PIA President’s Breakfasts, a Winning Formula

June 22, 2017adminMedia

President of PIA, a region of SAIA, shares information about his breakfast forums which has become a best practice in SAIA. Gerd Bolt sheds light.

Early on every first Friday of a new month, I host a gathering of members invited to share an early coffee and scrumptious breakfast. If you arrive early at our current venue, your first cuppa can be enjoyed on the veranda overlooking the watery goings-on of a variety of bird life in the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary in the Walkerspruit Open Space System, Nieuw Muckleneuk. Having had your Zen moment for the day, a second cup of your favourite beverage can be enjoyed while greeting colleagues and having a chat about this or that.

In having had the privilege of ‘chairing’ a number of PIA Presidents’ Breakfast meetings it has become obvious that not only the format but also the ‘occasion’ (Afr: gedoente) is hugely successful. The breakfast presents an opportunity for our institute members to enjoy a casual moment in a usually hectic work-month. All PIA members are invited and are regularly asked to propose a particular subject for discussion. Bookings are on a first-come-first-served basis; guests are welcome to book and participate. The president acts as chair and after a short welcome, introduces the subject, adding some deliberate cues to stimulate inclusive participation by all. The meeting is not intended as a workshop or lecture but is intentionally aimed at participation by all present. As is to be expected, the discussion sometimes heats up, requiring intervention to ensure free-flow and democratic values. This is where the value of our “talking stick method” becomes apparent. Only with the “talking stick” in your hand are you allowed to voice your opinion; the stick’s distribution around the long table being managed by consensus. Our present “talking stick” is a replica assegai, borrowed from the Blue Crane’s décor and replaced carefully after each meeting.

The subject of discussion is varied and often covers a topic of relevance to recent occurrences. During the first few Breakfast Meetings, it became clear that the BIG ISSUES raised by participants were related to fees, clients and local authorities. The issues largely remain, but with having had an opportunity to vent frustrations, it became apparent that architects have lots of other things to talk about. The field has opened up to new and fresh topics concerning SACAP matters; SAIA in its role as national VA, the influence of recent advances in technology on practicing architecture, the expectations of practicing architects towards recently graduated youngsters, and the architect as ‘potential’ developer.

Measured by the speed of reaching “fully-booked” status the PIA Breakfast has been established as a valued social event where professionals can engage informally. It is also increasing the awareness of participants on a wide variety of topics. For the PIA leadership, it has proven to be a valuable resource in the identification of relevant issues, and an indication of the temperature of practicing professionals’ attitudes to a challenging and changing environment. The value of the breakfast forum event is in the deliberate simplicity of its platform for exchange (ruled only by “the stick”). Plates are limited to approximately 35 early birders. We start at 08h00 and usually wrap up at 09h45.

Yvonne Bruinette receives prize from PIA President, Gerd Bolt