Category Archives: Meet Vision

Q&A: Nashville’s Chief Data Officer on the parallels between crowdfunding and the Open Data movement


Three-time ioby Leader Robyn Mace  raised  the money, buy-in, and manpower needed to convert a neglected lot adjacent to her family’s Memphis home into a flood-ready  rain garden, butterfly sanctuary, and community space. That grassroots work – with its ups and downs – has informed the groundbreaking work she does on open data, in her day job as Nashville’s Chief Data Officer.

The Open Data movement is a relatively new one. Born about a decade ago, it first took hold in big cities like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Philly, and Boston, and is spreading beyond. City officials who specialize in open data are interested in making public data just that – public. Available for all to see and to use. They’re interested in the democratization of city data, seeking to engage as many people as possible, and ensure complete digital inclusion. We talked with Mace about some of the sweet spots where crowdfunding and open data overlap.

 

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[Photo by Jamie Harmon]

 

How did your ioby project, the Evergreen Rain Garden, come about?

Well, I had thought about it for a long time, because my family owns that house, and everyone in the neighborhood blamed us for not maintaining the lot next door, even though it wasn’t ours. So when I moved there in 2013, I felt it was incumbent on me to start to address that.

When  people realize that the City owned the lot, and that there was something we could do about it, that’s when it really took off. I approached the neighborhood association, and they were instrumental in getting the sidewalks rebuilt, but we couldn’t get any kind of agreement with the City for the garden. We had offered to pay liability and get a Memorandum of Understanding with them, and basically they never followed up with us. So it left me in a position of either having to maintain a really big grass lot, or figure out an alternative. I’m a Master Gardener, and I was a member of the Garden Club, as well as I’d approached the Evergreen Historic District Association Board. The more volunteers worked in the garden, the more people were interested in supporting that work.

 

Did the project bring people together?

Absolutely. Instead of having an ugly lot and impassable sidewalk, now we had four beautiful garden beds, and a really pleasant and interesting landscape to walk by. You’d see people talking in the garden, or people would pull over to talk on the phone. It’s just a lovely focal point, and it’s just nice to not have it look ratty, frankly.

 

“The ioby project reinvigorated me, and really helped me understand the importance of civic engagement, and how residents  and municipal employees can work together”

 

What’s your focus, as Nashville’s Chief Data Officer, and does your experience on the ground with crowdfunding ever sneak in?

Municipal data, for the most part, is publicly owned, and the idea is that by opening the public data access, we can help citizens understand what is happening in their government. Traditionally, cities haven’t been so great at using the data that they have and collect. I think Washington DC had the first open data portal in 2006, and it’s been sort of a movement since then. So it’s about transparency and accountability but also citizen engagement, in terms of giving people  the ability to identify trends and patterns around different types of services and activities that they’re particularly interested in.

The ioby process and doing a project really helped me better understand how to use community engagement to drive good outcomes. We work closely with the civic tech community, and now  I’m  trying to think about how to engage and deploy residents  in  data visualization and analysis.

 

Does your crowdfunding experience make you more prone to see little pockets of opportunity, as you look at Nashville?

Absolutely. Even though I’m a city official, recognizing the important of being able to be agile and do tactical urbanism is pretty important. One of the things we learned from the development community is you don’t try to design and implement a full-blown program; what you need to do is  deploy and see what works and what doesn’t, and then try again, and try again. So it’s in some respects  introducing the ability to fail, because we’re trying different things. It’s a huge paradigm shift. And so in thinking about the ioby project, it’s  the same kind of engagement: how do we get the results we want, in small, incremental steps?

I had worked for municipal government before, and done a lot of advising and training of municipal employees. The ioby project reinvigorated me, and really helped me understand the importance of civic engagement, and how residents  and municipal employees can work together on problems that they both identified, maybe with different interests or concerns. This has made it so much easier for me to work with the civic tech community.

 

Why is it important for cities to be willing to experiment, fail, and try again?

The problems are so big and so complex,  you can’t expect that you can fix them right away. You have to understand that complex problems require multiple partners and complex solutions. And you don’t get to those with the same business as usual approach. It’s  a big risk politically. At the same time, it’s really important to engage citizens and have them understand the complexity of issues that are faced as well as the fiscal issues. Because once you help people understand the dynamic, they can set their own expectations and decide how much they’re going to participate. And even understanding that they have avenues and ways to participate is critically important.

 

For those in the crowdfunding sphere who are new to open data and want to explore, what’s a good first step?

Just go to your open data portal, and start to click around. Traditionally, governments have been taking information, keeping it in a black box, making decisions, and then providing information on demand. And Open Data basically says that public information is going to be open by default, and we’re going to share it with you, because we want you to know what’s going on, and we want you to have input into the processes, because this is your government.

 

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: Do you have a project in mind for your neighborhood? Hesitating on getting started, because you need a green light from city officials, and you’re loath to ask? Fear not! ioby Action Corps is here! Click over here to learn from the pros about “getting to yes” with city officials. If they did it, so can you.

We Started Here: The Ones Who Stayed

This story is part of the We Started Here project, an ioby multimedia storytelling series exploring the work of neighborhood leaders across the country. Video and photography by Dan Lane and Erin Moore of GoodEye Video. Written by Tobin Hack.

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When Justin Moore thinks of his grandfather, he sees him hard at work on a “project,” pouring and forming concrete in the driveway or repairing a fence. Never sitting still. He sees his grandfather, nicknamed “Speedy,” teaching kids – not just his own grandkids, but whoever would come around and listen – how to do a thing well.

“He was always teaching people how to do something right,” Justin says. Doing a thing right meant quality, and investing in the long term, and making sure you wouldn’t find yourself having to make repairs in a month’s time. Doing a thing right meant ensuring that the future would not inherit your mistakes or oversights.

Justin’s grandfather Mr. Robert Leslie Edwards, was a sort of neighborhood patriarch, and one of the first Black residents in the inner-city Falls Creek section of Indianapolis, then a predominantly white neighborhood. He was a man of character, as they say, and he wasn’t alone. When Justin thinks of his grandfather, he also, invariably, sees at his side Mr. Mote – a “block captain” who often rallied the community for alley cleanups and other joint efforts, convincing you that picking up the neighborhood’s trash was precisely what you wanted to be doing on your Saturday afternoon. Mr. Mote, still alive today, was another neighborhood patriarch, and a white counterpart of sorts to Justin’s grandfather. Both men were WWII veterans. Both were small in stature. Both were can-do figures who meant business, and loved their town fiercely.

 

 

For better or for worse

So when Justin came along in the late 1970s, the baby of a family headed by his well-educated, working-class mother and father, he was born into a long tradition of working in the community. He grew up steeped in it, his parents’ dedication to the inner city neighborhoods they grew up in – Mapleton Fall Creek and Meridian Kessler – so great that even when the neighborhoods took a turn in the mid-1990s, falling prey to disinvestment, gun violence, drugs, and mandatory busing, they stayed.

And stayed.

