All posts by ioby

Organizing the Neighborhood for Justice: Projects that sustain the present

As our nation continues to reckon with a 400 year legacy of racism, you might be surfacing and grappling with some of your own feelings, and coming to a place of action. Maybe you’ve participated in a protest, supported local Black-owned businesses, or contributed to a bail fund. These are all important ways we can center our Black neighbors and show that Black Lives Matter, and we know our work won’t end when the headlines fade. 

Anti-Black racism in America isn’t new, and it’s clear that it continues to this day in stark terms. Many American policies are deeply rooted in racist ideology and as a result have perpetuated racist beliefs and outcomes. This systemic racism affects all aspects of life for Black Americans. Extending far beyond the criminal justice system, it results in income inequality; disproportionately high Black maternal death rates; discrimination in the housing market; chronic stress from the psychological effects of racism; and much, much more. 

Today, we’re talking about sustaining the fight for racial justice in the present, and we’re also highlighting some recent ioby projects that are doing just that. (By the way, some of them are currently fundraising, so you might consider donating to help them achieve their goals.) This is the second piece of our three-part series on fighting for Black lives, so check out our previous post about why it’s important to honor Black history and movements in our past, then stay tuned for our final installment about building a racially just and equitable future for us all.

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Organizing the Neighborhood for Justice: Black History Projects That Honor the Past

Every day since the June 25th murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, demonstrators around the world have been taking to the streets to demand that Black Lives Matter. (Recent studies say that the movement may be the largest ever in US history!) The protests are reigniting a long-overdue reckoning with anti-black racism, and we’re heartened to see so many neighbors across the country showing up. 

We know that fighting for Black lives is an ongoing, multifaceted process. Each and every step we take is important, but our work isn’t done when our projects are complete. Instead, we need to be committed to a continuous, systemic approach to our fight for racial justice. Anti-racism is not a moment; it’s a movement.

So today, we’re sharing the first in a three-part blog series to offer a few examples of what a fight for Black lives might look like in your community. We pulled together powerful examples of Black-led projects on ioby that are, in their own way, fighting for a world where Black Lives Matter. 

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A bittersweet farewell to our dear David Weinberger

ioby friends, we have some bittersweet news to share with you: after eight years, today is our beloved colleague David Weinberger’s last day with us at ioby. We know, we almost can’t believe it either! 

For many of us in the ioby community, when you hear the word “ioby,” David’s smiling face is one of the very first things you think of. Whether you know him as a cheerleader and supporter of your project from back in his days as Community Manager, or whether you’re a friend of ioby in local government or a fellow nonprofit who’s worked with him on a new collaboration, you know that David’s excitement for positive civic change easily lights up a room.

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Erin Barnes: Reflecting on this moment, and starting in our own backyards

Dear neighbors, 

I can’t describe how meaningful it is to be an Obama Fellow and learn from President and Mrs. Obama in these tumultuous times. The protests in support of the movement for Black lives have been incredibly inspiring, even as the state repression that follows is horrifying. It’s laid bare the brutality of our racist system, but it’s also reminded many of us that racism permeates deeper than our police and criminal justice system; we see it in our housing, our parks, our schools, our neighborhoods, and our healthcare system. 

With this national uprising in mind it was a tremendous honor to be able to ask Mrs. Obama last week the question that is most on my mind right now, and perhaps on many of yours, too: How can we use this moment when so many of our eyes are wide open to fight for racial justice in all aspects of our lives? 

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How to perform a needs assessment for your community during COVID-19

Are you looking for a way to help your neighbors, but not sure where to begin? Figuring out what your community needs might sound like an intimidating task, but it doesn’t have to be–we promise! At ioby, we believe in the power of everyday folks (just like you) doing small things to create big change. That’s why we’re here to support you at every step along the way!

Recently, we interviewed some ioby neighbor leaders about how they organized for change in response to COVID-19—check out the full webinar here—and they had valuable insights to share. We’ve incorporated some of their lessons into three different approaches you can take to determine what your community needs right now. While all of these are important parts of the process, any of them makes a great first step!

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How to fundraise for your grassroots group or nonprofit during COVID-19

Hey, neighbor! We just wanted to say, we see you and we see the hard work you’re doing. We see you adjusting to a new way of life. We see you stepping up and serving your communities. And we see your work to ensure that your homes, your families, and your neighborhoods are safe and healthy in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 has altered the way we interact with one another, we know that many of you may be looking for ways to continue (or expand!) the great work your group or nonprofit is already doing. We’re here to share with you: all it takes is a little thoughtfulness and creativity! We’ve got a few suggestions of some small, social-distancing-friendly changes you can make to your community project, as well as some examples of ioby leaders who have used crowdfunding to pivot their fundraising strategy. 

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Our commitment to dismantling white supremacy

To our ioby community: 

The 400-year story of anti-Black oppression is central to American history. It’s a story of the theft and enslavement of human beings, of repeated cycles of racist policies like Jim Crow laws, redlining and voter suppression, of the weaponizing of the criminal justice and food systems, and of informal racism that white Americans are complicit in allowing to this day. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery are a part of that story and are four among far too many Black deaths at the hands of violent law enforcement. 

On May 25th, the death of George Floyd doused fuel on the embers of four centuries of inequality. Anti-Black racism is morally reprehensible, and it is not new. Racism and inequality show up in all aspects of our lives. We see it in our neighborhoods, housing, schools, businesses, food, health and transportation access. We see it in our ability to participate in civic life. 

