All posts by ioby

How to fundraise if you’re not a 501(c)3 nonprofit

Wondering if your group needs to formally incorporate as a nonprofit organization before you can fundraise? Friends, we are here to tell you that the answer is a loud-and-proud: NOPE!

While incorporating can certainly have its advantages (including enhancing credibility and limiting liability), community groups can still raise the resources they need without becoming bona fide 501(c)3s.

In fact, we think one of the all-around best methods of fundraising has nothing to do with getting a nonprofit designation.What is this great gift to the grassroots, and how can you put it to work for you?

We’d like you to meet the dynamic duo of crowdfunding and fiscal sponsorship.

 
Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 3.12.32 PM

What is crowdfunding?

You’re probably familiar with crowdfunding: the pooling of small online donations to support a cause or project. Anyone who has an idea for creating positive change in their neighborhood can use ioby’s platform to crowdfund for it—as well as to seek in-kind donations and find volunteers. (We also offer lots of training and other resources!) We call this whole kit and caboodle “crowd-resourcing.”

ioby's Pittsburgh convening 2017

Why does crowdfunding work for unincorporated groups?

  • Citizen leadership is effective leadership. Residents know their neighborhoods better than anyone, so it’s no surprise citizen leadership has proven to be a super effective method of diagnosing and treating hyperlocal problems. As we wrote in Planetizen last year, “Civic crowdfunding [another word for what we do] allows those closest to the ground, residents themselves, to quickly identify, plan, gather resources for, and implement a project that addresses an immediate need.”
  • Local donors are committed donors. Generally, when a group is awarded a grant from a foundation or other entity to fund a community project, the money they receive comes from an external source in one lump. When a group crowdfunds from within its own neighborhood, on the other hand, everyone who makes a donation gains a sense of investment in and agency over the project. When people feel they have a stake in an endeavor—be it of a financial, advisory, or sweat equity nature—they are likely to stay committed to helping it succeed. There’s strength in those numbers!
  • A flexible group is a responsive group. When your group gets its support from the surrounding community, you stay close to the action and retain the ability to shift in response to local needs. You can keep your group small and unincorporated, you can decide to grow and apply for 501(c)3 status, or you can even disband after accomplishing your initiating project—whatever best fits the circumstances.

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 3.12.49 PM

What is fiscal sponsorship?

Fiscal sponsorship is an arrangement in which one entity agrees to accept and manage funds for another. Within the nonprofit sector, fiscal sponsorship usually occurs when an individual or group wishes to receive tax-exempt contributions for charitable or community-focused activities without building a full organizational infrastructure or receiving formal 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

ioby is proud to offer fiscal sponsorship services nationwide, to any community project on our platform that requests it. Like most fiscal sponsors, we keep a small percentage of what you raise to help us cover the administrative costs of managing the funds. (We’ve kept our fee at five percent—one of the lowest around!)

 Mansfield Frazier, Cleveland Ohio

How does fiscal sponsorship help unincorporated groups?

  • Simplify your taxes. If your unincorporated group has a fiscal sponsor, it can accept donations without owing income tax on them. The fiscal sponsor keeps all the money going to your project separate from group members’ personal finances, so come tax time, there’s no confusion about that extra money in your bank account.
  • Offer your donors a break. The nice flipside of the above tax coin is that fiscal sponsorship allows your donors to deduct any gifts they give you on their tax returns. This is a great perk to offer, and also boosts your trustworthiness.
  • Get that grant anyway! While we think crowdfunding can be a great alternative to applying for grant funding, being awarded a grant is of course still a wonderful thing! If you crowdfund on ioby and receive a grant while your campaign is active, we can accept it on your behalf and apply it toward your total crowdfunding goal – we can even help you leverage it as match funding to drive additional donations! In addition, if your group doesn’t have any pre-existing relationships with funders, you might appear more attractive to them if you have a fiscal sponsorship arrangement with a reputable organization.

If these high points have whet your appetite for finding out more about how crowdfunding and fiscal sponsorship can help you get a local project off the ground, check out these other great sources of info:

  • Read our co-founder Erin Barnes on her experiences with incorporating, the ups and downs of different funding sources, and why ioby continues to ‘crowdfund’ a lot of its own revenue in this interview with Shareable.

Why just fundraise when you can MAKE IT RAIN???

Crowdfunding large amounts of money on ioby is totally doable, but it does take some extra planning. If you have your sights set high, your budget — and fundraising skills—will just have to rise to the challenge.

guide to making it rain fundraising

Many ioby Leaders have successfully crowdfunded larger-budget projects, and they want to share what they’ve learned with you. You can visit ioby.org/rainmakers to read their stories in full. In this brand new guide, we distill the findings and tips these leaders most commonly described and said they found most helpful when they were fundraising.

LEARN HOW FIVE SUCCESSFUL LEADERS MADE IT RAIN, AND HOW YOU CAN, TOO!

ioby guide to making it rain [PDF]

 

Three great youth music programs we love

Love music? Love working with young people? Interested in organizing a music program for youth in your community, but not sure what it could look like?

You’ve come to the right place. Over the years, we’ve worked with many leaders who have started creative initiatives in their communities that get young people involved in music, often in conjunction with something else engaging like the outdoors, visual arts, or technology. They’re all different,  but they all have some common threads (such as, we’ll just say it, being awesome).

Dilla Youth Day

Not only is playing music inherently fun and rewarding, it’s also been shown to improve kids’ language and math skills, and to help young people handle anxiety, depression, and other difficult emotions.

If that’s music to your ears, read on for three examples that just might inspire you to start a youth music project in your community.

Three great youth music programs we love

Culture, history, technology: Dilla Youth Day

For the past six years, this annual event has celebrated the legacy of one Detroit’s most prolific music producers, J Dilla. Founder and organizer Piper Carter of We Found Hip Hop uses Detroit’s creative heritage as a jumping off point to spark young people’s interest in getting creative through STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). This year’s event introduced a “mobile maker space” to its roster of performances, lectures, and hands-on workshops for scratch DJing, music production, hip hop dance, songwriting, and more. For the past three years, the free day-long event has been held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. “We knew that utilizing hip hop to connect young people to STEAM in a climate of constant school closures and erasure of history and education was necessary,” says Piper in an interview with the Detroit Metro Times.

Music in the Park, Memphis

Green spaces, healthy kids: Music in the Park

Jessica Thurman grew up in the New Chicago area of North Memphis—a community she calls underserved, but also full of “talented and worthy people.” “I know that had it not been for my great grandparents affording certain opportunities for me, my life would look a bit different,” she writes on her ioby campaign page. To help make the neighborhood safer, greener, and more fun for kids growing up there today, Jessica rallied her neighbors to clean out a vacant lot on Breedlove Street, beautify it with plants and benches, then “install” a variety of musical instruments in it that would allow kids of all ages and income levels to experiment with making their own rhythms and melodies, in the freedom of the great outdoors. “By having this gem we open the door for endless opportunities to build strong community leaders and well rounded youth,” Jessica writes. “Music is the key.”