 

Justin Moore

It got so bad that at one point the house on one side of the Moores’ home was abandoned, and the house on the other side taken over by leaders of a massive drug ring. When the inevitable bust finally happened, it was major. Justin remembers 20 police cars outside, and helicopters circling overhead. “I remember thinking, ok, we’ve got to get out of here,” he says.

Even friends gave Justin’s parents flak for staying in harm’s way. Justin’s older brother, Jason, an honor-roll student and model of teenage responsibility, was at one point stopped and harassed by the police. It was too much, said the Moores’ friends. If you could afford to leave, they argued, then you had no business staying. These words fell on deaf ears.

“My mom would always say, ‘well, that’s the problem! People leave instead of staying and making things better!’ They definitely were people who thought it was important to stay and remain a part of your community,” says Justin.

“For me,” explains Justin’s mother, Joyce Moore, “it wasn’t a hard decision to stay, because I grew up in the neighborhood, and I’ve always lived in the inner city, and I’ve always felt that the way you change things is to make sure that your little corner is better. When we went out and fixed up the yard, everybody else went out and fixed up their yard. When we put up a basketball hoop, the kids came over and played, and they got to see my husband and sons play, and he’d be a role model for those who didn’t have fathers, you know. When the cherry tree was bearing fruit, I would let the kids pick cherries and we’d go to my kitchen and bake some pies. Just to let them see that it’s a good neighborhood.”

 

Joyce Moore

It’s the sort of work a person couldn’t do remotely, no matter how much they cared. Joyce has been known to break up fights between adolescent girls, for example. “One of the parents cussed me out,” she says, “but the fight was stopped, and later on they would call and apologize.” She’s been known to teach neighborhood kids to stop making fun of – and finally, respect and appreciate – a local man (nicknamed “Radio Raheem” by Joyce, after a character in Spike Lee’s 1989 classic, Do The Right Thing) who’s mentally handicapped and often stands on a corner, dancing and singing to songs on his radio. She once politely confronted a neighbor about a stolen mini-bike, and got it back within days – no authorities involved.

“Sometimes,” she declares, gentle yet firm, “you just have to take things in your own hands. You just have to lay hands on and let people know you care.”

Another reason Joyce would never leave is her front porch. “Front porches are another communication means,” she explains, a note of tenderness in her voice. “You sit on your front porch in the summer, and you communicate with people. In the suburbs, everything is in the back: you drive in your garage, close the door, and that’s it.”

 

John Moore

And so, through it all, the Moores have stayed, building a marriage of sort with their neighborhood. Through it all, their door remained open, unlocked. “They’ve never been robbed,” says Justin. “They’ve never had a problem, because they’re who they are in the community.” Meanwhile, gunshots rang out. Drugs took their toll. Beautiful old historic houses went to ruin.

“My mom would always joke,” remembers Justin, “and say ‘you’ll see, they will all come back. It’s a matter of time that the neighborhood will turn around’.” She’s waiting still, firm as ever, and not passively, either.

 

Crossing over to activism

Today, the family runs an organization called Urban Patch, a social enterprise that uses a “past forward” approach to bring yesterday’s rich history and Greatest Generation ideals into the future of the American inner city community, through urban gardening, housing preservation, food justice work, education, strides toward green infrastructure, and more.

 

Joyce Moore and neighbor

It would be impossible to separate the roots put down by Justin’s grandfathers from the later flowering of Justin’s parents’ activism in the neighborhood – the two are part of the same organism – but the external trigger that Justin remembers as first drawing his parents into true activism was the slew of injustices poisoning the Indy school system when he was a boy.

“A polite way to say it,” explains Justin, “is that there’s a battle for the inner city going on.” It started when the Moores – along with many other Black families who lived in Mapleton-Fall Creek and Meridian Kessler – were told that, as part of a larger reorganization of the busing and school systems, they would no longer walk the five minutes to their longtime local schools, (Shortridge High School and School #60 and School #66), but instead be bused upwards of forty-five minutes to various schools on the outskirts of the city. Justin was young, but he remembers the toll it took on his older brother, who suddenly found himself spending a good portion of the day being trucked out to an inferior school. Quality of life and quality of education shot, in one fell swoop. It was outrageous, but most locals – who for years had known Shortridge as the cornerstone of their walking community – didn’t know they had a right to stand up for themselves. It was, as Justin explains, part of a long and duplicitous history of northern American cities actively directing resources away from Black inner-city communities.

 

Justin Moore and neighbors

The Moores, naturally, did not sit and take it. They jumped in and got involved. Joyce called neighborhood association meetings. Justin’s dad, a computer programmer, ran analytics on the system’s finances, exposing lies about where money was really going, and why. The battle is ongoing; Justin, now an urban planner and Columbia University professor, recently visited his old School #60, and was shocked to note that though the neighborhood is still largely Black, the student population is today overwhelmingly white.

 

A food desert in the heart of an agricultural epicenter

Urban Patch also takes on issues around food scarcity; grocery stores within walking distance of the neighborhood have been closing, even as Shortridge School undergoes an expensive and highly segregating makeover, and longtime residents are being left in the lurch.

In June of 2015, the last of the neighborhood’s few mediocre grocery stores closed. Bus lines had been eliminated, young families with kids had moved out. Neighborhood disinvestment had continued to effect yet another instance of the terrible, slow erosion that has claimed so many American inner-city, minority communities. It was a final straw, not just for Joyce, but for many who attended the emergency meeting she called, in partnership with local churches.

“When the groceries closed,” she explains, “there were all these meetings about it, and everyone was trying to figure out what to do. All these stores were in inner city, minority neighborhoods. And it really wasn’t a good store, because it basically sold expired foods, and the stores were terrible in terms of cleanliness. But that’s all we had. So when they decided to close down, everybody’s reaction was ‘oh, there’s a crisis!’ Well, there was a crisis already.”

 

Joyce Moore with strawberry

Joyce’s response to the crisis, as always, has been as organized and rigorous as it is passionate. Get her talking about the Oasis Project she and Justin announced soon after the recent closings; and she’ll keep the conversation right on track until she’s sure you’re crystal clear as to what her short, mid, and long-term plans are (nutrition education, revamping local dollar stores, bringing in a bodega and food carts, and finally, a big grocery store or co-op) for bringing healthy, accessible food back to the community she loves so fiercely.

Lots of locals are involved in the food security issue, but Joyce is the only one who’s been to most of the meetings so far. She’s the glue, keeping everyone in touch and up to date. Even local farmers, one of whom told Joyce that he’s forced to discard 40% of what he grows. As Joyce explains, “there’s a lot of stuff that’s absolutely nutritious and good, but the tomato might not be round, or the cucumber may be undersized. We’re trying to create a market for these farmers.” Safe to say that she won’t rest until all those lovely, asymmetrical fruits and veggies are making their way onto the plates of her neighbors.

 

How many neighbors does it take to paint three gigantic sunflowers?

