session took every opportunity to lean into its title, Entrepreneurship & Management. Through a hyper-local lens, the session centered on the successes of local business leaders in DC and dissected the entrepreneurial mindset needed to succeed when starting a business. Insightful discussion of hard-earned do’s and don’ts in business management provided key takeaways for management strategies that are applicable generally across the profession. The session came full circle by hosting the event in a locally and women-owned retail and co-working space, and provided lunch from a locally sourced, sustainable restaurant. Every aspect of the event told a close-to-home story of entrepreneurial success, and highlighted the diversity of ways to bring some entrepreneurial spirit into the scholars’ professional lives.

The session kicked off with a presentation from Devin Zitelman, who spoke to his experience growing DC’s status as a tech hub with a focus on equity and inclusivity for underserved populations with #WeDC. The tagline “#WeDC” grew as a shorthand for “We the People of DC” and encapsulates the inclusive and democratic spirit of the organization. Partially due to the work of #WeDC, Washington DC has become a hub for business incubators and strategic opportunities that support diversity and inclusion. D.C. is currently ranked as the #1 US city for entrepreneurial talent, and is #1 of 100 “resilient cities.” Between Devin’s own entrepreneurial talent, and the greater talent within the DC area, Devin’s presentation emphasized the value of the entrepreneurial spirit and the outsized impact it can have on the trajectory of a city’s future.

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Devin Zitelman then moderated a panel of five local architects, who each created a non-traditional path to career success. Gregory Kearley and Clair Marie Wholean both shared stories of creating sibling companies, where one funds the other, to finance their dream businesses. Warren Weixler spoke about putting everything on the line and betting on success to get his office started. After stepping into motherhood, Marcy Giannunzio went out on her own in order to find the flexibility she craved. The unspoken similarities in their experiences painted a picture of successful architectural entrepreneurs who are decisive risk takers, persistent, and deeply passionate about their work. For those looking for advice to takeaway, the mantras of the day were Plan More, Just Do It, and Chill Out. (Clair Marie, Marcy – borrowed from Nike, and Theresa Sheils)

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Theresa Sheils, the self proclaimed “Focused Juggler”, opened up about what it takes to manage people, projects, and finances in a large office. Initially cajoled into a managerial role, she had plenty of valuable lessons to share from her ups and downs along the way. When it came to daily management skills, the art of delegation, resisting the urge to micromanage, and taking time to develop others were topics of key interest. She examined the cliché that architects are generally bad negotiators, and encouraged valuing our work product like businessmen. Theresa was quick to emphasize that when running a business, the client, the team, and books need attending to every day. One person doesn’t need to take charge of all three – find business partners and leverage their strengths! After all, successful management relies on a foundation of teamwork and trust.

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After a short break the scholars reconvened to work through uncomfortable management scenarios – generously provided by Theresa’s own professional life lessons. Everyone had their own experiences to bring to the table while debating the best solutions to the problems at hand. With the help of Theresa’s guidance, the groups quickly realized that cut-and-dry solutions are hard to come by – instead solutions should be based on the specific team, consultant and client dynamics. The manager’s role is to make a decision that will benefit the team or project as a whole and to provide guidance to keep everyone on the same page.

Kevin J. Bush, Chief Resilience Office for the Government of D.C, rounded out the session with a lecture on Resilience and Leadership. His presentation was split into four major sections: the story of his own career path that led him to focus on resilience, how and why D.C. has created a resilience strategy, the implementation strategy for “Resilient D.C.”, and finally the critical value of architects and designers buying into the plan’s implementation. Kevin describes resiliency as a city’s ability to maintain essential functions when it is threatened by both acute shocks and chronic stress. The strategy breaks own into 4 main goals: Inclusive Growth, Climate Action, Smarter DC and Safe and Healthy Washingtonians. Hearing Kevin explain D.C.’s path to resiliency gave everyone a much greater understanding of individual roles to be played when undertaking such an enormous task. Beyond resiliency, it was enlightening to learn how Kevin is navigating this important leadership role and contributing to D.C.’s entrepreneurial spirit.

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Session 01: Working Together

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Date: October 4th, 2019
Location: Gensler – 2020 K Street NW, Washington DC, 20006
Led by: Caitlin Parker, AIA, LEED AP BD+C and Dawntaya Rodgers, AIA
Session Downloads: Session 01 PDF

The session began with a small do’s and don’ts about fundraising. The main focus of the presentation was to highlight how personal behaviors and the behaviors of others can be influential and improve collaborative relationships in the workplace. The two speakers and closing activities were organized to take an in depth look at each scholars leadership styles and how those styles fit into workplace dynamics. The scholars ended the session with a group activity by using their leadership and collaboration skills to solve an escape room.

The first part of session was led by Cable Clarke, President of Clarke Consulting in Washington, DC., which is an international consulting firm, founded in 1994. As a prerequisite to the session, each scholar filled out a Life Style Inventory assessment. The point of the assessment was to gain an insight to their individual relational styles and pinpoint their individual leadership strengths and weaknesses. Then Cable presented strategies and practical techniques for improving the effectiveness of their leadership styles to positively impact the culture of their firms. The presentations stressed the importance of understanding different dynamics, whether cultural, corporate, home, or interpersonal, and how to navigate them.

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The second presentation was led by Robert Holzbach, Principal and Director of Staff Operations with Hickok Cole, a 100 person firm located in Georgetown. Robert presented methods and ideas for managing individual, team, firm, consultant, and client dynamics as well as constructive ways to help facilitate and encourage strong office collaboration and productivity.

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The last activity of the session was an escape room. On the walk to the escape room, the scholars broke off into assigned pairs and discussed their Life Style Inventory results and ways they saw themselves working to improve on what they had learned from the assessment. Once they arrived to the escape room, the scholars worked together splitting themselves up in several teams to solve each of the different colored clues. The scholars exhibited their great teamwork and escaped the room with a little over 16 minutes left to spare, the best time of the month so far.

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