Leadership Priorities

Open Arch Collab
Feb 16, 2017 · 6 min read

An intimate day by day look at the OAC Global Leadership Summit in Houston Texas over the weekend of Feb. 11th ‘17.

Friday. We start with dinner and saying hello for the first time. Taye (Nigeria) and Furio (Italy) randomly meet in the street. Ask Taye for the story, it’s a good one. Karl (San Francisco) and Ricardo (Colombia) walk to AirBnb from the Airport.

Dinner with those who are in town
Taye gets his first sticker, one of many to adorn his electronics


8:15 — the Board has a good conversation that comes down to an urgent sense that unless we know what’s actually happening in the chapters we’re going to have a difficult time finding more funds.

10:00 — Welcome from Rice Design Alliance, thanks Raj for hosting us and providing all the support this weekend for free!!

Raj Mankad from Rice Design Alliance shows us his swag — Tom (Chicago) snickers in the background…
We circle up and say hello — Hi!

We have opening remarks from Ricardo, Garrett and the Facilitator — Bruce (Thanks for keeping us on task all weekend)

Bruce Race — Our task master for the weekend, and Shanna (Toronto) looking skeptical.
Top Left — Augie (LA), Karl (SF), Beau (Austin) and Hali (Portland)

Bruce puts us right to work and has everyone map their cities, their local projects, who they have impacted and what the main issues are.

He knows that we’re all right brained and need to draw to get at the point.

Ricardo (Bogota) sharing out his locality.

We share out and explain our maps, then Bruce puts us right back to work mapping our local networks, we need to include all of our partners, volunteers, funders, audiences… everything — Diagraming skills put to work!

Some popular issues people are working on include:

Homelessness, Affordable Housing, Transportation, Education (early), Spaces for immigrants, pollution, play spaces for children and public space.

Joe (DC) goes heavy on the spreadsheets
New York and Chicago participate virtually throughout the two days. Thanks Tom, Shannon and Christina! (and others I missed) We strive to make sure everyone can participate event if they can’t make it in person.
Chandra (Atlanta) presents her diagram which includes…
Here’s a closeup, it’s a good one.

Next we presented and then made lists of resources we have and resources we need. And over lunch we go shopping! People identify what they need by placing dots on other’s have’s.

Shopping time! Front to back, Taye, Whitney, Furio, Amelia (Boston), Shanna, Augie.

Trends: Surprise there’s no shortage of passion, talent, volunteers (although that’s both a need and have, some chapters have trouble retaining good one’s) and community partners. Partners is a big one.

Needs include: $$$, visibility, effective outreach, committed volunteers, leadership retention / recruitment, quantifiable value…


After shopping we need to digest so Bruce gives us 4.5 minutes for a break. We were then put into groups and had to respond to the prompt:

In 5 years the OAC will be known for these three things:

And — what’s the largest challenge keeping us from making this happen.

This resulted in each group presenting twice becasue bruce decided to put on his professor had and teach us all how to pitch to funders. It was painful, no one cried, that I know of, and many people scribbled notes in an educational fury.

Beau, Hali, and Augie present their vision for 5 years from now — for the second time. Augie took the brunt of revealing Bruce’s harshness, so they got a second try.

Bruce was very perceptive noticing that we all needed training in elevator pitches and getting to the point really quickly.

Then we rounded out the day with action planning. We discussed the most important actions by 2017 and by 2020. Many of them had to do with launching training programming, telling our stories, coordinating our efforts better — and of course helping over 1 million people worldwide.

After day 1 of work we sauntered over to see James Turrell’s Skyspace, it was beautiful, and we all took some moments of quiet reflection together.

A group that contemplates together sticks together;) Back row: Ida (Board), Whitney (Portland), Ricardo, Adelle (Houston), Audrey (Austin, but before that Houston) and Augie.

Then of course drinks and dinner. Time for Salsa! Yes, we danced. Yes, we have video of it. No, not now…

Tapas, Paella, and pitchers, many pitchers…

Even though this looks like we’re just having fun, that is one of the main components of gathering. Getting to know one another as humans. I tried to start a political conversation, it might have worked, but unprompted interaction is really the way to go over drinks.


We started off the morning strong with Assata Richards from the Sankofa Research Institute. We did an exercise to understand the privileges we have, and discussed the real meaningful effort of working with communities and understanding they have just as much to teach us, or more. Sometimes the most important thing we have to offer are our privileged connections. It’s about new paradigms.

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. — Albert Einstein

We all had many more questions for Assata after the inspiring talk

Then we got real.

Bruce talked about a few scenarios we have, one with a little bit of money, one that has us back at a volunteer organization, and one that has us at full capacity. Then Garrett broke down the money we have, and our priorities and needs for telling the local stories. Luckily that aligns with local leaders needs for more visibility. We had an open discussion about fundraising, working together, coordinating calendars and other files, and working on one project we could all coordinate on. More details to come.

But simply put, Garrett’s going to retool the budget to stretch his time, more of a part time role and focus on building our storytelling and virtual presence. And we’re going to accomplish this in the next two months.

Here are Bruce’s notes during the getting real conversation. More to come next week but just know there’s a sense of urgency to get our stories out there.

Who’s joining the publication team? — Seriously email Garrett if you want to make it happen, digital or in print.

Boom! Taye models our new shirts! Thanks for the quick design work Agustina Solar! (She’s great and available for graphic hire;)

Then we jumped — or attempted to jump.

Our final guest speaker for the day was Iris Ganzalez from the Houston office of LISC to talk us through their Go Neighborhood program, engagement methods, tactics, funding models and policy areas. If you haven’t yet I recommend you learn to partner with your local LISC initiative.

Iris also lead us through a listening exercise — the most important tool we have.

Finally as people started heading out one by one each chapter presented their work, over the course of the next 3 hours. Kim kicked us off with Houston’s incredible efforts. And she’s still on maternity leave! Thanks for mustering the energy Kim and congrats on your new girl!

And we learned that there is an incredible hybrid business model forming in Bogota, informed by 7 years of experience with Ricardo… So much to come!

Those of us who stuck around got Salvadorian food — probably the most geographically diverse group that restaurant has ever had…

A Nigerian, Californian, Jamaican Canadian, Colombian and Italian walked into a Salvadorian restaurant in Houston…


Taye, Furio and Garrett visited a local farm that trains immigrants for research on a potential collaboration — Italy has a large population of Nigerian immigrants. And it’s the sight of a wonderful local Houston project — and the farmer verified that it’s great for sun protection!

Local Houston design build.

And what’s a trip without an intense game of foosball. Italy beat Nigeria and the US…

Thanks for hosting Gina (Houston) and for your work on the farm shelter!

Like we said — more details to come, but in the meantime we hope you found this recap inspiring!

Peace and Love! (and with those who didn’t make the picture but participated, Kate, Adelle, Kim, April, Tom, Shannon, Christina, John, Maryam, and Casius)

Open Arch Collab

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The Open Architecture Collaborative is a global learning network to mobilize architects and designers towards greater community good.

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