Moores sunflower mural

If you ask Justin which, of all of Urban Patch’s projects, is his favorite, he’ll answer without hesitation. It’s the big, gorgeous sunflower mural that his family helped to bring to Fall Creek Gardens – a green space initiated by the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation as a part of their 20/21 Vision Plan and LEED ND designation, where all sorts of canning classes and stone soup events were already happening. Justin loves the mural for the big, bright, inclusive way that it brought everyone in the neighborhood together, from the 100 people who voted on the design to the Shortridge School art teachers and students who helped out, to his own brother, John, the artist who created the mural. It was all hands on deck.

“I think that was a project where, to the best degree we kind of used everyone’s talents and creativity in a way that everyone in the community got to be a part of it very directly. Everyone loves that mural,” Justin says proudly. “I mean everyone loves that mural.” It’s a perfect example, for him, of how creative, deliberate, inclusive placemaking can absolutely change the way a neighborhood feels to the people who live there, and make it home.

Incidentally, did you know that sunflowers, as well as being symbols of cheer and joy, are incredibly powerful when it comes to removing toxins and heavy metals from contaminated soil, leaving it cleaner for future gardeners? Could they have chosen a more perfect metaphor?

 

A million blossoms in spring

The Moores have stayed in place, but they haven’t stopped moving. And they’ve motivated many of their neighbors to join them in motion. “All hands on deck is something that needs to become a way of life over time and across generations in that neighborhood,” says Justin.

 

Moores on porch

One of the most exciting moves toward that goal that Urban Patch has in the works at the moment is the Redbud Project: an annual Indiana Redbud tree festival (hundreds of trees have been planted, hundreds more on the way) that they hope will bring the neighborhood into full and vibrant bloom. Justin wants to see it become the kind of festival that people from Indy and even beyond put onto their calendars every year. The kind of thing you plan to see every spring. The kind of thing you plan to bring your mother to. The kind of thing that redefines a neighborhood, not rewriting the story – not trying to undo what’s been done – but adding a new, beautiful chapter.

What’s the motivation? It must be said that there is a degree to which the Moores are motivated by fear of the new inequalities gentrification often brings with it. Fear that the neighborhood will be made “better,” but that its most vulnerable residents will be displaced. “Our big fear,” says Justin, with an unmistakable note of grief in his voice, “is that the neighborhood becomes a place that is not for everyone.” It’s not, as he points out, an unfounded fear, but he and his family are letting it motivate rather than paralyze them.

 

Doing a thing right

Case in point: the next trick Joyce has up her sleeves is a deceptively simple idea. This summer, she hopes to bring the neighborhood together to have what she calls a “conversation people in this country don’t want to have.” That is, a conversation about race. She’s a member of a Jewish and Black women’s group, and hopes to bring their open, communication-driven ethos to the larger community. Everyone will be invited, all comments will be heard, and no one will be shamed.

How is Joyce going to keep the space so safe? “We’re gonna do it over food!” she explains. “People love to eat. It’ll be food and art, because those are two things that can open a conversation.” Crazy ideas, surely, will be aired. Prejudiced ideas. Unfair ideas. Loving ideas. Innovative ideas. Get it all out there, says Joyce, and then move on from there. It’s about doing a thing right, just as Justin’s grandfather always taught. Doing it the hard, right way, for the long term. Trusting that the future will prove worthy of one’s best efforts.

 

Justin and Joyce

If Joyce could snap her fingers and create her ideal situation in Indy, what would it be? “That would be for the city to create microloans for entrepreneurs to start their own businesses in the community, at a low interest rate, with some kind of support to make sure they’re successful. And to get back to being able to walk to neighborhood schools.” She wants to see neighbors getting to know, depend on, and support each other, to the extent that they did when she was a girl. She wants to buy her groceries from a local entrepreneur, and say hello, from her porch, to children walking to school.

We think she will.

 

Greening Cities through Civic Stewardship, Crowd-Resourcing & Social Networks

A guest post by  Lindsay K. Campbell

 

Top-down. Bottom-up. These are phrases that we often hear about different ways in which decision-making and change occur. The former refers to usually government-led efforts, where elected or appointed officials at higher levels of authority render decisions that are then passed down to be implemented. If there is public engagement in a top-down setting, it usually involves government actors reaching out to citizens as stakeholders to give public comment or reactions to government-led planning and policymaking. The latter refers to grassroots action and social movements that bubble up from the public and place pressure on existing structures in order to effect change. Those targets for change can include government entities, but can also be corporations, NGOs, or broader social fields. These approaches have different strengths and weaknesses; top-down approaches can be efficient, whereas bottom-up approaches can be more inclusive.

Crowd-resourcing and crowd-funding platforms such as ioby.org and others are powerful tools for bottom-up, neighbor-led action. Ioby helps enable local leaders to develop, organize, and fund projects, from composting education projects, to creating parklets, to advocating for greenways and more. Working with my colleague Erika Svendsen at the US Forest Service and our collaborators, we call these varied forms of local engagement, “environmental stewardship” (Svendsen and Campbell 2008). We have been studying this phenomenon for the last decade in many large cities in the US, beginning first with New York City, where we conducted an assessment of nonprofit and community-based stewardship groups citywide. That assessment, known as the Stewardship Mapping or Assessment Project (or STEW-MAP) aims both to better understand civic engagement around urban environments and to create applied tools, such as maps and databases to help support that network of stewards.

 

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[Students at the High School for Public  Service in East Flatbush worked with BK Farmyards, ioby, and Green Guerillas  on  an urban farm project]

We found that there is a vibrant environmental grassroots, with close to 2,800 civic groups citywide, of which nearly one-third have budgets of under $1,000 per year and about half have no nonprofit, 501c3 status (STEW-MAP 2007; Fisher et al. 2012). Indeed, many of these civic groups either began or remain as a group of friends and neighbors who formed to address a particular issue. We believe that these practices of direct, environmental engagement through conservation, education, management, monitoring, and advocacy represent a social innovation that is changing the way we build and manage our cities. Moreover, we note that these groups are not solely environmental, or are not just “environment for environment’s sake.” Rather, they are using the improvement of the local environment as a way to support youth, seniors, safety, and public health—diverse dimensions of community well-being.

 

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[Neighbors in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn came together to build raised beds in 462 Halsey Community Garden, a lot that was vacant for almost 20 years]

Yet, it would be an oversimplification to look at bottom-up processes in a vacuum. What this framing of top-down and bottom-up misses is the prevalence of networked forms of decision-making and change that laterally cross sectors and scales. In analyzing these networks, we intend to better understand how the governance of the urban environment takes place—who are the central actors, who are more peripheral actors, and which sector or locales take the lead?   Our stewardship research found that in New York City, there are approximately a dozen professionalized, nonprofit umbrella groups that are playing a crucial brokering role, sharing information and resources between citywide public agencies and the local neighborhood grassroots (Connolly et al. 2013).

These networked relationships present novel pathways for communication and shared action, and create a more flexible, adaptive approach to governance of the urban environment. In examining the network overall, we find that these groups often cluster by ecological function (e.g. focusing on land, water, built environment) or geography (e.g. borough, neighborhood) (Connolly et al. 2014). By creating visualizations, or maps, of these networks, we can better understand the politics of decision-making—such as who the key organizations are and which relationships can become levers for change. In studying New York City, we have found that some of these networks are more government-led and centralized with prominent public policies and capital commitments (e.g. urban forestry), whereas others are more civic-led or polycentric, often taking the forms of loose coalitions (e.g. urban agriculture) (Campbell, in press).

