Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Miriam Parson: Building a movement in Pittsburgh

We talk a lot about building a movement of positive civic change here at ioby, but how do you do that? The thing is, organizing your community around a project that strengthens the neighborhood is no easy task. But it gets a little easier when you realize many of our neighbors are already doing this work, and already have great ideas to strengthen their communities; our movement is about the tools and support leaders need, connecting neighbors with one another, and working to make getting good done a natural response for even more people.

Here in Pittsburgh, our movement is already starting to catch fire thanks to leaders like you, and 6,000 other neighbors who have played a part in an ioby project in Pittsburgh. That’s 2% of the entire city! Continue reading Miriam Parson: Building a movement in Pittsburgh

Awesome Project: Art in the Garden

For the past three summers, every day that it looks like it might rain on a day that she teaches at Borland Garden in Pittsburgh, Emily Carlson talks to the weather and asks for it hold back the rain until two o’clock. That’s when the kids at Art in the Garden, a youth summer program in the garden, go home for the day. Without any shelter in the garden, programming has been at the whim of the weather, though they’ve been lucky. “Every single day for the past three summers it has worked except for one day,” Emily says. “But that feels like a lot to ask the weather, and it feels stressful to me, so we’d really like to have a structure built.”

So she and her community are kicking off their third ioby campaign to raise funds to build a shelter in Borland Garden for all weather–and extended season–learning, after previously having successfully nearly $8,000 with ioby to fund programming in the summer of 2017 and 2018. Continue reading Awesome Project: Art in the Garden

Erin Barnes & Miriam Parson: What Pittsburgh means to us

The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue was a horrific hate crime, the deadliest attack on Jewish Americans in history. There is no question that violence like this has no place in our world, our country, in Pittsburgh, or in Squirrel Hill. It’s a particularly cruel irony to see such an explicit outburst of anti-semitism and hate befall a community made famous for its generosity, philanthropy, love and neighborliness.

We have no doubt that Pittsburgh will come together, as we’ve already seen our city do, and lean on one another to mourn and to heal.

As our grief turns to resolve, many of us find ourselves wondering: what next? Continue reading Erin Barnes & Miriam Parson: What Pittsburgh means to us

Ten Year Stories: Northside Resource Mall

ioby was founded in 2008 in order to make it easier for local leaders to gain the funding, knowledge, and resources needed to make positive change on a local level. For the past ten years we’ve worked alongside more than 1,600 passionate, committed community leaders and have watched as small projects have turned into larger initiatives and collaborations have become movements.

In the coming months, we’re taking a look back at the past ten years, and tell some of our favorite stories of positive neighborhood change. We want to know: what kind of things can start with a conversation, a neighborhood meeting, a few dollars raised?

Rev. Eleanor Williams tells us about how she and her coalition of partners in Pittsburgh’s Northside neighborhood is coming together to support their community together, and how they crowdfunded to help bring all their services under one roof. Continue reading Ten Year Stories: Northside Resource Mall

How they did it: Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir

Sometimes—okay, pretty often—the road to successful crowdfunding is not a straight and narrow one. It can take time, a few tries, and possibly a rejiggering of resources to make the stars align.

Luckily, that’s just our jam! ioby has a decade of experience helping local leaders combine the right resources in the right order to create winning fundraising campaigns.

Here’s a good example: the Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir, led by Elizabeth Chitester.

Continue reading How they did it: Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir

AWESOME PROJECT: The incredible multicolored pigeons of Pittsburgh

Linda Wallen has always been an artist. A longtime Pittsburgh resident, she spent her early career painting portraits of “the rich and famous,” and then “retired into” teaching French and Spanish (through art) to elementary school students. But it was in the 1990s that her interest in public art really took off, after a trip to Barcelona.

Continue reading AWESOME PROJECT: The incredible multicolored pigeons of Pittsburgh

What we’ve learned in “Phase 0”

We suspect a very small number of people are reading this right now. If you are, you probably live in a city where ioby has an on-the-ground staff person or you are likely one of ioby’s peer organizations who have over the years asked if we would release all our “Phase 0” reports publicly. So, we went back to all the people who we interviewed to produce these reports, and asked their permission to include their quotes in these now publicly available documents.

Continue reading What we’ve learned in “Phase 0”

Meet our new Pittsburgh Action Strategist, Miriam Parson!

As we wrote to y’all last year, ioby began as a hyperlocal organization with a mission to support neighborhood leaders and residents making positive change happen where they live. Since our founding in 2009, we’ve become a national organization (meaning that anyone in the U.S. can use our platform and services), but we’ve also been expanding our network of local offices around the country. We’ve always done this intentionally, by going to cities we’ve determined are especially likely to use and benefit from ioby’s platform and services for citizen-led change.

In 2013, we began working in Memphis, and earlier this year we opened our doors in Cleveland and Detroit. Now, we couldn’t be happier to introduce our newest office and newest team member: Action Strategist Miriam Parson of Pittsburgh!

Miriam Parson

“My family were farmers in central Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh is my home,” Miriam says. “I’ll never leave.”

