From Centralized Organization to Network of Chapters: Reborn AFH Completes Reorg

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Architecture-for-Humanity

January 21, 2016; Fast Company, “Co.Design”

The week before last, NPQ ran an article on the death of Architecture for Humanity and the subsequent survival and resurgence of its 32 chapters as a “multi-nodal” rather than single-hub network. This week, we hear that the group has named an executive director in Garrett Jacobs, who has been an AFH volunteer and staff person and has recently guided the reorganization. The new name of the organization has yet to be revealed.

Jacobs describes the shift that underwrote the reorganization as a recognition of what about it remained alive and vital. At the time AFH went under as a central organization, there were 60 local, volunteer-driven, fairly independent-minded chapters around the world. A number of these were not ready to go down with the mothership.

“The chapters didn’t stop doing the work,” Jacobs explains. “Through all of this turmoil they continued to meet, continued to deliver design services to their community.”

And its process will be different and less centralized. “Our organization will not do projects,” he says. “We only exist to support the people and the local organizations doing projects. […] The only work that will be done is locally, by local designers for their local communities.” But he believes that this new network is filling a need not just for communities, but for young architects. “It’s not a profession that engenders entrepreneurialism,” he says. “If you actually want to experiment with how you’re impacting people’s lives, there aren’t many opportunities.”

“The big difference is we’re moving from projects to people,” Jacobs says. “I see this network as developing into an incubator for anyone who wants to experiment with what design can deliver in a community.”—Ruth McCambridge