At ioby, we know that residents know what’s best for their neighborhoods. We know that low-income residents, communities of color, and especially Black residents have been intentionally excluded from decision-making in their communities. And we know that when Black entrepreneurs dream up positive change to serve the public good, they will get less than 10% of all philanthropic funding. We know this because when leaders work with ioby to raise funds for their important work, they tell us all the places that have denied them funding. 

It takes powerful creativity to imagine a liberated society, and to fight for it. Black people have been doing this for 400 years. That’s why it’s important to not only fund racial justice work, but also to fund Black-led ideas. So I invite you to learn from these Black-led groups, many of whom have crowdfunded with ioby in the past and have been doing the work:

  • Tamir Rice Foundation is an Afro-centric center for youth in Cleveland to celebrate and learn about Black history and culture.
  • BlackSpace is an interdisciplinary collective who practices new ways of protecting and creating Black spaces in the built environment.
  • Kelly Street Garden is growing organic produce to share with residents of the Bronx, free of charge.
  • ATNSC is an urban retreat space in Cleveland for healing and creativity.
  • We Run Brownsville is a women’s running group in Brownsville, Brooklyn that promotes health and wellbeing, and encourages civic participation. 
  • Bank Black USA is a movement to encourage all citizens to transfer their funds from mainstream banking institutions to Black banks.
  • Detroit Hives built Detroit’s first-ever Motor City garden where they continue to promote wellness, community engagement, and justice through organic dope honey. 
  • Youth Design Center (formerly Made in Brownsville) is a creative agency that teaches young people in Brownsville, Brooklyn innovation, design, STEAM, and more. 
  • Shooting Without Bullets engages Cleveland youth through photography and artistic activism to shift policy, perspective, and culture.
  • Grow Brownsville has built an aquaponics farm to grow fresh organic produce for Brownsville, Brooklyn residents.  
  • 400 Years of Inequality is an educational initiative that amplifies the history of inequality in America.

ioby must be committed to the work of anti-racism to fully honor the fact that Black Lives Matter. As a white-led, multi-racial organization, we don’t have all the answers but we’re committed to doing the work. As of June 2020, we recognize that ioby is not a fully realized antiracist organization and that the journey of becoming antiracist is a never-ending one. We have made meaningful steps toward diversity, equity, and inclusion over the years, but we all recognized that it wasn’t enough. So, last November, we began a process of creating a Racial Equity framework with our board member Nadia Owusu. We invite you to hold us accountable to our commitments here. 

We stand in solidarity with the movement for Black lives. Each of us has a critically important role to play in dismantling the foundation of racism that our many institutions are built upon, and rebuilding our society together with equity at the center. Together, we can change our systems of education, health, environment, policing, city by city, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block.  

In solidarity,

Erin Barnes
Co-Founder and CEO

5 COVID-19 Community Project Ideas to Support Your Neighborhood

Even though the spread of COVID-19 has slowed in some parts of the country, the crisis is far from over. Some states are seeing a rise in cases, and we’re all facing challenges as we adapt to a new way of life. Whether we are able to stay healthy depends on several factors, including access to public health information, the availability of medical care, and the quality of the food we’re eating. The reality is that many of our neighbors, particularly in underserved communities, are unable to access the resources they need to take care of themselves and their families. 

In times of crisis, we know that our neighbors are some of the most reliable folks we can turn to for help. As we continue to face multiple challenges, neighbors are stepping up all across the country to lend a hand—and a familiar face. How will you step up to give your neighbors a boost? We’ve rounded up a few examples of how ioby leaders are organizing for change right now. Get inspired, then, start your own project! 

Here are some ways that changemakers like you are making an impact:

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What is mutual aid? How do you start a mutual aid project in your community?

It’s no secret that much of life as we know it has been altered by COVID-19. But even in the midst of uncertainty, one thing has remained the same: our neighbors’ commitment to supporting one another. We’re inspired by the powerful stories of people just like you who are putting together care packages, writing letters to fight isolation, organizing mutual aid to support each other, and finding other ways to share their strengths when and where they can. They show that even in these times, we’ll need to rely on one another more than ever before. 

So, how might you do that? With many of our original plans and projects on hold, how do we continue to offer care and strengthen our communities? You’re an expert on your own neighborhood, and you probably know best what kind of support your neighbors need. But one powerful and uniquely suited way to keep an eye out for one another is to start a mutual aid project. 

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Ways to Donate to COVID-19 Response and Relief Projects

Taking a look at the news, and in our communities around us, there’s no doubt that there are lots of clouds overhead. But there are also lots and lots of silver lining—and they’re helping to lighting up the sky with hope! We’re so inspired by the heartwarming stories of people who are giving their time and resources to uplift others. Students are translating COVID-19 information, people are hosting birthday parades, and robotics teams are helping kids stay active. Each story is different, but their message is the same: we’re all in this together. People are looking for ways to help, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Many project leaders are turning to crowdfunding to finance the great work they’re doing and to help fund and provide support to each other in the wake of COVID-19. If you’re looking to make a difference by donating to a grassroots effort, ioby is a great place to start! We rounded up a few places to give you a head start in exploring, and supporting, neighbors that are making a difference in neighborhoods across the country. 

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