No Agenda: AIGA West Michigan

We were early instigators to form AIGA West Michigan in 2008. I served as its first President from its formal inception in 2009 through April 2011. Here is a letter I sent to members upon stepping down from the board. We put on many events in the period, including casual “No Agenda” meetups at coffee shops and bars. As I mentioned in the first meeting in January 2009, I certainly had one – both a self serving agenda, but also to serve the local community and designers as a whole. I learned a lot. Thanks again to everyone involved.

Hello, AIGA West Michigan!

I’m proud to announce that last week, the Board of Directors approved its first leadership change. Please help me congratulate all new and returning board members!

Ever since I moved to West Michigan, I wished we had a local AIGA chapter, so a few years ago I put it on our strategic agenda to establish one. It took me a while to get moving but in October of 2008 I started a LinkedIn group and invited a few colleagues. At first I wasn’t sure if we could get the required 20 professional members to sign the petition, but as you can see from this discussion, things starting happening quickly…

(From a LinkedIn group to see who wants to start a local AIGA chapter)

Kevin: Requirements for starting a new chapter. Basic steps from AIGA National:
1. Petition to be signed by 20 current AIGA professional members
2. Description of chapter goals
3. Work with nearby chapters
4. Organize a board
5. Set up non-profit

Damion: So just renewed my membership, where do we sign?

Kevin: This all takes work… I know based on talking to several people who have done this. I’m being cautiously optimistic. I’m thinking a process might be:
1. First, see who signs up on this list
2. Schedule a kind of meet & greet to discuss (I’d be happy to host it)
3. See who’s up for volunteering time, etc. - make a few assignments
4. Gather names for a petition and get the ball rolling as defined above

Damion: Well I am up for anything. Everyone I have told about this has become very excited and wants to know how to help.

Gwen: Me too! Count me in.

Damion: When is the meet and greet? 56 people signed up, not too bad. I can only imagine what student participation will be as well.

Kevin: Yes, up to 78 now. Not bad at all. I was thinking I’d host, but now I’m wondering about a venue…

Timing is everything. As I later described, mostly I feel like we lit a match. The LinkedIn group grew to 150 people, which led to a meeting of 200, and the rest is history.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am at the growth and success of our still very young chapter. It’s amazing to see how the community has risen to the occasion. As I write this, we have 326 active members – a benchmark for AIGA chapter growth nationally. We’ve hosted more than 30 events, workshops, meetups, parties, and premier speakers in West Michigan. We have at least 5 areas schools participating and have linked existing student chapters. Half our members are students – the future. We have 587 followers on Facebook, 821 on Twitter. We’ve gotten fantastic support from sponsors. Our first edition of our Community Report highlights these accomplishments and more.

Thank you to everyone who showed up, and especially to my hardworking board colleagues, volunteers, students, and sponsors. Without you, none of this would have happened.

I’m proud also because I know that some chapters have trouble getting people involved, joining, signing up for the board, etc. Not in West Michigan. We’ve got new, energized people excited to step in. This, coupled with our startup momentum, and the experience from board members staying on, makes me confident that we’re ready to take it to the next level.

My name’s not on the board list but I’m not going away. I’m still a member, volunteer, and a ever a fan of AIGA West Michigan. I’m excited about my next role as President of APDF, a national organization focused on independent design entrepreneurship, starting next month. In fact, I’m excited about movement toward getting more design organizations to work together as it benefits all.

Personally I’m just glad to have been a catalyst – being at the right place and the right time where sparks can fly. Remember, AIGA is what we make of it. Stay involved. See you at the next AIGA West Michigan event.

Author: Kevin Budelmann

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