 

Mental health, personal growth, mentorship: Music on the Inside

Alina Bloomgarden and Wynton Marsalis—the originating producer of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the legendary trumpet player, respectively—have both made jazz a cornerstone of their lives and careers. When they formed Music on the Inside (MOTI), they sought to bring their passions for this great American art form to youth in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex. MOTI connects incarcerated young people with professional musicians who offer songwriting and performance instruction, creative encouragement, and mentorship that can help unlock music’s rehabilitative powers. “The music education and mentorship Louis Armstrong received at the Colored Waifs Home for Boys, when he was arrested as a young man, inspired Music on the Inside,” Alina writes on the MOTI website. “Given support to tap into his potential, he became one of the most renowned musicians in the world. There are too many incarcerated young people today who are not given the opportunity or support to grow their natural talents.”

What does YOUR youth music project look like? Tell us at ioby.org/idea and we’ll help you bring your idea to life!

AWESOME PROJECT: A garden classroom and a space for possibility in Cleveland

Dawn Glasco, a Community Engagement Coordinator who works with children, has lived on East 76th street, Cleveland, for the past 10 years. And right outside her window, across the street from her home, all those years, had sat a large vacant lot — run down, overgrown with tall grass that the city wasn’t mowing, and littered with trash. A couple of years ago, Glasco started to feel ready to do something about it, summoned her courage, and began going door to door, asking neighbors if they’d join a group effort to beautify the street and turn the lot into an outdoor classroom. She also called the city, asked them to come and mow, and got permission to improve the lot. Glasco’s neighbors were receptive, and so was the city. For her, a door had opened.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 4.46.15 PM

“That’s the way that things have been, so it’s like ‘what’s gonna change now?’ It was depressing to me,” says Glasco of the way the empty lot had been for so long. “But I had the belief in myself and my ability to bring change. My believe that I could do something – that drove me. I wanted to bring a sense of serenity, peace, and beauty. I wanted to somehow touch the hearts and minds of people, and ask them to wake up and consider what it is to be alive.”

Today, flower beds lie on the lot, along with a mini free library hutch and other improvements. Space has been cleared to make way for benches (you can donate here to help with supplies and construction), which Glasco hopes will begin to transform the space into an outdoor classroom and support group venue.

“Producing something,” she says, “seeing people use their talents. Using my talents. Connecting with people. Coming up with an idea, and then implementing it. Community, sharing. Bonding with people. That makes me feel alive.” And she’s determined to give it to those around her, from the children on up.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 4.46.44 PM

Tapping in to local talent

It won’t be difficult to fill the class roster with interesting courses, once it’s set up. Turns out, Glasco’s neighbors have lots of secret talents to share. One neighbor loves mathematics, and might teach that. Another is a carpenter and potter. “I also see some support groups happening,” says Glasco. “Some stuff around trauma. Just giving people the opportunity to connect, heart to heart. I want people to know their potential as human beings. In some areas, we’ve kind of lost that. We’re disconnected from our own self, and from other people.”

Some of these groups Glasco might lead herself; she’s almost done training to be a Gestalt practitioner, and also wrapping up a masters at Cleveland State, in Psychology and Diversity Management.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 4.46.27 PM

Remember Me tree

The centerpiece of the lot on East 76th Street is a beautiful tree. It’s where friends and family recently gathered after the funeral of a young resident of 76th street, who had been killed. With her family, Glasco has laid mulch and planted hasta plants around the tree, as a sort of tribute to that young resident, and to the whole neighborhood. “That area could be a gathering place,” says Glasco, “where we honor one another, those who are here, those who used to live here and those who have passed away.”

When she herself thinks of the tree, she thinks of her mother. “Twenty years ago, my mother had an aneurism and passed away,” she explains. “September 14, I had an aneurism, but if you look at me, you would never be able to tell. And I’ve never visited my mother’s gravesite, because in visiting her gravesite, it meant that I accepted that she was dead. So I just never could deal with that. But looking at the Remember Me tree, it represents life, you know?”

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 4.46.36 PM

Brave mom, proud son

Glasco’s son is enormously proud of her for mobilizing the neighborhood to beautify the outdoor classroom lot. “He likes any kind of forward progress,” she says, “and bravery. Anytime somebody does something outside of the norm, he likes it. And he always told me, ‘whenever you’re gonna do it, let me know. I’ll help however you need me to.’ I didn’t have to do anything. Nobody told me to do it. We live in a world of systems. Systems and doors. And those doors are often just shut. You have to ask, you have to knock, you have to seek. I didn’t have any cheerleaders. Nobody saying that this was guaranteed to be a success. But I had faith.”

“It took a lot of courage to break away from the norm,” she continues, “which was to do nothing. To blame. To say that somebody else should do it. Somebody else is responsible for it. So to make a firm decision to move forward and take action on something that I had not seen done – nobody hired me to do it, and I wasn’t gonna get a picture in the paper for it – I had to hold my frame of mind in a state of belief, and not turn around. This is huge! You’re asking the city to do something. You’re asking authority figures. You’re asking people you don’t know yet. I had to be brave enough to ring doorbells and say ‘hello’.”

It takes enormous courage to take action like this, but at the same time, Glasco notes, it’s free. “My hope is that it will give off good energy, and that that energy will spread into people’s hearts and minds, and help us consider how we utilize time. How we spend time. I hope it will inspire people to spend time to build, to create, to inspire, to love, to give. To give, basically. That’s what you’re doing when you’re spending time – you’re giving. Sometimes it doesn’t cost us a dime.”

She never doubted that her neighbors would step up. “I think naturally, human beings are good people,” insists Glasco. “Some of us go down the wrong path, but I look for the good in people, and I expect it to show up. I believe that it will show up. There was no way that I was the only one who cared. I think that people just didn’t know where to start.”

Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? 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’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Have a great idea, but feel like you need a blueprint to get you started? Or a recipe to follow? We’ve got you covered. Check out some of our very best recipes for change, here.

Hosting a Community Meeting? Avoid These 5 Mistakes!

Hey urban planners and city officials!

Are you working with a local community on a planning process? Hosting a public meeting to gather input or feedback on a plan is a familiar part of the task. But if you’ve been doing this kind of work for a while, you’ve probably attended (or even, yikes, led) a community meeting that’s gone horribly wrong. There’s no worse feeling than being in front of a room full of angry people when you’re trying to build trust and work together to improve the community for everyone.

Here at ioby, we’ve worked with a lot of local residents and community groups over the years, and we’ve heard many tales of good and not-so-good community meetings. Below are some of the top things they’ve taught us not to do. If you can avoid these mistakes, you’ll be one meeting closer to building the trust you need to help improve your community.

