Memphis a model for on-the-ground funding, ioby says

The impact from ioby, an online crowdfunding platform, has been significant in Memphis with 203 projects funded since early 2014. 
Nearly 100 Memphians who have worked to make the city a more livable, inviting place over the past three years came out to the Clayborn Temple on Jan. 28 for the first-ever convening of ioby’s Memphis partners, patrons, and grassroots project leaders, celebrating their wide variety of successful projects.
 
ioby is web platform that anyone across the country can access for fundraising for projects that make a difference in their local neighborhoods.
 
In total, ioby has raised more than $3 million for 1,060 projects across the U.S.
 
The impact from ioby projects in Memphis has been significant with 203 projects funded since early 2014. Memphis raised more than $610,000 in small donations for those projects, which ranged from $500 for a new lawnmower for volunteer caretaker James Alsobrook at Carnes community garden to $8,000 for a new bus stop shelter in Soulsville to nearly $69,000 for the Hampline, the new protected bike lane through Binghampton.

A Memphians responds to a banner reading, "Name one thing you love about Memphis Memphians and the Memphis spirit"
 
“We’re in 20 to 25 zip codes, and we’d like to expand that,” said Ellen Roberds, ioby Memphis action strategist. “I’ve been really excited about the breadth of projects in theme and the types of leaders.”
 
Memphis neighborhoods with the most ioby projects include VECA, Orange Mound and Binghampton, with the most popular projects types focusing on community health, placemaking, social justice, environment and schools.
 
Communities around town are enjoying new gardens, painted murals, urban farms and farmer’s markets, park and green space revitalizations, community education and care programs, signage and safety measures—all raised collectively through peer donations.
 
“What I’m interested in are folks who have passionately created a project based upon the need and the change they want to make in their own neighborhood. I want them now to be able to see each other,” said Roberds.
 
She wonders if there are specific things around resiliency and justice that the ioby collective could address in the years to come.
 
“We’ve been working in cities where there’s a lot of neighborhoods with generations of disinvestment,” said ioby executive director and founder Erin Barnes. “So where it’s appropriate, where we won’t duplicate efforts of an existing organization, and where people see a utility in ioby, I think we’re happy to explore working there.”

Playback Memphis brings to life people's ideas for Memphis development.
 
Two years ago, ioby project leader Shannon Dixon organized the building of a Little Free Library project in Cooper-Young, which consists of a small walk-up book house where residents can check out or donate books.
 
“I had been captain of my block for a number of years, and I was looking for some small things we could do together as neighbors and they got excited about it,” Dixon said.
 
“It was fun because I started seeing people from around the block who I didn’t know. The very first person who came was a librarian with her kid, and I didn’t know them even though they lived just down the street.”
 
She estimates that they raised $700 through ioby for the project.
 
Mixed-media artists Anthony Dinolfo, Whitney Kerr and Slade Bishop raised money to complete two murals on Cooper under the overpass at Central.

A Little Free Library at the Memphis Botanic Garden. (Memphis Botanic Garden)“We raised about $1,500 for the first mural and around $2,000 for the second one,” said Dinolfo, who works at archimania as a designer. He hopes to do more projects through ioby.
 
“I’m interested in possibly moving away from murals to things that have more use, actively engaging people,” Dinolfo added.
 
Partners lending support for ioby’s Memphis efforts include the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, Livable Memphis, and the Hyde Family Foundation.
 
The Memphis ioby gathering was a kickoff for a series of events that will be held across the country in ioby-heavy use cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
 
At the January event, Playback Memphis entertained and enlightened the crowd at Clayborn Temple by performing improvised skits based on input from audience members. Interactive program elements allowed attendees to give feedback on how things are going in Memphis and what their ideas are for a more inclusive community.
 
ioby began as a pilot in New York City before launching nationwide in 2012. Since early 2014, Memphis has served as a model for the organization’s on-the-ground goals, and things have gone so well that this past year ioby established a similar presence in Detroit, Pittsburg and Cleveland.
 
“Essentially the goal of today is to really come together (and) to share stories,” said Naomi Doerner, ioby board member and five-time project leader.
 
“As the story of Memphis continues to be written, what is it that the community leaders here want to see happen and how do they build upon those dreams?”

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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