Director of Projects Colleen Mohan kind of fell into her role on the SF Chapter's steering committee - and couldn't be more excited about the responsibility.
We do a quick Q&A check-in on what gets Colleen out to meetings and where she sees it all heading.
How did you get involved and what does Chapter work mean to you?
I knew about Architecture for Humanity for a long time, but before I moved to San Francisco I wasn't in a position to start a chapter, and the nearest one was three hours away. Moving out here, I finally got involved. About a year ago there was this resurgence for pulling the chapter back together. It was great timing. I was like 'Oh yeah - this is a fit.'
What's really great about this chapter is that San Francisco is so neighborhood based and community focused. Meeting the people I've met and being able to go with that momentum that already exists in the city, and to contribute and build upon it, has been really fulfilling.
I'd been looking for more connection to the work - to get something that's really rooted in this city and to be able to interact with people who see how it's improving the quality of life, and to make this city stronger and better than it already is. I'm passionate about working with people, and interacting with them through the design process. These projects are community focused - and you can see how what you're doing is making an impact on things.
Where do you see the Chapter this time next year?
We've had this conversation about the direction we're trying to steer the chapter. We've been really fortunate over these last few months to be presented a lot of great projects by people needing our services or asking for our services.
We'd like to become an org that can support these projects as well – maybe not being the full funder, but to be able to support projects somewhat through funding, like creating a position for someone to see a project through. There seems to be a cutoff right at the end of schematic design or after feasibility studies for projects of a certain scale, and then they have to get passed off. We'd like to resolve that disconnect. If someone has the professional requirements and experience to take a project to the next level of completion, or construction, we'd like to be able to support them, or at least provide resources so they can support themselves. This in addition to continuing to build our reputation throughout the city.
San Francisco already has a lot of design networking and advocacy groups in place - we'd like to build on those but also be able to provide practical experience. The Chapter distinguishes itself from other local orgs by offering a diverse range of projects - and we feel up to any challenge whether architectural or urban design, large or small scale, and this makes our efforts & network unique. 'Yeah, you want to contribute? Come on over, we'll put you to work!'
Could you explain your renaissance? How have you been able to find projects?
I think when I got here the economy was tough - and projects simply weren't available. Now things are getting easier. The City of San Francisco has some great programs for our kind of work that anyone can apply for: Community Challenge Grants, for one. Other grants are offered by the arts commission and the mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development - we've been able to take advantage of these.
Check out a recent recap of the AFH_SF monthly Chapter meeting.