Hop in the car.
Take highway I-77 north and drive as far as you can go, and you’ll eventually get to Cleveland, Ohio.
As you arrive, you’ll see the usual suspects –– mammoth billboards of LeBron James, signs for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and even the wafting aroma of your grilled cheese stop for the evening, Melt.
But if you slow down for a bit, and look a little closer, you might see something else:
The Art Palace on Wheels. Cleveland Bike Library. Purple Oasis Community Kitchen. Thea Bowman Center Intergenerational Garden.
Yep, outside the fanfare of this Midwest city’s major claims to fame are its more intimate creations: community projects, or resident-led initiatives seeking to better neighborhoods, one idea at a time.
Prod a little further, and you’ll discover that these changemaking community members enact their projects with the help of one organization that believes neighbors have the powerful ideas to forge safer, greener, more livable and more fun spaces:
In Our Backyards, or ioby for short.
Across the country, ioby works to bring grassroots change to life by community resourcing.
They could even be the key to making that project idea you’re kicking around in your head a reality.
I came across ioby by way of some social media clicking (see, it can be useful to be on Facebook!), which led me to their ultra-helpful Crowdfunding for Communities webinar. (I highly recommend if you are interested in starting a project of your own.)
ioby’s Communications and Creative Strategy Director Katie Lorah very kindly sat down with me to tell me all about what ioby does, and how you can get involved.
So, what is ioby? Who do you work with?
We are a nonprofit that operates nationally. Our model is based on using crowdfunding as community development, and we support communities in being the leaders to create positive change.
We work with individuals and small grassroots groups to build civic strength and resilience in their community. We also partner with funders, organizations, and government groups to align resident-led positive change with an initiative in the community, or something an entity is doing already, to help engage resident leaders.
What is a typical project created through ioby?
There are themes that pop up in every city, but across the board, we see a lot of revitalizations and community gardens that make use of vacant space. We also see a lot of programs in youth engagement, the arts, education, and safe streets.
Cleveland, for example, has been a leader in projects based on racial justice and reconciliation.
How does ioby help people get their projects going? What is the process like?
You can start by visiting ioby.org/idea –– where you can fill in a few words about your idea, the money you’re asking for, and when you need it by.
Then, we reach out directly, via one of our Leader Success Strategists. Our strategists act as personal fundraising coaches, who will work with the leader to set a goal, create a fundraising plan, put together a team, and reach out to their community.
Leaders then work on their efforts, with support and guidance from Ioby and the online resources found on their website. The process can look a little different depending on the leader. Once the leader reaches their goal, the money is disbursed.
Afterward, we don’t require a lot of heavy reporting, which often keeps people from trying things out for the first time. Instead, we ask for photos, and stories, and for the leaders to become part of the Ioby network.
What is the impact of ioby’s projects?
There are different levels of impact –– ripple effects of raising a small amount of money, that are not always measurable in dollars, and are much more qualitative and relationship-focused.
Oftentimes, people have experienced policies and processes that have left them out, and not allowed them to feel like they have the ability to make an impact. That’s very different than what we do, which is ask people in the neighborhood or community for their ideas for change.
What’s the first step to starting a project with ioby? How can I get involved?
We’d love to work with anyone with an idea. Go to ioby.org/idea to get the process started.
Photos courtesy of the Ioby Facebook page.
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Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.