 

ioby Pittsburgh Convening

5 mistakes planners & local government agencies make when hosting public meetings

1. Picking a location or time that doesn’t meet people’s needs

Ever notice how most public meetings tend to draw the same ten people—and they’re usually not there to offer praise? You need to make sure that the time and place of your meeting are not barriers to attendance. You don’t want to plan for your community, you want to plan with them—and you can only do that if they’re “in the room” with you (literally). That room is not always an elementary school auditorium at 7:00 pm on a Tuesday.

To work toward drawing a representative mix, notice who’s not showing up to meetings. Working parents of young children? Residents of low-income public housing? Day laborers? Each of these communities faces its own set of barriers to participation, and if they need to travel far, skip meals, or take time away from their work or families, your meeting will always lose out.

The best advice we’ve heard? Meet people where the are. Get creative and offer a range of smaller, more intimate meetings in different locations and at different times. Could you meet community members on a Sunday afternoon near their church, for example? Can you offer childcare and a meal rather than just pretzels and soda? Can you travel to where a bunch of local laborers have their lunch break and talk to them on familiar ground? Put some thought into your audience and their daily routines, and go out of your way to meet them where they are. You’ll find yourself running around a little more, but your planning process will be much better!

 

ioby Pittsburgh convening

2. Telling your community what will happen instead of asking for their input

Sure, you’re the one with the project to propose—that’s why you called this public meeting! But don’t lose track of the root reason you’re doing what you’re doing, which is helping to make your community better.

To this end, make sure your meeting keeps a “community conversation” vibe and doesn’t veer into lecture-land. Keep it top of mind that a big part of any idea to better a block, district, or city is bringing neighbors together. Without their backing, no project will flourish. Similarly, if you find any of your attendees getting strident, steering them back to the project’s larger goals can help them get the most out of the meeting and offer the most value to it.

To say it another way: you’re planning a project that will have a public impact—you’re working in our backyard, not your own. This simple fact means that the more you can involve your community, the more receptive they’ll be to your idea, the more smoothly and easily your project will materialize, and the better it will turn out.Also realize that the stakeholders in any urban project are bound to be diverse. For starters, there are probably people who live, work, go to school, and own businesses near your project site, as well as those who use proximate amenities, like parks and public transit. Making their understanding and support your priority will bring you beneficial buy-in, positive publicity—and in some cases, necessary permissions.

Finally, remember that it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Don’t interrupt people when they’re speaking, ask them questions when you’re not sure of something instead of assuming you know the answer, and “share the air”—be aware of how much you’re speaking versus others.

 

Jioby Pittsburgh convening

3. Going “permanent” too soon

Make it your community meeting mantra: “This is only a test.” No matter the nature of your project, it will probably work best to plan it as a pilot. Experiment to see what works and what doesn’t before even attempting to make anything permanent.

Remind yourself (and relate to your group) that a “test, then invest” innovation model has become a best practice of urban planning today. Starting small and building on lessons learned is beneficial on many fronts: it reduces the need for huge investments of time or money right away; it lets people live with new ideas and see if they like them before they’re fully implemented; and it works wonders to expose a plan’s flaws early enough that they can be easily addressed.

Starting small is no comment on the potential long-term power of your plan, your faith in the idea, or your commitment to your community. It’s just wise city planning.

 

ioby Pittsburgh convening 1

4. Ignoring your skeptics and critics

If your community meeting is diverse enough, one of your rewards will inevitably be skepticism and criticism. Congratulations!

Contrary to what your pride might tell you in the moment, these voices don’t have to rain on your project’s parade. When you hear a critique, walk through it step by step:

  • Make sure you listen to the concern and ask the commenter to clarify if you don’t understand exactly what they’re worried about.
  • Address fears as fully as you can. For example, if someone is nervous about large crowds at your event, let them know you’ll adhere to strict start and end times, hire security, provide trash cans, etc (and then, of course, do those things!).
  • Refer back to Number 3 and remind everyone that your project is only temporary. Even if it’s a total flop, it’ll only be a flop for one afternoon, one season, etc.
  • In all cases, be considerate and sincere and show compassion for others’ views. Even if you don’t feel the same way or think the concern is unfounded, let your critics know they’ve been heard. Much of the time, people are seeking acknowledgement as much as anything else.

Lastly, don’t get discouraged. While you want to consider all the feedback you get, don’t abandon your project just because some Negative Nelly is throwing unnecessary shade. Just reiterate that you appreciate their thoughts and want to be a good neighbor, then continue on with your team.

 

5. Promising your community too much

Be honest: you can’t promise that this idea will work! Until it’s been tried and tested, no one knows if it will actually calm traffic, attract pollinators, get kids into healthy food, or anything else.

What you can promise is that you’re doing this because you want your community to be a better place to live, work, and play. You can promise that you all have a lot to gain and little to lose by trying this idea on for size, that you’ll stay open to new ways of accomplishing your common goals, and that you’ll report the project’s outcomes to stakeholders honestly.

Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers—and that’s exactly why you need everyone in this community meeting! You know how you think about this project, but conversations with others will help you shape it and ultimately improve it. You need community members’ ideas and buy-in to see the thing through and make it the best it can be.

If you can avoid these top five mistakes when hosting public meetings, you’ll be setting your project up for a great start.

For more on how communities and city decision-makers can play well together, check out our Recipes for Change series: it stars eight leaders in community organizing, advocacy, urban planning, and more who share their wisdom about getting local projects off the ground in the spirit of collaboration.

 

 

While you’re at it, sign up for our newsletter to get actionable info and enriching stories delivered right to your inbox.

AWESOME PROJECT: The Heights Line, Memphis

At a community meeting recently, in a Memphis neighborhood called The Heights, a white woman named Linda Burgess – a resident since the 70s – stood up and said that she’d had an answer to prayer. She’d seen her African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian friends and neighbors joining hands in service of their community. They were working together on the Heights Line project: a pop-up public green space on National Street, designed to bring people together and to connect the historically overlooked neighborhood to exciting nearby developments. “Linda said that we’ve been needing this in our community,” explains Jared Myers, Executive Director of The Heights Community Development Corporation (CDC).

Myers’ agrees: his focus right now, at the CDC, is on housing, and he knows that building common spaces will bolster the local real estate market. “There are 1,100 vacant and abandoned homes in our neighborhood,” he says, “so there’s a great need for us to address blight. The first ioby project we did was to board up houses with students from the neighborhood. We painted artistic renderings on the boards, and then made sure these houses were secure, so that criminal activity wasn’t taking place in them.” The CDC has since gone on to rehab nine houses, which is a great start, but only a drop in the bucket. Drastic measures are needed. Big-picture thinking is what the doctor’s ordered. Enter: The Heights Line.

 

1709 Heights 138

Connect the dots to combat disinvestment

There’s a lot of potential energy building in Memphis right now, on the creative place-making front, which is part of what The Heights green space was designed to tap into. The nearby Broad Ave Hampline, for example – a new bike lane running hand in hand with the revival of an abandoned commercial strip – has begun to bring vibrant new life to Binghampton. The Wolf River Greenway – a green space and trail network into which the city has invested 40M – is also close enough for Heights residents to enjoy… if only there were good, safe ways to walk and bike there.