 

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[Bushwick City Farms is a volunteer-run open space that teaches environmentally and socially responsible food production]

We also know something about what motivates individual stewards to get involved. These individuals are driven by basic, almost abiding desires to beautify or restore the landscape, to teach others, to relax and unwind, and to create or to re-establish a locus of control (Svendsen 2009). In some cases, they are triggered into action by some sort of disturbance, whether it is personal challenge (loss of a family member, loss of a job, changing neighborhood conditions) or a public crisis (natural disaster, terrorism, economic collapse)(Tidball et al. 2010; Svendsen et al. 2015). However, other stewards may be motivated by a protective instinct, out of a desire to conserve, preserve, and protect local environments that are meaningful to them. We have ongoing research with Johan Enqvist to examine relationships between sense of place and stewardship engagement to learn more about these different drivers.

 

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[Compost for Brooklyn provides free composting opportunities in community gardens and open spaces across Brooklyn]

Finally, we have not yet systematically studied how the smaller, local “cliques” or clusters within the networks form.   How does group A come to know and work with group B? Or, at the sub-group level, how did leader A come to work with member B? These are the micropolitics of local stewardship, and they are the connective tissue that allows networks to form and persist. I hypothesize that online platforms like ioby can help bring together communities of place and communities of interest in order to facilitate group formation and project development. So, for example, residents who live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn can find other New Yorkers interested in community gardening and work together to grow a network of urban greenspace advocates, educators, and resources that draws support from beyond their neighborhood boundaries. Another obvious role that crowd-resourcing sites play is to provide a communication platform and a targeted, time-delimited goal for fundraising that helps nascent groups achieve early successes. With early successes, groups may go on to tackle new efforts, to work in coalition with other groups, and to scale up from the micro to the macro – the average repeat ioby leader raises more than 400% of their original fundraising goal during their second campaign.

 

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[Pittsburgh’s Kincaid Garden is stewarded by a neighborhood group that has built out new amenities such as a Children’s Discovery Garden and little free library]

Our stewardship study was carried out before the current wave of crowd-resourcing and online tools were available to support this sort of action. As we gear up to repeat our New York City study in 2017, we are eager to detect the difference the new innovations in both civic action (e.g. online tools) and municipal action (e.g. local sustainability and resilience plans) will have had on urban environmental stewardship at the citywide scale. We have also worked with collaborators in cities including Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Juan to replicate the study – so we can begin to understand more about what varies and what is consistent in place-based stewardship in different locales.

 


 

 

Lindsay K. Campbell

ioby Board member Lindsay K. Campbell is a Research Social Scientist for the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station who is based at the New York City Urban Field Station (a partnership between the Forest Service and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation).  The NYC Urban Field Station is dedicated to improving the quality of life in urban areas by conducting and supporting research about social-ecological systems and natural resource management.  Her current research explores the dynamics of urban natural resource stewardship and sustainability policymaking.  

She is co-PI on several long term, interdisciplinary research projects, including: the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP), which maps the social networks and spatial turf of civic, government, and private actors working on environmental stewardship in New York City; the Living Memorials Project, which examines the use and stewardship of open space post-September 11; and “Landscapes of Resilience”, which examines open spaces and sacred spaces in Joplin, MO and New York City. She was a member of the NSF-funded ULTRA-EX team that examined changes in land cover, ecosystem services, and stewardship in New York City’s urban forest and was also a member of the MillionTreesNYC Advisory Committee. She is currently working on a book entitled City of Forests, City of Farms: Constructing Nature in New York City. Lindsay has a PhD in geography from Rutgers University, a Masters in City Planning from MIT, and an AB in Public Policy from Princeton University.  She is a competitive epee fencer at the international level, loves biking the streets of NYC, and lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

 

 

Works Cited: To read and download any of these publications, visit http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/nyc/pubs/

Campbell, Lindsay. Book in preparation. City of Forests, City of Farms: Constructing Nature in New York City.

Connolly, James J., Svendsen, Erika S., Fisher, Dana R., and Lindsay K. Campbell 2013. “Organizing urban ecosystem services through environmental stewardship governance in New York City.” Landscape and Urban Planning, 1-9.

Connolly, James J.T.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Fisher, Dana R.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2014. Networked governance and the management of ecosystem services: The case of urban environmental stewardship in New York City. Ecosystem Services. 10: 187-194.

Fisher, Dana R., Campbell, Lindsay K., and Erika S. Svendsen. 2012. “The Organizational Structure of Urban Environmental Stewardship.” Environmental Politics 21:1, 26-48.

Svendsen, Erika 2009. Cultivating resilience: urban stewardship as a means to improving health and well-being. In: Campbell, Lindsay; Wiesen, Anne, eds. Restorative commons: creating health and well-being through urban landscapes. Gen. Tech Rep. NRS-P-39. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 58-87.

Svendsen, Erika and Lindsay Campbell. 2008. “Understanding Urban Environmental Stewardship” Cities and the Environment 1(1): 1-32.

Svendsen, Erika S., Campbell, Lindsay K., Falxa-Raymond, Nancy, and Gillian Baine. 2015. “Urban Stewardship as a Catalyst for Recovery and Change” In Waterproofing New York, edited by Denise Hoffman Brandt and Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, pp. 104-111. Urban Research Vol. 02. New York, NY: Terreform.

Tidball, Keith G.; Krasny, Marianne E.; Svendsen, Erika; Campbell, Lindsay; Helphand, Kenneth. 2010. Stewardship, learning, and memory in disaster resilience. Environmental Education Research. 16(5-6): 591- 609.

 

 

VIDEO: Meet our 2015 Superheroes!

Meet our 2015 ioby Superheroes! These citizen leaders are doing incredible work to improve their neighborhoods and their communities. We’re truly inspired by what they’ve started.

Ade Neff of Ride On! Bike Co-op in South LA, Tanisha Douglas and Caitlin Gibb of S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective in New York and Miami, and Daniel Peterson of Project Backboard in Memphis were honored at our Annual Benefit last week, and we just couldn’t help sharing their stories.

Have your own idea to improve your neighborhood?

Drop us a line and tell us about it!

Q & A with Board Member Naomi Doerner, Cyclist & Equitable Mobility Advocate

Our On the Ground conference with Grassroots Grantmakers is just around the corner, and  we couldn’t be more excited about how this convening of grantmakers and citizen leaders is shaping up. Helping us kick off the event on the first evening will be  Naomi Doerner   Naomi is an urban planning professional with over a decade of experience in engaging communities and growing coalitions. She specializes in sustainable and active transportation planning and advocacy. Lucky for us, Naomi also recently added “ioby Board  Member” to her CV. 

