Plan a Community Project, Raise Money and Find Volunteers with ioby

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ioby allows people to raise funds to start projects in their neighborboods. At this project on Governor’s Island, N.Y., local children learn about compost. Photo: ioby

The large environmental and social problems we face often leave us feeling overwhelmed, unsure what actions will actually make a difference. One of the best ways to make improvements to the way we live, though, is to act locally.

A crowd-resourcing platform called ioby (pronounced eye-OH-bee), which stands for “in our backyards,” provides people interested in taking action to better their neighborhoods with a place to raise tax-deductible funds, as well as gather volunteers to make their goals become realities. Using ioby, people can propose everything from community garden projects to recycling education programs. ioby strives to embody the opposite of NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) by allowing people to engage with the places and people in their immediate environments.

While the subjects of ioby projects vary widely, it’s that sense of locality that unites them.

“The thing that keeps everything together is that they’re all at the neighborhood scale,” Erin Barnes, co-founder and executive director of ioby told Earth911. “They’re led by citizens of the neighborhood and funded by neighbors.”

On average, ioby donors live two miles from the projects they donate to, which keeps money in the area and helps people feel invested in their communities.

How the Platform Began

ioby began when its three founders, Erin Barnes, Brandon Whitney and Cassie Flynn, moved to New York City and realized that green initiatives were often out of reach for the average person or involved purchasing eco-friendly products. The founders wanted to find a way for people to get out into the world and improve their surroundings, so they developed a platform that would allow residents of New York City to do just that.

After conferring with some of the people they hoped to serve, they learned that most community projects need two things: funding and manpower. Consequently, they set up ioby in a way that lets people donate money that is tax-deductible or choose to volunteer with a local project. They coined the term “crowd-resourcing,” which combines the ideas of crowd-funding and resource organizing, to explain what the platform does.

People interested in learning about community improvement projects in their area can visit ioby’s website, search using parameters like location and type of project and see what people are trying to accomplish in the neighborhood. By seeking out local projects, donors not only contribute to their communities, but also have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other people.

“ioby is trying to make sure people know that there are other people just like them living in the next neighborhood over in Brooklyn and also across the country who care about the same issues they do, and together we can make things better for all of our communities by doing these projects a block at a time,” Barnes said.

In 2009, the pilot program began operating in New York City. In 2012, ioby expanded nationwide, allowing people across the country to pitch and fund local projects. Then this past January, ioby opened an office in Miami and is partnering with Miami-Dade County’s Office of Sustainability to implement new projects.

“A lot of the projects that people lead in their neighborhoods are the same kinds of things governments care about,” Barnes explained.

ioby has also partnered with a number of other offices and organizations including New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Association.

“We’re a small start-up, but it’s growing pretty fast,” Barnes said.

So far, donors have funded over 200 projects with about half a million dollars in donations. Many of the projects are innovative and some of them even help reduce waste. Click through to learn more about some ioby project achievements.

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