Since 2009, Miriam has collaborated across Pittsburgh’s sustainability and revitalization communities to support many of the city’s environmental and community development solutions.

“Pittsburgh is a very open, collaborative city where people are committed to their neighborhoods’ wellbeing and pool their resources,” she says. “There’s a deep-rooted and collective sense here of our place in history, and we have a diverse, neighborhood-led investment in our home and its future.”

A first-generation college graduate who grew up in systemically under-resourced communities, Miriam is personally dedicated to building equitable collaborations that support neighbors determining the future of their own communities. For the last nine years she has served community initiatives in central PA and Pittsburgh.

Mariam Parson ioby

“My thinking about problems has grown to be very action-oriented,” she says, “and I’ve learned that, as activist Lilla Watson said, ‘your liberation is bound up with mine,’ so we have to work together.”

Miriam says there are lots of organizations out there doing good work, but she’s especially excited by ioby’s “democracy on the ground” approach. “It’s civic engagement, it’s citizen philanthropy, it’s active self-determination,” she says. “It’s, ‘How do we pitch in some money, some time, and make this happen?’ That’s what we should all be doing as citizens anyway. ioby  listens and provides support for Pittsburghers to build the future they want to see in their neighborhood.”

Read more about how we choose cities to work in.

Big plans: Growing neighbor-led positive change in Pittsburgh!

Since ioby launched in New York City in 2009, we have been a hyperlocal organization, on a mission to support neighborhood leaders and residents making positive change happen where they live. In 2012 we went national, with the idea that we could extend our services to people all over the country who have great ideas. And that’s the model that we use now – anyone from anywhere in the US can use our platform and services. However, we’ve found that we can make the most positive impact when we work closely with people and organizations who have deep local roots. In order to stay hyperlocal, we need to grow hyperlocally.

In 2014 we began working in Memphis, first partnering with the Mayor’s Office and local organizations, then hiring a Memphis-based community organizer with a long history of neighborhood leadership who could connect with change-making Memphians on a face-to-face, day-to-day basis. It was so effective to have someone on the ground that we realized this type of expansion was ioby’s future.

Now, we’re thrilled to be partnering with more local leaders around the country to bring ioby’s resources to four new cities in 2016: Detroit, Cleveland, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. This week, we’ll tell you how we arrived at these four, and why we’re super excited to be setting up shop in each.

Pittsburgh Art Olympics

[Part of Pittsburgh’s Art Olympics Festival, a successful ioby project in  summer 2015.]


Now is the time,  Pittsburgh is the place

The timing couldn’t be better: following super-successful partnerships with Pittsburgh-based organizations The Sprout Fund and GTECH Strategies (Growth Through Energy + Community Health), we feel primed to take a deeper dive into Pittsburgh. So far, ioby has already directed more than $25,000 in citizen philanthropy to 17 projects in Pittsburgh.

“There’s so much great energy in Pittsburgh right now, so much creativity,” says David Weinberger, ioby’s City Partnerships Director. “Throughout our work with them, The Sprout Fund and GTECH have both been such inspiring partners, and we’ve been totally impressed with the ideas, energy, and dedication they’ve brought to their work, particularly around CSOs [combined sewer overflows] and clean water, conservation, and creating walkable and bikeable streets. Their work really aligns with our guiding principle of neighbor-led change.”


Building Resilience in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods

ioby is a platform partner for 100 Resilient Cities (the Rockefeller Foundation initiative to help cities around the world become more resilient to upcoming physical, social, and economic challenges). We think connecting neighbors through fundraising and “quick wins” can go a long way to building overall resiliency. To withstand a storm—or an economic downturn—it can really help to draw on place-based “weak ties,” and “ioby can play a great role in making those connections,” David says.


Doing our homework to make a greater impact

As with each new city we’re rolling into, we took a very methodical approach to Pittsburgh. It started with extensive research into the existing civic landscape (consisting largely of conversations with scores of local leaders), followed by a thoughtful analysis of that data (in what neighborhoods do people already know each other and work together? Where are ties stronger and where are they weaker? How connected are civic leaders to services they could use?), that resulted in a tailored launch plan.

“We look at our findings and think of all the ways ioby could help address shortcomings in partnership with local organizations,” David explains. “We also think about how can we plug our new staff members into the community: can they sit in on a staff meeting at a partner organization once a month? Could they attend a CDC’s capacity-building workshop for local leaders? There are so many ways to get acquainted.”


What you can do

– We’re hiring a Pittsburgh Action Strategist to help launch our HQ there—starting in March, and work to recruit and serve community leaders. You can help us by spreading the word to any great Pittsburghers you know!

– We want to hit the ground running come March, so we’ll be hosting a series of webinars meant to inspire new ioby leaders in Pittsburgh to start projects, starting now! Click here for more info, days and times, and to RSVP.

Browse some of our favorite Pittsburgh-based projects, past and present. Make a donation to a Pittsburgh neighborhood today!

*In addition to Sprout Fund and GTECH, we’re excited to work with existing groups like PCRG, Neighborworks, Neighborhood Allies and other organizations. Funding for our March opening is still pending, and we’ll announce updated plans here, so stay tuned for updates as they come.