We’re thrilled to announce a brand new partnership with GTECH Strategies, an awesome non-profit at the intersection of community development and the green economy. They’re dedicated to strengthening and greening Pittsburgh, and one of the most revolutionary ways they do that is by helping citizens reclaim, repurpose, and reenergize empty lots, strengthening the city and its many proud communities, one block at a time.
[Here’s a fabulous mini-documentary about GTECH; it’ll give you a great sense of what makes them tick. If it doesn’t make you want to move to Pittsburgh and get to work, and/or make you cry, we’ll eat our hats.]
Lots and Lots of Vacant Lots
Reclaiming vacant lots in Pittsburgh is not work for the faint of heart; did you know that there are currently about 27 THOUSAND vacant lots in the city? Pittsburgh saw a devastating 50% decline in population by the turn of the century; recovery has begun, but there’s a long way to go. Vacancy at that scale invites all kinds of trouble in – including illicit drug activity – and takes a toll on Pittsburghers’ neighborhood pride.
[Cynthia, one of GTECH’s ambassadors, on a vacant lot in Pittsburgh]
“A lot of lots have been vacant for upwards of 50 years,” says GTECH Communications Manager Sara Innamorato, “and there’s not a lot being done with them. There’s the power to rethink what it can be. There doesn’t need to be a clear path. We can make one. We can forge one.”
GTECH won’t rest; they’re out on the front lines every day, working with Ambassadors like Cynthia (one of six GTECH ambassadors currently raising money via ioby), who is reclaiming a vacant lot and building a support center for mothers. Her one-day “Mastering Motherhood Outdoor Workshop” will provide meal planning, sewing, budgeting, DIY cleaning, and meditation training to moms of color in the area. And check out the other ambassadors who are teaming up with ioby right now to raise funds for their reclamation projects: from little free libraries to community gardens to a reservoir retreat, there’s something for everyone. See if any of them calls out to you!
The Land of Possibility
GTECH stands for “growth through energy and community health,” and that’s a mission we can really get behind. This year, they’ve got 22 community ambassadors on board, and twenty projects in the works in the North Side and around the city. They’re all about connecting the dots, so they work with residents, community development corporations, neighborhood associations, nonprofits, government, local businesses, churches, schools – you name it.
“Today’s Pittsburgh is the land of possibility,” says Innamorato, a Pittsburgh native who sees more and more of her fellow natives engaging with their neighborhoods. “If you come to Pittsburgh and you have an idea, you can easily connect with CEOs, people who’ve done it before. Everyone is so willing to help you out and give you a piece of their time or expertise. It’s the connectedness and the fabric of the city.”
[GTECH’s annual bike tour of Pittsburgh’s vacant lots]
So why partner with ioby? “You see a lot of nonprofits struggling with incorporating and using technology, and being intimidated by it,” says Innamorato. “So ioby’s doing a great thing in marrying grassroots efforts and traditional community outreach with technology, and bringing it into a new age. Getting a new group of young people involved in it. So we thought it was a really innovative approach to fundraising and community organizing.”
The “Burrito” Approach to Community-Building
GTECH staff sometimes talk about their “burrito” approach to community building; you throw in a bunch of ingredients that may not seem to make sense together, and the result is delicious. Obviously, we had to ask what ingredient we were in the GTECH burrito, and we’re proud to report Innamorato’s answer:
“ioby is the guacamole. It definitely belongs in the burrito. Looking at the kinds of things you guys do at ioby, this is a natural fit. You’re really specializing in the grassroots, civic-minded, community oriented projects, and you have this great set of tools, and it doesn’t make sense for us to reinvent the wheel.”
The guacamole! We’re thrilled to be partnering with such an inspiring organization, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
If learning about GTECH’s work is inspiring you to take action in YOUR neighborhood, or if you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’re here to help you get started today.
Psst… In other ioby news: Meet our seven SUPER new Board members!