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More funding on way for small ideas that make big, positive changes in Detroit neighborhoods


Some of the best ideas come from your own backyard. You want things to be different. Sometimes that difference is sprucing up your yard. Sometimes the ideas are a little larger and can make an entire neighborhood more friendly, safer and stronger.

Lots of times these good neighbor ideas need an extra oomph to get off the ground. That’s where ioby (In Our Backyards) comes in. The New-York based organization helps grow and implement those ideas one block at a time by combining online fundraising with community organizing to support citizen leaders in small-scale projects that can have big impacts.

Now their “backyard” is coming to Detroit’s backyard.

ioby is opening an office in New Center that will be staffed by two Detroit action strategists. Rhiannon Chester and Joe Rashid will connect local civic and neighborhood leaders with the organization’s online and offline tools and resources to plan, fund and implement small-scale projects.

Rhiannon Chester

Rhiannon Chester

“There are many, many Detroiters who know exactly the kind of modestly sized projects that can quickly impact the quality of lives in neighborhoods,” says Chester, a lifelong Detroiter and a social justice master’s student at Marygrove College. “They need support and tools –and that’s what this platform brings them.”

ioby uses “‘crowd resourcing,” to get things done. It’s an online platform that connects neighborhoods with various forms of capital including cash, social networks, in-kind donations, volunteer time and advocacy for a cause or project. The goal is to make small projects make a big difference.  It’s kind of like throwing a pebble in the water and watching the ripples. Each idea leads to more awesome ideas and before you know it the change is dramatic.

“Detroit is already an incredibly creative community,” says Rashid, also a native Detroiter who has been active in city nonprofits, particularly in Southwest Detroit and the Brightmoor area. “ioby promises to empower neighborhood groups to tackle problems and seize opportunities quickly and effectively.”

Joe Rashid

Joe Rashid

The ioby  launch is made possible with support from the Ford Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.

The Kresge Foundation just announced 21 planning and implementation grants for neighborhood-based projects through the Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit initiative.

“One of the most exciting challenges in Detroit today is helping neighborhood organizations build the capacity to effect positive change,” says Bryan Hogle, a Kresge Detroit program officer. “Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit and ioby are complementary efforts, with one supporting larger projects led by neighborhood-based organizations, and the other smaller projects envisioned by resident leaders in neighborhoods.”

“The Ford Foundation has longstanding interests in community philanthropy and in Detroit’s revitalization, and ioby is at the intersection of these burgeoning fields,” says Chris Cardona, Ford Foundation program officer. “We’re invested in both ioby’s growth nationwide and its launch in Detroit, which brings an exciting new platform that can complement and hopefully enhance the many initiatives rising up from Detroit’s neighborhoods to ensure equitable development and an engaged citizenry.”

Founded in New York City in 2009, ioby has helped neighborhood leaders in more than 100 cities and towns raise more than $2.3 million in what it calls “citizen philanthropy” for more than 750 local projects ranging from schoolyard compost programs to pop-up bike lanes, from playground improvements to public art. On average, project leaders raise just over $4,000 in small donations that largely come from their own neighbors.

“We want to support Detroiters with brilliant ideas for fast projects,” says Erin Barnes, ioby’s executive director. “Our Detroit action strategists will do the crucial work of connecting leaders to each other to build mutual support and learning so together we can make Detroit even stronger.”

ioby, whose name is conceived as the positive opposite of “not in my back yard” or NIMBY, has offices in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Memphis. In addition to the Detroit office ioby is also opening a new headquarters in Cleveland.

– Lead photo is a youth capoeira performance at Hike the Heights, an annual community event celebrating the culture and parks of Harlem, New York, funded on (Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell) 

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