“We’re disconnected,” explains Myers. “So we said well, let’s look at what we have. We have a median that runs down National Street, where there used to be a trolley that ran down Broad to National. We’ve got 89 feet of space there. All that space is being used for cars, but there’s a 15 foot green median that’s not being utilized as public space. We could connect our neighborhood to these other assets that are happening around us.”

It’s about time, too. “This is a neighborhood in Memphis that has been overlooked and disinvested in for many years,” explains Myers. “Our city has really struggled with sprawl. During the 70s there was kind of a perfect storm where businesses left. A lot of private schools were built during integration, and we saw a lot of families leave our neighborhood because of the schools and churches. It’s going to take us many many years to reinvest.”

 

IMG_3538

what a pop-up green space looks like

The Heights Line pop-up demonstration, which has been blocked to traffic for several weeks, and will continue to be closed to traffic until Nov 11, has already been host to lots of community events, including a Halloween Carnival, block parties and cookouts, and even a 5k race. “Those things are important for our community, and we haven’t had those,” says Myers. “Typically our community will gather around a candlelight vigil, where someone has been shot or killed. Not necessarily the best time to gather. We do have block parties, community cleanups, back to school parties – but we don’t necessarily have the space to do all that.”

Having a shared green space is particularly important for The Heights, given its history of diversity, with white, Black, and Hispanic families living side by side. “That’s somewhat rare for Memphis,” says Myers. “We’re a very segregated city. Very rarely outside of a sporting event, like the Grizzlies, do you see a mixture of folks together. We’ve had to do a lot of our Heights Line distribution of materials bilingually, which is important and fun, and when you go into a room and you’re sitting amongst people who look different from you – it’s something that we weren’t intentional with on the front end, but now we believe that that’s a big asset.”

Right now, if you go check out The Heights Line, you’ll find a whole lot less car traffic than usual. You’ll find a nice water cooler, thirty planters filled with greenery, a dog station to help you pick up after your dogs, a solar light panel installed on a PVC pole, a Heights Line banner to create some identity. You’ll also find Myers’ favorite design element: a hammock grove, consisting of four nice hammocks hung up for anyone to lounge in. “I love that kids get to experience that,” says Myers. “And nothing has been stolen or vandalized. We know that that’s a problem in creative placemaking. But all our our benches are still there, all of our planters are still there, all of our hammocks. People could easily come and just drive off, but they don’t. They’e enjoyed it, they’ve left it, they’ve appreciated it.”

Myers would love to see the pop up turned into a permanent project that would cover the entirety of National Street. Heights residents will need to regroup after November 11, and see how everyone feels. Whatever comes of this iteration of The Heights Line, it’s gotten people civically engaged, and it’s gotten them speaking up – agreeing, disagreeing, compromising, and working together – and that’s a boon any way you slice it.

 

Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? 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’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Have a great idea, but feel like you need a blueprint to get you started? Or a recipe to follow? We’ve got you covered. Check out some of our very best recipes for change, here.

VIDEO: Meet ioby Pittsburgh!

Meet some of the amazing community leaders of ioby Pittsburgh! Our Pittsburgh neighbors gathered in October to share stories of positive neighborhood change and participate in a hands-on workshop led by James Rojas of PLACEIT! Check out photos of our convening here.

ioby supports neighbors to grow and implement great ideas one block at a time. Our online platform connects leaders with funding and support to make our communities safer, greener, more livable and more fun.

Our Pittsburgh Action Strategist, Miriam Parson, works with leaders across every neighborhood in the city, including Uptown, The Hill District, South Pittsburgh’s Hilltop Communities, Hazelwood, Homewood and the North Side.

Neighbors have already raised more than $4 Million on our platform for colorful murals, vibrant community gardens, walkable and bikeable streets, and more! We think that it should be easy to make meaningful change “in our backyards” – the positive opposite of NIMBY.

Cleveland, fight climate change—get up to $5K in matching funds!

We’ve teamed up with the   Cleveland Climate Action Fund and   Resilient Cleveland  to award $1:$1 matching funds to community projects that prepare Cleveland neighborhoods for the impacts of climate change.

As a part of the CCAF Crowdfunding Challenge, every dollar raised towards your ioby project could be matched up to $5,000 (or until the funds run out)! This effectively doubles the resources available to resident-led projects and programs administered by community-based organizations all over the city.

To get started, tell us about your project at  ioby.org/idea.

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 2.15.50 PM

Project Eligibility

The CCAF Crowdfunding Challenge is designed to fund ideas that are innovative, practical, and sustainable. Projects will be assessed and awarded match funds based on the following criteria:

  1. Project location  is within the city of Cleveland
  2. Projects have an impact  by reducing local emissions or making neighborhoods more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Projects often seek to improve awareness, build wealth, or support environmental justice and better health. Example projects include tree plantings, clean energy or energy efficiency,  and sustainable transportation initiatives.
  3. Project demonstrates community buy-in  by receiving at least 10 donations through its ioby campaign page before midnight on  March 31, 2018

 

Timeline

  • Feb 1, 2018:  Deadline to submit your project idea at   ioby.org/idea
  • Feb 30, 2018:  Deadline to build your campaign page at   ioby.org/project
  • March 31, 2018:  Deadline to receive 10 donations to your campaign page
  • April 19, 2018:  Winners notified of match amounts
  • May 15, 2018:  Crowdfunding campaign ends (fundraising stops)
  • By June 28, 2018:  Check for amount fundraised + CCAF match grant arrives!
  • By June 31, 2019:  Project implemented and results reported

 

Questions?

Contact   Indigo Bishop, ioby’s Cleveland Action Strategist, or call her at (216) 930-4030.

Can’t wait to hear your ideas! Looking for inspiration?   See some of our funded projects here.

“100 Most Influential Urbanists” you don’t know about, but should!

When we saw Planetizen’s “100 Most Influential Urbanists” list last week, our reaction went something like: “Cool!” followed by, “Wait, we know a ton of influential urbanists who aren’t on this list…”

With all due respect – nah, adoration – to the likes of Jane Jacobs, William H. Whyte, and Janette Sadik-Khan, we’d like to present the following list of 100 more great urbanists whose work you’re less likely to have heard of. Oh, and they’re all ioby project leaders!

Jane Jacobs wrote,   “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

We want to make sure that everyone has a voice and a role in creating our cities together, not just those of us who are Planners with a capital “P,” or who have written books on urbanism, but those who bring their life experience of living in neighborhoods to shaping them.

(This list is in random order, by no means a “Top 100,” and it certainly doesn’t include every great ioby Leader. It’s just a sampling to celebrate.)

