Conferences Can Be Vehicles for Community Building

By:  Jonathan Moody, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, LEED AP

Conferences are an important way for corporate leaders to stay up-to-date on trends in their professions and markets; on new laws and regulations that affect their businesses; and to network with potential partners and clients. While all of these things provide a valuable perspective needed to plan and improve, I recently was reminded about how conferences can also reinforce a company’s culture.

Recently, eight of my collegues and I attended the annual meeting of the National Organization of Minority Architects in Houston. The gathering was, in fact, a great opportunity for development and networking. But it also reminded us of a deeper commitment to our communities.

Houston, of course, still needs rebuilding. Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in late August, damaged or destroyed about 135,000 homes in the Houston area. The damage was immense, and the cleanup continues. The conference organized teams for two days of volunteer service and dispatched them to neighborhoods in need.

My team noticed right away that the damage was different from what we had seen on TV. Neighborhoods were not hit in a continuous path, but stood as individual pockets of devastation: One side of a street was spared while people on the other side lost their homes.

We were assigned to help a women in her 90s whose house had been inundated with three feet of water and damaged by a fallen tree. We removed debris down to the studs, treated the house for mold, and kept her salvageable belongings for when she could eventually move back in. It was sobering to see such large piles of trash all along the street and realizing how important it was for us to help.

All of this reinforces the importance to include a strong social responsibility component in any business plan. It’s critical that we care for the communities where we do business, and businesses should feel a sense of responsibility to give back when people are in need. After all, Moody Nolan is a service company and young people, especially, want to work for companies that take community engagement seriously.

Most companies are challenged from time to time with how to build and sustain a culture of social commitment and camaraderie – both of which feed off of each other to make an organization stronger. It’s important to recognize that a culture of engaged giving allows us to connect with each other, understand the world outside our little spheres, and make a serious commitment of our most valuable resource: our time.

One of our firm’s themes for 2018 is “Obsessive Improvement.” In my opinion, there is no better way for any company to improve than to improve the outlook for others.

Jonathan Moody is president, partner and architectural designer for Moody Nolan.