The three founders of the crowd-resourcing platform ioby are the type of people who like to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty on a project. It’s not hard to understand why. When we put in sweat equity, we feel ownership and pride at the results. We give more of our resources to secure a successful outcome. And we want to tell people about our accomplishments (Pinterest, anyone?). On this edition of the Green Line Series, ioby Co-Founder & Executive Director, Erin Barnes shares why the burgeoning crowd-resourcing platform is an important tool for neighborhoods to take control of projects to uplift and revitalize their communities!
GoGreen Conference: Give us a basic run down of the ioby platform and what your particular brand of change making is.
Erin Barnes: ioby comes from the opposite of the NIMBY concept (Not In My Back Yard). It’s a digital platform for people who say “yes” — this is a positive change that I want to see in my backyard. We work at the neighborhood scale on neighbor-funded projects that make communities stronger and more sustainable, and with the kind of people who take the initiative to start projects that bring positive change.
We do that through a crowd-resourcing platform. “Crowd-resourcing” is a word we made up that blends two concepts: Crowd funding and resource organizing. Crowd funding is a term that most people have heard of — it’s the idea of pooling lots of small donations online to a single cause or organization. Resource organizing is a way of organizing all sorts of social capital — in-kind donations, volunteer time, and venture capital from the community whom the project is benefiting. So with ioby, when we talk about crowd resourcing, we’re talking about using an online platform to organize all the different types of capital that people need to make neighborhood change and raising all those types of capital from people in the communities.
GG: Why is the community organizing aspect of what you do so important to the success of a project?
EB: By having people who live in the communities invest in the actual projects, either by making a $35 donation (which is the average donation amount) or volunteering for four hours on the weekends, there are a few things you know are happening in the project.
First of all, it improves community buy-in. When you have 85 people who live within a few blocks of the project site contributing financially, they are saying, “yes, the community is backing this project and this is something that is good for the community.” The second part, when you have people putting in either financial contributions or sweat equity, is that they are investing in the change and investing in that project. And we know that we can ensure some long term community stewardship of that project.
You see a lot of community gardens in urban environmental work and one of the biggest challenges that they see is long term stewardship. They have a lot of people really excited about the project in the beginning and then the membership dwindles over time and the garden may fall into disrepair. So anything you can to do to improve assurance of long term community stewardship is really important. For us, for ioby, we are really interested in providing opportunities for service participation to people who live in service centers and providing opportunity for people to steward in their community — at the local level.
GG: How does ioby fit into the broader landscape of what’s going on in the sustainability movement? Why did you opt to work at the grassroots, neighborhood scale instead of supporting mass scale projects?