 

America Aceves, Boyle Heights Los Angeles, CA: America’s community organization, Proyecto Pastoral, is leading the Pico Aliso neighborhood in making its streets safer for pedestrians, despite being surrounded by six freeways and acting as a gateway into downtown Los Angeles.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 3.32.44 PM

Kevinee Gilmore, Maple Heights, OH: A former “foster kid” herself, Kevinee founded Foster Share to provide mentorship, community, and temporary housing to young people who have aged out of the foster care system but could still use support on their way to full independence.

 

Jackson Koeppel, Highland Park, MI: When the city repossessed over 1,000 street lights from Jackson’s already underserved neighborhood, he co-founded Soulardarity: a membership-based, community-owned solar power nonprofit that’s installing its own new solar street lamps to light the way.

 

Sister Ana Martinez de Luco, Bushwick Brooklyn, NYC: Sister Ana co-founded Sure We Can, a nonprofit community space where neighbors of all stripes—especially “canners,” people who collect cans and bottles for redemption—come together through recycling, composting, gardening, and the arts.

 

 

Mindy Fullilove, Washington Heights, NYC: You may already know equity and urban planning thought leader Dr. Fullilove as the author of Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities and Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It, but she is also one of the leaders of Hike the Heights, an annual volunteer-planned and community-run hiking event that connects over 2,000 local residents with their beautiful parks, a sense of environmental stewardship, and each other.

 

David Chi Chi Troung, Miami, FL: David led a coalition of local organizations and businesses in hosting a “public space festival” aimed at inspiring residents to activate pocket parks in their downtown corridor.

 

Lynne Serpe, New Orleans, LA: This food-obsessed city has no municipal compost system, so Lynne is diverting tons of waste from its landfills by piloting Compost Now!, a community compost drop-off service at New Orleans Public Library branches.

 

Frampton Tolbert, Gowanus Brooklyn, NYC: With his colleagues at the Center for Urban Pedagogy, Frampton raised over $12,000 to fund Bronx students’ investigation into public transit pricing and their production of a documentary video about it.

 

bianca ujima

Bianca Butts, Greater Buckeye Cleveland, OH: Buckeye is home to lots of great people, but sadly not to a lot of fresh food. Juicing devotee Bianca decided to be the change she wanted to see in her neighborhood, and started UJIMA re-fresh, a “Buckeye born, Buckeye bred” healthy juice brand, named for the third principle of Kwanzaa: collective work and responsibility.

 

Cynthia Mendoza, Observatory Hill, North Side Pittsburgh, PA: Cynthia organized the Mastering Motherhood Outdoor Workshop, an opportunity for   moms of color   to learn tangible skills—including meal planning, home budgeting, DIY cleaning products, and meditation—to help run their homes more efficiently, healthfully, and peacefully.

 

Pigeons Itin 4

Linda Wallen, Pittsburgh, PA: An artist and three-time ioby Leader, Linda most recently gathered kids and seniors together to create whimsical ceramic pigeons and apply them to public stone and masonry surfaces in her Spring Hill neighborhood.

 

Lindsey Millar, Mayflower, AR: Editor of the Arkansas Times, Lindsey partnered with his colleagues at InsideClimate News to bring needed press coverage to an underreported ExxonMobil oil spill near Little Rock. Their reporting drew national attention to the story, which was subsequently covered by The New York Times, NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow opined: “I think the Arkansas Times should be considered for a Pulitzer for their excellent and indispensable coverage of the Mayflower oil spill.”

 

Kenny Gong, San Francisco, CA: When he was a teenager himself, Kenny led the charge to bring programming from the LYRIC Center for LGBTQQ Youth into his city’s public schools to help create a culture where no students are bullied and all know how to care for each other.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 12.43.56 PM

Karyn Williams, Samelys Lopez, & Naomi Doerner, Brooklyn, NYC: As  founders of Velo City, urban planners and cyclists Karyn, Samelys, and Naomi used cycling to engage youth  of color in thinking, talking, and acting on urban design and planning for social change. 

 

Nya Wilson, Gowanus Brooklyn, NYC: As Communications Coordinator of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC), Nya led the effort to raise over $28,000 to buy the GCC its own truck for hauling compost, gardening tools, planters, and volunteers between its worksites. GCC works with STEW-MAP (a map and searchable database of the thousands of NYC civic groups engaging in environmental projects) to connect with other community stewardship organizations.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 12.58.34 PM

Troy Lancaster, South Bronx, NYC: For over a decade, Troy has been making sure the avian patrons of the Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary get the food and shelter they need during the cold months, whether they’re migrating south or staying put for the winter.

 

Martha Lopez-Gilpin & Jules Corkery, Astoria Queens, NYC: Co-founders of Astoria Park Alliance, Martha and Jules have spent years advocating for (and winning) car-free programming and better trash cans in the park, both of which have elevated their neighbors’ quality of life.

 

 

Joyce  Moore & Justin Garrett Moore, Indianapolis, IN: This mother-and-son team co-founded Urban Patch with one simple but powerful mission: to help make the American inner city better. They have developed, funded, and implemented many urban gardening, housing preservation, and education programs in their native Indianapolis—and they kicked off We Started Here, ioby’s multimedia storytelling series.

 

Donovan Finn, Jackson Heights Queens, NYC: Founded ten years ago by Donovan and seven of his neighbors who were concerned about their lack of nearby park space, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance spearheaded a Play Street that closed 78th Street to traffic in the summer months. Their efforts have since blossomed into the year-round 78th Street Plaza, a place for public recreation, concerts, and a greenmarket.

 

Stacey Murphy, Brooklyn, NYC: Stacey founded BK Farmyards, a cooperative of urban farmers in Brooklyn dedicated to social justice through urban agriculture. Her team has helped to create over an acre of new farmyards in Brooklyn.

 

Anne Pope & Sheryll Durrant, Flatbush Brooklyn, NYC: Anne founded and directs Sustainable Flatbush; Sheryll led its Urban Farm and Garden Program and community outreach efforts before becoming the manager of the Kelly Street Garden in the Bronx. In both communities, they bring people together to learn about and advocate for sustainable living in their neighborhoods and beyond.

 

Carlos Velásquez, Boyle Heights Los Angeles, CA: Carlos led the Multicultural Communities for Mobility project “Nuestra Avenida: Cesar Chavez Reimagined,” an activation of the vibrant corridor in Boyle Heights that helped spark community interest in what their neighborhood could be like.

 

Jennifer Lytton-Hirsch, St. George Staten Island, NYC: Jennifer and her cohorts at the Community Association of Tompkinsville Park Promoting Fun and Whimsy organize the St. George Day Festival, a come-all event that celebrates community, resource sharing, peaceful conflict resolution, and the appreciation of our natural resources.

 

Oren Yaniv, Kensington Brooklyn, NYC: A member of the Prospect Farm community garden, Oren is working to turn a former industrial lot into a healthy food-producing mecca for his neighborhood.

 

Douglas Purviance, East Harlem, NYC: Did you know that Grammy-winning jazz trombonist Douglas also volunteers with Planting Hope, a gardening program for at-risk youth in East Harlem? Well, now you do.