We  talked to Naomi about her work  building support for walking, bicycling, and transit use;  how she began riding a bike; and why she’s excited to help push  cycling  beyond “Mr. Spandex.”

Naomi_quote

 

ioby: Why is cycling important—to you, and for communities?

Naomi: I’m a strong believer in mobility, ease, and access to places you need and want to go. For me, biking is usually the easiest way to accomplish all of those. It’s really fun and cheap, and it doesn’t take up a ton of space. Plus I love the idea of the self-determined journey.

 

ioby: What initially led you to focus on cycling ?

Naomi: When I was a kid, my mom was young and undocumented and worked a number of jobs. We didn’t have a car early on, which even then I could see limited her ability to get places. We’d walk and take the bus and eventually get where we needed to go—school, work, the library—though all of that travel time definitely limited how much she could be at home with me. Her ability to get around at all, though, did certainly aid her in taking that next, higher paying job that allowed us to get ahead. So, that’s how I know it’s so critical for cities to promote mobility options—walking, bicycling, and transit: because many people don’t have other good options, and it makes for a much more connected and accomplished city when more people have options; choices to get around. I happen to enjoy moving on two wheels.

 

ioby: When did you start biking? 

Naomi: I didn’t start biking in everyday life until I was an adult. I had a bike when I was a child, but bicycling wasn’t really a thing in my community, culturally. When my mom discovered that I was biking in my late 20s in New York City, she was a little scared.  In grad school, I started going out with a group of girlfriends—we were this pack of women of color biking together. The community and camaraderie I felt then made me so much more comfortable, and really got me hooked.

So that’s how I got into biking for myself, but the equity piece was always there; I was always a proponent of mobility. In grad school, I studied how transportation informs equity, and afterward, I worked in the public and private sectors on sustainable transportation projects and engaging people in the planning process. In a lot of the communities I worked in, I noticed the people weren’t the ones making the decisions, and the decisions makers weren’t representative of the communities. It was odd and didn’t sit right with me: here we were making all these recommendations involving communities and their public spaces—streets—and how they access public transportation, and the processes weren’t really representative! Motivated by that, some of my bicycle riding partners and I co-founded Velo City, an education initiative that empowers teens from underserved NYC neighborhoods to be ambassadors of social change in their areas. It was our contribution to shifting the paradigm by saying, “We’re professional planners and women of color: What would it mean for young people of color to identify with us? What changes would they like to see?” And we decided to create a mobile exploration of these questions; we did it all by bike. It was a real blend of education and advocacy.

Bikesplorations

ioby: In your eyes, what would the perfect city or town look like from a bicycling perspective?

Naomi: I’m not really one for utopias; I think complexities are what make places interesting. That said, I would love to see  mobility be a higher priority. A mix of options like bus rapid transit or bike share or more pedestrianized corridors. 

It’s important to make sure we’re actually connecting communities to the places they want to access—not just putting in more bike lanes and walking paths here and there, but really understanding where people are going and the ways they want to get there. The more connections people are able to make—through better walking and biking and transit infrastructure, through safer streets for all people, through accessible open spaces people can enjoy—the better. Making these things for the people who are already in the neighborhood, as well as trying to attract newcomers to it, is also important. That’s a critical balance. We need to do it for equitability as much as for economic prosperity.

Bikesplorations

ioby: Can you tell us about a favorite project or initiative you’ve worked on, and why it was so memorable?

Naomi: Other than Velo City, NOLA Women on Bikes was a big one for me. The idea came about when I saw a mini-grant opportunity from the League of American Bicyclists to address the gender gap in cycling. Our first big success was with teaching young women of color bike repair skills at local bike shops. There aren’t many women in bike professions in New Orleans, and even fewer women of color—which is crazy in a city that’s over half African American! So we wanted to cultivate greater interest among these women in all things bike-related—both for their self-sufficiency and their future employment options.

 

ioby: How have you seen urban cycling change since you’ve been on the scene?

Naomi: It’s really cool. As a planner who looks at cities as a hobby, it’s really fascinating to see bicycling become more than a conversation about infrastructure. For a long time in the planning community, it’s been most common for technical planners to talk about the technical infrastructure aspects of bike growth and amenities. So it’s been wonderfully interesting to see the focus shift to being about livability and people—not about “that protected bike lane” so much as what will make communities safer, healthier, happier. That’s a cultural shift that’s huge and exciting.

There’s acknowledgement, too, that cycling is not just for your hardcore messenger type anymore, or for Mr. Spandex. There are all different kinds of riders! Moms taking kids to school, young people popping wheelies and doing BMX tricks, young professionals riding their Linuses to work… People are seeing that it’s really about mobility, across the board.

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ioby: What’s one big thing you’ve learned from your work in the past decade?

Naomi: Since I came to this work knowing transportation to be a major rung in the ladder of opportunity, it’s been really interesting for me to learn that the biking and walking movements have been most strongly growing out of the environmental movement of the ‘70s. I don’t have that background—I have the social equity background. So now, seeing huge changes in thought reverberating throughout these parallel movements and bringing them closer together is really exciting. The same thing is happening with the bicycling and pedestrian movements, which at times have been at odds, but now we’re seeing them aligning better.

There have always been great synergies and power between all of these movements, but I think now we’re seeing the coalitions coming together. It’s refreshing and it feels better; it makes for stronger organizations.

 

ioby: Earlier this year, you joined the Alliance for Biking and Walking as their Advocacy and Membership Manager. What are you most excited about accomplishing there?

Naomi: For one, I really love our team. They’re fun, passionate, they contribute in mindful ways… And then I get to work with all these amazing individual advocates who are on the ground, in their communities every day, writing letters, going to City Hall… It’s really inspiring.

The other thing I’m most excited about is that moving forward, we’re going to be doing more with our community planning process. I think it will really help us build the capacities of the on-the-ground biking and walking advocates we support. We have some really good ideas about how we can better support our activists, with more leadership development, more conversations, etc.

 

ioby: What led you to join ioby’s Board of Directors?

Naomi: Having been a person with an idea and thinking, “Oh, this is kind of an awesome but crazy idea!” (In this case, the Bikesplorations project, which might have been ioby’s first bike project!) But I didn’t know exactly what to do about it; I just knew I needed money and resources. So finding the amazing community and guidance ioby offers was so vital. They gave me support and helped me get money, and our relationship has grown over time.

I’ve recommended ioby   to so many people with ideas, and it’s always turned out well, because it’s not just about the money—it’s about the education and one-on-one attention that comes along with it: the knowledge of how to scale up, the network that’s there for you… When I got to the Alliance, I knew I’d be better able to contribute and guide growth here based on my experiences with ioby. So I guess I just wanted to help them out and become an even bigger part of what they do.

Why we need a new word for “blight”

A guest post by  Justin Garrett Moore

Driving through Soulsville, a community in Memphis that lives up to its name, we pass by modest homes, long-vacant buildings (including the house where Aretha Franklin grew up), deteriorated roads and sidewalks, and overgrown and dumped-on lots that presumably were once home to families and businesses. Our group had just met at the Memphis Slim House, a vibrant and inspiring local community arts and education organization that had mustered the will and resources to help nourish their neighborhood’s soul–one mural, one bus stop, one gathering place, one creative outlet, and one soul at a time. But still, as we continued to explore this part of the city, it was hard to ignore all of the . . . blight?

