ioby is built on the belief that a simple and proven tool — crowdfunding — can be put in the hands of people and communities that need it, and the results can be transformative for people, for places, and for power structures.
There’s no denying that crowdfunding is booming. Worldwide, the dollars raised through crowdfunding surpassed $34 Billion at the end of 2015, and the total amount has doubled each year for the past five years. Crowdfunding is a big topic, so let’s take a step back and look at how ioby’s model — crowdfunding for communities — fits in.
For emerging artists, musicians, designers and others who have used it successfully, crowdfunding has revolutionized the way their work is created, financed, and even distributed. It’s opened up possibilities and new markets, and has even maybe even rescued a few creative industries from collapse. (And this is just the beginning. Last year, the SEC passed Title IV, which for the first time allows unaccredited, small investors like you and me to use crowdfunding to invest in things like private equity and real estate, and even become small-time venture capitalists.)
We all know the stories — $55,000 for potato salad, millions raised for wedding and medical expenses, a potential upending of so many streams of capital to the tune of billions of dollars.
Meanwhile, let’s look at who’s being left out:
- Grassroots groups who have long relied on cobbling together small grants — money from outside their communities — to keep their essential programs intact;
- Residents of neighborhoods that have long been told that because they’re poor, they lack the resources to address their own challenges — even if they have a clear idea of the solutions;
- Anyone on the nondigital side of the digital divide
There are people out there with great ideas for how to improve their communities. These ideas are just as bold and innovative as any new gadget or startup idea being funded online. And most of these ideas don’t need a lot of money to get going. The average ioby project is under $4,000, with many ideas coming in at around $500 or less. In a neighborhood that has not seen much investment in decades, a small injection of cash in the right place can mean a tangible positive change.
Crowdfunding is not magic — it’s hard work. That’s because when you reach out to your friends, family, and neighbors to ask for, and receive support, you’re raising more than just money. You’re building leadership, strengthening relationships, and demonstrating the power of doing something positive together. You’re building something much bigger, and that’s power.
And while crowdfunding as most people know it is shaking up traditional relationships between recording artists and labels, or filmmakers and distributors, it can also shake up the relationship between communities and traditional philanthropy.
The word “disruption” gets tossed around a lot, but the implication here is profound:
What if, instead of coming from the outside, the tools to make something positive happen in a neighborhood were well within reach of the people living there? It’s our job to make sure that those tools are in the hands of people with good ideas to make positive change. That’s the kind of disruption we want to see: a future in which our neighborhoods are shaped by the powerful good ideas of our own neighbors.