 

Michalyn Easter, North Memphis, TN: Michalyn helped to give North Memphians an official voice in the development of their neighborhood’s 2.5-mile Chelsea Greenline. Then she started a 311 phone banking group that meets regularly to make service requests to the city, improving residents’ health, safety, and quality of life.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 4.13.26 PM

Betsy MacLean & Yanet Rojas, NYC: Betsy worked with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation and The Peoples Food Project (PFP) to turn a vacant lot into Pollos del Pueblo (The People’s Chickens), a place for residents to get fresh organic eggs, learn about urban agriculture, and congregate as a community. Yanet, a passionate community gardener and beloved neighbor, passed away in 2015. Among her many other lasting contributions, she led PFP in the Pollos del Pueblo project.

 

Lyla June Johnston, Black Hills, SD: Leading a team of 50-plus volunteers, Lyla (a poet and musician herself) organizes the  annual Black Hills Unity Concert to join native and non-native people alike in prayers for reconciliation, celebrations of unity, protests against injustice, and songs of hope.

 

image1 (7)

Danny D. Glover, Macon, GA: After watching the family and community gardens of his childhood disappear, Danny decided to open Georgia’s first urban “agrihood,” a neighborhood designed with large-scale community agriculture at its heart. In Danny’s case, that means transforming 12 disused parcels of land in Southside Macon into five acres of urban farmland.

 

Paula Z. Segal, NYC: Paula says she founded 596 Acres “accidentally” in 2011, but we’re more apt to call it “serendipitously.” The organization helps make communities aware of the land resources around them, and champions resident stewardship of land to build more just and equitable cities.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 12.55.08 PM

Alexandra Payne, Newark, NJ: SWAG Project, an urban farming, food justice, and educational endeavor in Newark’s South Ward, was co-founded by Alexandra as a community-driven effort to mitigate the underlying challenges that worsen inequality—most specifically, a lack of great local food, and residents who don’t know one another.

 

Hadley Arnold, Van Nuys Los Angeles, CA: To bring her neighbors together with cyclists and designers to reimagine Van Nuys Boulevard at its fullest potential, Hadley spearheaded “Connect the Dots | Van Nuys.” The project boosted residents’ involvement in solving her city’s transit, public space, and water-supply problems.

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.27.40 AM

Reverend Leah Lewis, J.D., Cleveland, OH: Why has a person’s complexion become such a hallmark for anger, fear, sociopathology, separation, and oppression? Reverend Leah is delving into these questions to dispel misconceptions, find common ground, and promote racial healing.

 

Melissa Wong & Sandra Hong, East Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY: Seeking a physical (not online) place to meet, connect, and start new conversations amid the hustle and bustle of NYC, Melissa and Sandra founded New Women Space. In its first year, the venue hosted over 100 unique events organized by groups with different interests but the shared value of inclusivity.

 

Yancy Villa-Calvo, Memphis, TN: Barrier Free is Yancy’s socially engaged public art installation about the impact of barriers. A direct response to the Border Wall proposal and other policies that threaten to divide vulnerable Latino families, it asks residents to participate by imagining that a loved one of their own has gone missing, and by sharing their dreams for a barrier-free world.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 4.07.39 PM

Robert Gatewood, Collinwood Cleveland, OH: To help gamers and non-gamers dispel the stereotypes they often hold about one another, Robert is creating Full Spectrum: GamerHaven, a creative space that will blend coworking, education, and tech in a friendly environment that encourages people to learn, work, and play together.

 

Layman Lee, Brownsville Brooklyn, NYC: For Make Music Brownsville, Layman and her team recruited local musicians to perform on the ultimate public stage—the sidewalk—to celebrate their neighborhood, the reopening of a local youth-run farmers market, and the area’s green spaces.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 5.16.39 PM

Sarah Newstok, Memphis, TN: Sarah, led both a $500 campaign to outfit a dangerous intersection with crosswalk flags as well as a $68,000 campaign to fund The Hampline, the celebrated two-mile bike and walking trail that links several Memphis neighborhoods and allows residents to more safely and easily access many city amenities.

 

Ade Neff, Leimert Park Village Los Angeles, CA: When Ade, an avid cyclist, found there was no affordable place within eight miles of his home to make his own bike repairs, learn about bikes and bike routes, or meet fellow cyclists, he founded the Ride On! Bike Co-Op to offer one.

 

 

Marie Singleton, Lithonia, GA: Marie went above and beyond her regular volunteer work at Lithonia City Hall to raise money to improve a downtown bus stop with simple touches like a bench and trash can, and with a public event that helped draw attention to the many other much-needed transit upgrades in her bus-dependent community.

 

Tanisha Douglas & Caitlin Gibb, North Miami, FL & NYC: Tanisha and Caitlin founded S.O.U.L. Sisters (Sister Organizing for Understanding and Leadership), a collective that works to empower young, at-risk women of color to interrupt cycles of poverty and violence.

 

Binh Dam, Atlanta, GA: As a newcomer to Atlanta, Binh was disappointed to find bus timetables were often absent from downtown bus stops, so he raised funds to install temporary schedules at several of them. This relatively small effort led to something much greater when he became a founding member of MARTA Army, an innovative new citizen group that works with the city’s transit agency to improve the rider experience across the system. The MARTA Army was critical to supporting new transit riders when i-85 collapsed.

 

Daniel Peterson, Memphis, TN: A lifelong basketball devotee, Daniel knows firsthand the huge positive impact a refurbished basketball court can have on individuals and neighborhoods. Now his organization Project Backboard is on a mission to—quickly and cheaply—gussy up all 52 of Memphis’s public basketball courts.

 

Misty Iwatsu, North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA: Misty led FIG JAM, a free, family‑friendly, educational, and cultural event that honored her community’s rich heritage while creating buzz and neighbor-generated visions for its promising future.

 

Blaze Jones-Yellin, Far Rockaway Queens, NYC: As Eastern Regional Coordinator of the Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) Ambassadors, Blaze leads high school students in helping NYC residents build healthy coastal ecosystems to protect against storms and rising sea levels.

 

Jane Weissman, Lower East Side, NYC: Jane led an ioby campaign for “La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017,” an exhibition and series of public programs commemorating 26 political murals painted in 1985 and 1986 on New York City’s Lower East Side that portrayed six issues of acute concern to the area’s residents and the artists.

 

Mia Arias & Alba Peña, South Los Angeles, CA: These urbanists involved young people from the neighborhood in all phases of their project “YES (Youth Envisioned Streets) for a Healthier South LA,” a day-long pop-up event that demonstrated how new interventions along the neighborhood’s Central Avenue could promote healthy lifestyles and a “complete streets” philosophy.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 1.14.08 PM

Shatia Jackson & Kristen Bonardi Rapp, Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, NYC: Shatia and Kristen put their heads together to reclaim a long-vacant lot in their neighborhood—a designated food desert—and transform it into a community garden that grows food, provides a community hub, offers gardening and nutrition education, and emphasizes total inclusivity.