Blight

[Potato (Solanum tuberosum): Late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans /  photo credit: Scot Nelson]

Then a brief  but strange  encounter with the police during our visit reaffirmed   that this community’s problems were deep and that the tools being used to deal with these problems are blunt and imperfect. It was a very real reminder for me  how systemic and intertwined  the issues are that face neighborhoods like Soulsville and  the north side of Indianapolis, where I grew up. 

Police power”   in US law means more than just  the  role of  law enforcement.    Its legal definition   is   “the capacity of the states to regulate behavior and enforce order within their territory for the betterment of the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of their inhabitants.”  This regulation of behavior and enforcement of order is our urban spaces has long been   the goal of    urban planning.   The tools of planning — slum clearance, urban renewal, rezoning, economic development and taxing plans, and even placemaking — have by now been well-enough studied and criticized that we know  many of their   intended or unintended ill effects on people, particularly the poor and minority groups.  These versions of police power should receive the same attention that we see on the most visible face of police power, the police, as they can be just as fatal.

In the planning, policy and design worlds there have been many shifts and trends for how things can be done differently to achieve better and more sustainable outcomes for people in the transformation of a place from decline to renewal. The most impactful of these tools aren’t necessarily the innovative policies, plans and design strategies, or the bulldozers and man-hours, or even the millions or billions of dollars channeled to shaping urban places and futures. The most impactful tools are often words–the denotations and connotations and stories attached to the physical and social geographies of parts of the city: ghetto, slum, bad, black, blight.

These words become the lens through which people see a place, the stories they tell influence the way different people with different levels of power, and the people from within and outside of a community feel about a place and what they are willing to do, or not do, about it. These understandings and feelings inform stakeholder and public participation, planning and policies, the allocation of resources, time frames, etc. that affect communities immediately and for generations.

Why do I consider ‘blight’ a problematic word when it comes to describing our cities and communities? Blight is a borrowed term from plant pathology that refers to a number of diseases that cause damage and death. The violence of urban renewal (versions 1.0, 2.0 and now 3.0 beta) used this terminology of disease to describe a place and its people to justify the use of constitutional police power “the betterment of the health, safety, morals” to take property and wealth, remove people, and to literally destroy places.

Think about cities and communities where there is geographic decline and disinvestment. What exactly is the disease? Vacant Buildings? Untended naturalizing lots? Poor people? Brown people? How is the disease treated? Historically the response has been at various scales of action and impact to wipe it out and start again with something new. Neighborhoods that have challenges and the people that live in them are very different from diseased crops. They are a direct result of a number of different and complex social, economic, and political actions that may have shaped the place and its people for generations.  They  are not easily diagnosed, and not easily erased. 

Back to our drive through Soulsville, I was asked, “what word would you use instead of blight?” I responded that I didn’t know. And I still haven’t figured it out. But when I go to communities like these, including the one where I grew up, I know it is more important to see who and what is there that is viable, despite everything that has been done to it. I know that I won’t see ‘blight’ or use the term, because I know exactly what that thinking has done to communities like mine, and people like mine for several generations and it is nothing good.

Perhaps we need to make a new word. If “selfie” and “twerk” deserve new words, maybe this does, too. Maybe this new word can help us better articulate the challenges and promote the potential that our neighborhoods, our communities, and our people face–without associating them with an insurmountable disease that needs to be wiped out regardless of efficacy or cost. Then we can use it to convince people to use our collective and constitutional police power for good — to do something better for cities and the souls who inhabit them.

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Justin Garrett Moore  is  a  S enior Urban Designer at the NYC Department of City Planning,  as well as  the co-founder of Urban Patch,  Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and a member of ioby’s Board of Directors.  He is  a mighty fighter of problematic jargon

 

Neighbors making neighborhoods: Khara and NJ Woods

ioby is more than just a crowdfunding platform: we’re a team   of  individuals who are passionate about  helping neighbors make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.  We love hearing from ioby Leaders about  their experiences planning, funding and implementing a project with us. We think by sharing  these experiences,  complete with both triumphs  and roadblocks,  we can help spread knowledge and  maybe even inspire others  to  take action towards positive change where they live.

 

Looking for signs

As a self-identified sign-hunter, Khara Woods is always on the lookout for street art in Memphis. On leisurely walks through her hometown, she documents property signage and graffiti as reference for her graphic design and hand-lettering projects.

Khara and NJ Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

One day in midtown, Khara stopped in her tracks and took notice of a colorful new  graffiti-inspired mural  on a formerly unsightly wall along Lamar Avenue. The stark contrast between the mural design and surrounding disrepair drew into focus  the strange mix of rapid transformation and neglect  that for her characterizes the historic neighborhood of Rozelle-Annesdale. The wall sat adjacent to a freeway that now the divides the area, which was formerly a bustling corridor   for residents and commuters. Her curiosity piqued, Khara was determined to track down the artist responsible and soon learned that the art was one of eight installments comprising the “Paint Lamar” ioby campaign led by  Kyle Taylor. Khara kept ioby on her radar. She bookmarked the site to her browser and checked in periodically.

 

A family affair

She also sent the link to her mother. While Khara scouts emerging street art, her mother NJ Woods keeps busy as a “primitive folk” artist building on a collection of self-portraits depicting Mid-South and Civil Rights- era living. For some time now, they had been looking for a way to collaborate,   and they had an idea to  work on   a large scale public mural together.  They had applied for grants, responded to city RFPs and sought funding from arts commissions to no avail. Feeling defeated,   they tabled their collaborative project until they had the resources to execute on their own terms.

NJ and Khara Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

 

A connection is made

In the early stages of ioby’s 85K  Memphis Match, Khara skimmed our blog announcement and promptly got in touch with our office  to float a question about what permission she’d need for a potential public mural project. After connecting with ioby’s   Ellen Roberds in person at an Urban Resource Center meeting, Khara shared her concerns about her lack of fundraising experience and navigating permissions for public property use. Drawing on her local relationships, Ellen facilitated introductions between local business owners, weighed in on potential sites, and even proofread Khara’s draft emails to property owners.

After much back and forth with  local stakeholders, Khara secured   the site of a welcoming local eatery in Midtown: Moore Food Company. Launching their ioby campaign “Headshots”, Khara and NJ quickly racked up   match funds for their $1,000 funding goal for wall clean-up materials and paint supplies. Inspired by NJ’s past collage work, the mother-daughter pair spent a couple of weekends rolling out a cast of minimalist geometric figures to represent  the diversity of their   Memphis neighbors. After Khara and NJ’s mural  went   up  on behind the  Moore Food Company, the restaurant  saw business profits spike – their beautification project  was clearly doubling as a placemaking success and a striking new neighborhood landmark!