 

Aylene McCallum, Denver, CO: Director of Downtown Environment for the Downtown Denver Partnership by day, ioby Leader in her other waking hours, Aylene raised over $35,000 to help get her city’s Arapahoe Street Protected Bike Lane project off the ground.

 

David Eppley & Tim Thomas, Prospect Lefferts Gardens Brooklyn, NYC: Blogger Tim and artist David partnered to funnel community resources and support into refurbishing “The Flatbush Trees,” a cluster of iconic but neglected cement and sheet metal sculptures at the northern gateway to their neighborhood.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.54.54 AM

Grace Freedman, Boerum Hill Brooklyn, NYC: Tired of seeing her neighborhood’s subway station languish in decay as brownstone prices and new apartment towers rose all around it, Grace led her neighbors in a civic design pop-up event to capture improvement ideas from some of the station’s 13,000 daily users.

 

Colleen Corcoran, Los Angeles, CA: Colleen tackled the problem of L.A.’s infamous pedestrian unfriendliness through a signage system that gives walking times to local landmarks, shows the distance between neighborhoods, and—best of all—works to change the perception that Los Angeles is impossible to navigate on foot.

 

Gretchen Zalkind, Uptown New Orleans, LA: Gretchen led the fundraising effort for a lending library in her neighborhood that would allow residents to borrow tools for doing simple home maintenance tasks, tending their yards and gardens, building furniture, and learning new skills—all free of charge.

 

Eddie Bricker, Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, NYC: After residents tried for decades to access a city-owned vacant lot in their neighborhood—which is saddled with many environmental burdens—Eddie and his neighbors finally succeeded in turning the unused space into a community amenity for gardening, composting, and enjoying nature.

 

Germane Barnes, Opa-locka, FL: While Germane has a Masters of Architecture and many other design credentials, his idea to encourage bus ridership in Miami Dade County was simple, yet novel: make bus shelters that protect commuters from the hot and rainy weather, give them a place to sit while waiting, and provide them with phone charging stations. Commute = instantly better.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 10.14.32 AM

Jennifer Lyle, Detroit, MI: Using her grandfather’s recipe, fresh ingredients, and lots of love, Jennifer makes the most sought-after “lemon butta” pies in Detroit. She raised money on ioby to buy a commercial juicer that would allow her business, Lush Yummies Pie Company, to make more pies, take more orders, and hire more Detroiters.

 

Tim Kovach, Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Refugee Bike Project, Tim’s brainchild, is providing newly settled refugees with bikes and bike training, giving them an economic lifeline to new employment, educational, and social opportunities in Northeast Ohio.

 

image3

Naomi Montalvo, Elizabeth, NJ: Teacher Naomi built what’s become known as “the most popular pre-k garden club ever” at her school. Her students love growing plants and watching wildlife come out to play, while they learn about the vital importance of pollinators.

 

Joan Southgate & Jeanne Van Atta, Cleveland, OH: This retired social worker and a volunteer from the nonprofit she created joined forces to fund new research into the history of the Underground Railroad in Cleveland.

 

Melissa Henao-Robledo & Sara Partridge, East Riverside Austin, TX: Two landscape architects leveraged their expertise to design and implement a bus shelter/community garden/rainwater collection structure in their drought-plagued city.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 10.55.49 AM

Randy King, Cleveland, OH: At 16, Randy started the Cleveland Bike Library, a bike sharing program that combats climate change, encourages healthy habits, and promotes independence of mobility by giving students the chance to ride a bike to and from their public school.

 

Karen & Mike Minnis, Orange Mound Memphis, TN: Karen and Mike have won the state of Tennessee’s Small Farmer Of The Year Award for their Landmark Farmers Market. With its produce, they also run a neighborhood food pantry.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.46.53 AM

Melvin Parson, Ann Arbor, MI: He didn’t set out to become a farmer, or a one-man LLC, but now Melvin is growing his We The People Growers Association to cover more square footage, grow more healthy and delicious food, and provide more jobs to his neighbors in Ypsilanti County—especially men and women who are returning from incarceration.

 

Cynthia Connolly, Cleveland, OH: Cynthia is a delegate to the Native American Cultural Garden in Cleveland, and is raising funds (as we speak!) to restore the garden to pre-contact times, using native Ohio plants, as well as sustainable construction and maintenance practices.

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 10.03.45 AM

Veronica Vasquez, Lower East Side, NYC: 17-year-old Veronica wants to dash the stigma of living in public housing and give her neighbors “something to be proud of” in their own backyards, by creating a community garden on the grounds of her Manhattan apartment building.

 

Jorge Cubas, Mott Haven South Bronx, NYC: South Bronx Farmers Market board member Jorge led an ioby campaign to open the market more often to residents of the poorest congressional district in the country, where almost fifty percent of children live below the poverty line.

 

Ivette Lopez Bledsoe, 39 miles of Northeast Georgia: After moving from her native Georgia and enjoying the pleasures of a Colorado greenway for nearly two decades, social worker and health counselor Ivette decided to lead the charge to raise over $60,000 on ioby to jump-start the construction of the 39-mile Firefly Trail, which will one day link the towns of Athens, Maxeys, and Union Point.

 

Nina Mohammed, San Bernardino, CA: Nina raised almost $10,000 on ioby to support the San Bernardino Bicycle Hubitat, a program she directs that offers bikes and bike repair tools and education to the the 200-plus people in her area who ride a bicycle to and from the San Bernardino Transit Hub on a daily basis.

 

Brandon Seng, Traverse City, MI: Michigan Farm to Freezer, Brandon’s small business, takes the age-old practice of preserving the summer’s bounty for enjoying in the winter and partners with Goodwill Industries to employ workers returning from incarceration, recovering from addiction, or transitioning from homelessness.

 

Fay Hill, Springfield Gardens Queens, NYC: Fay says she’s busier than ever in her retirement. Case in point: last year, she led an ioby campaign to fuel a holiday coat, clothing, and toy drive for underserved children in her neighborhood—all gifts to be given at the annual tree lighting in their local Springfield Park.

 

Piper Carter, Detroit, MI: Piper, creator of The Foundation of Women in Hip Hop, also organizes Dilla Youth Day, an annual community event honoring one of Detroit’s most prolific music producers, J Dilla. This year, she raised money on ioby to bring thestudioArena Mobile Maker Space to the event: a place for young people to get hands-on experience with creative technologies like 3D printing, computer programming, and robotics.

 

Lucille White, Cleveland, OH: As a veteran crossing guard grandmother of 19 (!) who’s lost lost two nieces to hit-and-runs, “Miss Lucille” cares deeply about the wellbeing of the young people in her neighborhood. That’s why she convened a dozen middle and high school students to help design and implement desperately needed traffic calming interventions in their community.

 

Alina Bloomgarden & Wynton Marsalis, Rikers Island, The Bronx, NYC: Yes, THAT Wynton Marsalis, in partnership with Alina, the originating producer of Jazz at Lincoln Center, founded Music on the Inside to bring the rehabilitative power of music to young men and women living in New York City’s main jail complex.

 

Sarah McEwen, Hinds County, MS: With her teammates at Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model, Sarah is leading the preservation of this unique and historic scale replica of the basin—which German POWs helped to construct, and which advanced the field of hydraulic engineering—for future generations.

 

Joyce McMillan, East Harlem, NYC: Joyce led the Child Welfare Organizing Project in upgrading their kitchen facilities so they could partner with the Food Bank for New York City and offer healthier food to the families who attend their programs.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 1.08.15 PM

Avital Aboody, San Diego, CA: Through a combination of observation, research, and just plain asking around, Avital secured an underutilized parcel of land in a commercial district that she and her neighbors revamped into a beautiful community space for play, leisure, and gardening.

 

Chi-Ming Yang, West Philadelphia, PA: Chi-Ming organized an ioby campaign to raise money—and interest—for The Mill Creek Farm, a half-acre educational urban farm that grows organic produce for residents at affordable prices, and accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for payment.

 

George Wolfe, Los Angeles, CA: With his organization L.A. River Expeditions, George is transforming public perceptions about, and access to, nature in his city by offering recreational-educational boating adventures for kids down the Los Angeles River.

 

 

Karen Golightly, North Midtown Memphis, TN: Her genuine and abiding interest in street art has given Karen a place at the male-dominated Memphis graffiti-writers’ table—even though she’s an over-40, white mom of three. Working together as a team of more than 60, they created Memphis’s largest collaborative mural, beautifying a drab flood wall and breathing new life into the neighborhood they share.

 

Signe Mortensen, West Harlem NYC: Signe works with the West Harlem Empowerment Coalition to bring annual Empowerment Fairs to the neighborhood. The fairs connect youth and families with vital local resources—and are so effective, other neighborhoods are replicating them.

 

Deborah Frazier, North Memphis, TN: Deborah and her team at Sew Much Love provide homeless women with barriers to traditional employment the skills to create, design, market, and sell their own creative products, helping them achieve self-confidence and financial stability.

 

Steve Cunningham, Jersey City, NJ: Team Wilderness is the experiential summer program Steve founded to help underserved local high school students find confidence in themselves, consideration for their peers, and passion for the natural environment.

Thelma Thomas, Eartha Corker, & Maria Flowers, East Harlem NYC: This trio put their green thumbs together to build a garden on the grounds of their public housing complex’s senior center that would beautify the block, discourage littering, and provide fresh produce to residents.




AWESOME PROJECT: We The People Growers’ Association

Melvin Parson, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, never planned to be a farmer. In fact, he’d never even had the faintest interest in gardening until fate struck a few years ago. “This wonderful lady named Verna,” Parson remembers, “who got around in a motorized wheel chair, passed away in 2013. And she was a prolific gardener, and she had a raised vegetable bed. I’d lived in the neighborhood for four years and never thought about growing a vegetable. It didn’t cross my mind. But in the spring of 2014, her vegetable bed landed in my lap. I’m like ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ So I just kind of rolled with it. And I remember being out there cleaning out her vegetable bed that spring, and I could feel Verna’s spirit come over me. And I’m like ‘Verna, look, you know I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m gonna do the best I can in honor of you.’”

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.47.18 AM

[Melvin Parson]

The squirrels and rabbits ate all of that first harvest, but Parson’s interest was piqued. He wanted to know more about where his food came from, and so started visiting the Ann Arbor farmer’s market. “I’d be down there for an hour,” he laughs, “trying to figure out what a radish was, or a beet or zucchini, and I saw nobody that looked like me, meaning African-American. And then I looked around at those who were selling me my food, and they didn’t look like me either. I’m a firm believer that either you got a seat at the table or your ass is on the menu, and it felt in that moment that the universe said to me ‘Melvin, I want you to have a seat here.’”

Ever since, Parson’s been committed to securing not only a seat at the sustainable ag table, for himself and for his community, but also a voice. “I’ve realized,” he muses, “that I automatically lock in on places where I’m excluded, where I don’t see me or my female counterpart.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.46.53 AM

[Melvin Parson with farm volunteers]

taking a seat at the table

For Parson, taking a seat at the table looks like this: We The People Growers Association (WTPGA), an evolving farm/one-man LLC devoted to growing fresh nourishment in the food desert of Ypsilanti County. He’s already exceeded his ioby fundraising goal, raising $5,378 towards the building of new storage bins for food and supplies, towards marketing and promotion, and towards the hiring of WTPGA’s first  employee – a man recently returned from incarceration.

“I spent thirteen years of my life in prison,” says Parson, “and maybe that many years battling substance abuse. I’ve been sober now for a little over seven years, and I have no idea how I got here, other than the fact that along the way, people didn’t give up on me. And I know what it’s like to come home from incarceration. There’s no jobs. It seemed like the ideal population to intentionally try and help to move the needle.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.47.03 AM

[Future farmers]

That doesn’t mean We The People will only be working with the formerly incarcerated – they’ll work with youth, with senior groups, with neighbors. Every garden and farm WTPGA works will belong as much to the community as to the organization itself. Parson loves it when children stop by to ask questions.

Parson’s favorite veggie to grow? He doesn’t waste one second answering that question. “Peppers!,” he says. “And the reason why is because I found out I’m a forager – I like to forage. With peppers you have to almost forage, right, cause there’s so many of them, and you have to move the leaves back and look for the ones that are ready. So it taps into all of that for me.” It’s  the pleasure of having to look a little harder for something good. It’s what Parson is doing with WTPGA, too.

“Farming is all about the soil,” Parson explains. “The soil is everything. You can be the best farmer in the world, but if your soil’s not good, your yield’s not gonna be good. But if you get your plants in the right soil, they’re gonna flourish. I think that about human beings, too. You put a human being in the right soil, and they’re gonna flourish as well. And that’s what I want to focus on with We The People, is changing the soil.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.47.31 AM

and plans to grow and plans to grow

It doesn’t stop with WTPGA’s current six veggie beds in Ypsilanti County, loaned to the organization by a wonderful local church – Parson is in negotiations with an empty school in the area, and hoping to take possession of both land and building to create a large urban farm. Picture five acres of land, cooking classes, wellness workshops, and plenty of indoor space for processing the farm’s herbs and honey.

“We’re I’ll be is a total food desert,” says Parson, “there’s nothing out there.” That’s ok. He knows how to be patient. The appreciation of fresh, local food, is something he knows how to gently cultivate over time. And to get the neighborhood’s attention, he’s going to light up a gigantic pine tree in front of the school, when the holidays roll around, and decorate it with multi-cultural nativity scenes.  Sounds alright to us. Follow WTPGA’s progress and happenings at their Facebook page, right here.

Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? 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’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Have a great idea, but feel like you need a blueprint to get you started? Or a recipe to follow? We’ve got you covered. Check out some of our very best recipes for change, here.