Headshots mural

[Photo by David Leonard]

 

Vision meets guidance

Khara and NJ’s mural project reminds us that fundraising is just one of many barriers that can stand in a way of potential leaders starting a project. After being burned by grant opportunities, Khara felt discouraged by bureaucratic language, sluggish timelines, and by veteran organizers competing over resources  for public arts projects.

When the Woods pair came to ioby with the  vision to get their project off the ground, ioby provided the footing they needed to ask for buy-in from their community. Ellen’s guidance   throughout the process speaks to one of ioby’s core principles: we believe that our neighbors   know what’s best for their neighborhoods. While we’re confident that local residents are the ones best equipped to make on-the-ground change, our hands-on approach offers leaders the chance to build confidence and expand their skillsets. We’re here to affirm ioby leaders’ right to improve their neighborhoods   and to guide them through unforeseen hiccups along the way. ioby is proud to be a part of Headshots fundraising success and we hope it’s one of many for the Woods family!

And  remember: if you’re ever headed east from Downtown Memphis, keep on the lookout for the Woods’ bold and whimsical 10-foot  geocentric headshots to jut into view.

Case Study: The Hampline

The Hampline is one of ioby’s favorite campaigns for a lot of reasons. It’s not only because the Hampline was ioby’s first campaign in Memphis, ioby’s first campaign to raise funds for hard infrastructure, and ioby’s highest grossing campaign to date. The project is to us a brilliant collaboration, blending commercial revitalization, placemaking, cycling infrastructure and the arts in a community suffering from disinvestment. It’s an important and rich story, and we’re proud to play a role in the success of the project.

Like many U.S. cities, Memphis, Tennessee has suffered from residents moving out from the urban core to the suburbs. Between 1970 and 2010, the city population grew by 4% while the geographic area grew by 55%. The city limits doubled in size, but population remained flat, and residents packed up and moved to the outer edges of the city. Dispersion created lower density, leaving the core looking like Swiss cheese, with more than 50,000 vacant lots in the city.

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Population shifts were coupled with the construction of I-40. Although Memphis is home to the notorious Supreme Court case Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe (1971) that stopped the construction of 1-40 through an established neighborhood and central park, not all neighborhoods fared so well. Similar to the way that the Cross Bronx Expressway cut off the South Bronx from the rest of NYC and compounded socio-economic barriers with a lack of physical geographic access, I-40 cut right through Binghampton, putting five lanes of high-speed traffic between the residential area and the established commercial district on Broad Avenue.

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Binghampton, lovingly nicknamed “The Hamp,” is today a neighborhood of about two square miles and 9,000 residents. The median income is $26,000, and nearly 50% of residents have average household incomes below $20,000. Of the residents, 35% live below the poverty level. In recent years, the neighborhood has suffered from 30% population decline, with a 10-14% vacancy for homes in the area.

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It’s not surprising that this is the case. It’s not easy to live in the Hamp. There are two active rail lines and an expressway with dangerous cross traffic. Vacant properties have led to an increase in blight.

But the neighborhood is literally surrounded by assets. To the west are the famous Overton Park, Rhodes College, the Vollintine-Evergreen Greenline, Downtown Memphis and its historic Beale Street, and the beautiful Mississippi River. To the east are Shelby Farms Park, the Greenline Extension, the Wolf River Greenway, and thriving neighborhoods. The opportunity was that connecting these assets, through Binghampton, and several other neighborhoods, would strengthen Memphis’ urban core.

OBC momentum

In 2006, the city of Memphis began a charrette process using Broad Avenue as a test case, and the planning galvanized the neighborhood and created a business association. Together, residents and business owners came to believe that Broad Avenue could be a place for economic vitality.

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In 2008, there was just one lonely mile of bike lane in Memphis, and the paths to the 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park were unsuitable for biking, giving Memphis the unenviable position of “Worst City for Biking” (as ranked by Bicycling Magazine—along with another ioby priority city, Miami—in 2008 and 2010). Inspired by advocates, Mayor A C Wharton set about changing that, by hiring the city’s first bike-ped coordinator and setting a goal of adding 55 miles of bike facilities within city limits. Soon to follow was the Shelby Farms Greenline, a 6.5 mile bike lane connecting Midtown Memphis, just on the other side of Overton Park, to Shelby Farms.

the plan

Livable Memphis, a program of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, saw an opportunity to connect these two great assets—grounding a major cycling highway while bringing traffic through an emerging business and arts district. As with many neighborhoods of disinvestment and blight, Binghampton had a reputation for crime to overcome. Although Binghampton’s “actual” crime rate was decreasing, nascent revitalization efforts and connecting assets would further reduce Binghampton’s “perceived” crime.

To jumpstart the pre-vitalization process and overcome perceptions, the Livable Memphis, the Broad Avenue Arts District, and the Binghampton Development Corporation, and the owner of an anchor business, T Clifton Arts, drew on a tactical urbanism tool from Dallas, Texas, called Build a Better Block.

The Better Block method, developed by Jason Roberts, uses a 24-hour intervention to reimagine small public spaces in commercial corridors, as if the corridor were thriving, as it perhaps was in the past. Pop-up businesses, public arts, and temporary installations allow residents to reimagine the use of public space, without the investment and the time to make permanent capital improvements.

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For Binghampton, the Better Block method was translated for the locality, and A New Face for An Old Broad was born. For a single weekend, the desolate Broad Avenue was transformed into a thriving commercial district, with protected bike lanes and cultural programming. Watch the videos about New Face for an Old Broad here.

And this was just the beginning. What followed over the next year was $2.5 million in private investment, and in the next 3 years, more than $18 million. By the fourth year, the commercial district had 95% occupancy. As investments in local business boomed, cycling advocates began fundraising for the infrastructure to build the two-mile connection between Overton Park and the Shelby Farms Greenline, at that time called the Overton-Broad connector.

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The $4.5 million bike lane would be the first of its kind in the United States. A two-way, protected, signalized cycle track would run straight through the emerging commercial district. Neighborhood and cycling advocates, businesses and the City raised federal, state, city and private funds, but in August of 2013, was faced with a $70,000 gap.

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They could wait for the next city council cycle to request the remaining funds and delay the project, or compromise the safe and innovative design for the route. Or, they could raise the funds themselves from their friends, neighbors, and folks who would like to use the route.

The groups leading the charge – the Broad Avenue Arts District, Livable Memphis and T. Clifton Arts – and their leaders – Pat Brown, Sarah Newstok and Sara Studdard — approached ioby with their challenge to raise $70,000 by Thanksgiving. Raising the remaining funds would mean groundbreaking would begin in April and the construction would be completed in phases through Spring 2015.

The leaders agreed that their catchy fundraising campaign needed a title that would be easy to remember and authentic to the Hamp neighborhood’s unique character. After some deliberation, the Hampline was born.

overton park

The Hampline team started their campaign by asking their closest networks – friends, family, and colleagues – to donate $50 each. At the same time, a local bicycle club called the Memphis Hightailers came to the table with $2,500 in matching funds for donations made by their members. The team prudently decided to cap the amount of match funds applied to each donation at $50, so that donors with large contributions would not drain the pot too quickly. Using this match fund as an incentive, the team raised $2,530 in citizen philanthropy within the first four days of launching. By the end of the first week of the campaign, the team had raised close to $8,000 and the press was starting to pick up on this exciting new effort. They repeated this successful strategy with the Evergreen Neighborhood Association.

Hampline_Map_8x11

Recognizing that a $70,000 goal seemed daunting and unattainable for many donors who were only capable of making small contributions, Pat, Sarah, and Sara wisely began to make asks in bite-sized chunks. Rather than focus on the lofty total that they needed to raise, they began to ask many of their donors for $55, which they calculated to be enough to sponsor exactly one foot of the Hampline.

new-face

About two weeks into the campaign, with about half of the money raised, the Hampline’s tremendous progress started to plateau. The team worked with ioby’s team of strategists to reorient and reenergize their campaign. They assigned fundraising roles and responsibilities to the campaign’s most ardent supporters, added some new prospects to their list, and identified new opportunities to make in-person asks.

Working in tandem, the team made a series of phone calls, sent out emails, and appeared at community gatherings to share their work, make asks, and recruit new supporters. The Hampline also benefited from two additional matches over the course of the campaign, thanks to generous support from Alta Planning and Design and the Hyde Family Foundations. Ultimately, the combination of matching funds and the team’s direct and explicit style of making asks were enough to get the team across the finish line on time.

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The result was that more than 700 people, living with just a couple miles of the future bike lane gave to the campaign, the median donation was $50, but many people giving just $9.01 (the city’s area code). Not only did the local giving demonstrate a groundswell of community support, but it also fostered a culture of ownership and local stewardship of the space.

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Donating to the Hampline became the cause célèbre of the city. Groundbreaking took place as planned in April, and the archway went up. Today, Broad Avenue has more than 95% occupancy. Additional private funding has supported cultural amenities in the area, creative bus stops and an archway made of bicycles at the entrance of Overton Park. The ArtPlace America grant has enlivened the avenue to zumba, dancing and performance arts on weekends. All of this transforming the neighborhood nearly unrecognizable to its former self just five years ago.

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ArtPlace Simulation 6.18.13

Getting Good Done Miami

The January 30 Getting Good Done Miami conversation at the Miami Green Lab was an exciting event. More than 60 of you came out on a rainy night to share practical skills and challenges in doing positive community-based work in Miami.

A full podcast from the event will be available soon. Until then, you can read the storify here.

We were really grateful to have several members of Miami city and Miami-Dade county staff at the event to work with community activists on expediting their great ideas for Miami. Special thanks to Nichole Hefty and Susannah Troner from the Miami-Dade County Office of Sustainability, for initiating this partnership with ioby that is now one year in the making.

We also wanted to recognize Christian Guerrero, the Chief of the Environmental Plan Review at the county, Carlos Hernandez from the County Wastewater Division, and Patrice Gillespie Smith, from the County Community Image Manager for bringing their great ideas to the table. Thanks also to Glen Hadwen from the City of Miami Sustainability for hosting the event at the Miami Green Lab.

Our speakers, Marta Viciedo, Eric Katz, Ileana Collazo and Gayle Zalduondo shared fascinating presentations with us about their projects (all found on ioby.org/miami).

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Notable among the practical skills shared to Get Good Done were a focus on taking small steps initially to build support and work within a limited budget at first. The speakers shared that using a light, tactical intervention at first, like a pop-up park, pop-up parklet, or even a pop-up train station, can be great ways to introduce new ideas to a community. Many speakers talked about building creative partnerships and working in neighborhoods where they don’t live and building community, person to person. Marta mentioned that it’s really important to “be nice” when you’re asking people to help you with your ideas. Ileana noted that creative alliances, like hers between artists and developers, can be long lasting. Eric shared his passion for transit-oriented development and said that it is a useful skill he’s acquired in articulating his vision for bringing ecological commodities to all Miami-Dade residents. He emphasized the importance of bringing other people into his network by connecting to them to a shared vision, similar to how one might do so in a grant proposal. Gayle described her surprise when an informal conversation with a new friend about her idea to install a public chalkboard in Wynwood ended up landing her a partnership with a women and girls organization at Miami Dade College.

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The Office of Sustainability at Miami-Dade County offered to create a resource guide to try to help ioby leaders and community groups figure out how to get different types of permitting. Miami-Dade County will share this resource guide with all ioby project leaders once finalized. The Office of Sustainability also offered to assist in making connections with other County staff members (and municipal staff when possible). Office of Sustainability staff can be reached at 305-375-5593 or green@miamidade.gov. It’s a good idea to contact ioby first so we can help you prepare for your meeting with the county. All ioby staff are notified when you email miami@ioby.org. If you have an idea for an ioby campaign visit ioby.org/idea or email projects@ioby.org.

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Thanks to Luis Munoz for these great photos!

JaneJacobsMedal

Rockefeller Foundation Awards Jane Jacobs Medal to ioby cofounders

Last night, ioby’s cofounders — Brandon Whitney, Cassie Flynn and Erin Barnes — were awarded the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal in a new category, New Technology and Innovation.

To ioby, the Jane Jacobs Medal is a huge honor for a number of reasons. First of all, it is very humbling to be counted among great giants in our city — like Ron Shiffman, Rosanne Haggerty and Carl Skelton — who have dedicated their lives to making NYC neighborhoods great places for all New Yorkers, as well as ridiculously important past medalists without whom this city would be very different:  Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperatives, Peggy Shepard executive director of WE ACT, Alexie Torres-Fleming from YMPJ, Barry Benepe, founder of the Greenmarkets, Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side, Richard Kahan, from Urban Assembly, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, cofounders of the High Line, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers from the Central Park Conservancy, Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal, Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, and Janette Sadik-Khan, the transformational head of NYC Department of Transportation.

Second, Jane Jacobs, her work and her legacy is very much a part of the ioby spirit. Fiercely concerned with the people who make up cities, their role in political participation and planning and their value in the everyday ballet of the city, Jane Jacobs (de)paved the way for a platform like ioby to exist and thrive.

And finally, Jane herself was, compared to the urban planners, real estate owners, developers and architects, not expert. She was criticized for being unscholarly and challenged experts in urban planning. One of ioby’s founding principles is that people who live in a community know what’s best for the neighborhood. ioby’s role is that of a platform for leaders to bring attention to their work in urban neighborhoods — however expert or nonexpert those leaders may be. Sure, many ioby projects are led by professional urban planners or professors of urban planning or practitioners in architecture or design , and many are not. In fact, most ioby projects are led by a person who has lived in a neighborhood for many years and sees the need for positive change. And that’s as expert as you need to be to lead a project on ioby.

So, outside of being one of the greatest thinkers on urban spaces, urban planning and sociology that the world has ever seen, we would also like to call Jane Jacobs an early ioby project leader and count her among our Backyard Blazers and Heroes in Our Backyards.

Thanks to Edwin Torres, Dr. Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation, MAS, the ioby Board of Directors, funders, project leaders and donors who have been the lifeblood of our work since the very beginning.