Category Archives: Detroit

10 creative community service ideas

Opportunities to serve our communities are everywhere, and can take many forms. Some of the most popular community service ideas are rooted in volunteering with an existing organization—like a soup kitchen, school, or house of worship. We at ioby think this type of community service is stellar, and we applaud anyone who makes the time to get good done with an organization they love.

But we also know there are some that are moved to act by the unique issues in their own neighborhood, and want to imagine, build, and execute their equally unique community service ideas. That’s why we’ve been helping residents bring their good ideas to life for over 10 years. ioby’s community crowdfunding platform—and the expert fundraising support that goes with it—gives people the tools and information they need to raise the cash, awareness, and buy-in necessary to take the positive change they envision from idea to reality.

Below, we’re happy to share 10 of our (many) favorite ioby projects that illustrate how creative, fun, and impactful resident-led community service ideas can be.

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Awesome Project: Detroit’s Unity in Our Community TimeBank

When you make a deposit in a TimeBank, you won’t have to worry about whether it’ll lose value over time. You won’t have to worry about bank robbers, or sky-high interest rates. That’s because the only things a TimeBank holds is time, and the tremendous promise of an alternative way of valuing work, community, and each other.

“Time banking is about thinking about our communities and our economy a little differently,” says Alice Bagley, Unity in Our Community (UOC) TimeBank’s coordinator. “Our money economy only tends to highly value certain kinds of work, and places very little value on things like checking in on our senior neighbors, or the wisdom that people with different experiences might have, or the important work of community building through things like game nights. But we also know that if those things all went away tomorrow then we would no longer have functioning communities.” Continue reading Awesome Project: Detroit’s Unity in Our Community TimeBank

How they did it: Two Detroit projects draw on ioby resources to succeed

ioby is a community crowdfunding platform. In the past 10 years, we’ve helped more than 1,500 local leaders raise over $4.5 million to improve their neighborhoods.

But as proud as we are of these numbers, there’s much more to ioby than fundraising.

ioby is also a connector, an advocate, and an information hub. We offer leaders free guides, webinars, events, and more to help them build successful campaigns and win lasting positive change where they live. On and offline, we build connections that increase accountability and get things done. In the face of daunting bureaucracy, we can help you surmount roadblocks. We’re even known to chip in with yard work on occasion!

Continue reading How they did it: Two Detroit projects draw on ioby resources to succeed

12 currently funding projects, led by women, on International Women’s Day!

From the Women’s March to the #metoo and #timesup movements—in the past 15 months we’ve seen many strong civic leaders step up and create grassroots movements that speak for women’s rights in all its facets.

Here at ioby, we believe that positive change starts in our backyards. Everyday we see on-the-ground women leaders combat racial injustices, advocate for bike safety, beautify public spaces, mentor young women of color, and SO much more!

Continue reading 12 currently funding projects, led by women, on International Women’s Day!

AWESOME PROJECT: MuslimARC is coming home to Detroit

When Namira Islam had just finished law school and taken the bar exam four years ago, she paused for breath, and went online to check in with her friends and communities. She had thought about the ways in which she’d felt discriminated against during her life – both as a Bangladeshi immigrant in America, and as a non-Arab in the Muslim community – and found herself drawn to the dialogue on exclusion happening on Twitter.

Continue reading AWESOME PROJECT: MuslimARC is coming home to Detroit

AWESOME PROJECT: Creating a multi-generational green space in Bagley, Detroit

Samoy Smith grew up in Detroit, with a Jamaica-born mother who wasn’t comfortable letting her venture far from the family’s tight-knit Jamaican community. It wasn’t until a school friend invited Smith to her church’s youth group one weekend, during middle school, that she really saw just how fulfilling it could be to build one’s own diverse “chosen family,” to accept invitations from neighbors and then extend them right back out to the next person.

Continue reading AWESOME PROJECT: Creating a multi-generational green space in Bagley, Detroit

What we’ve learned in “Phase 0”

We suspect a very small number of people are reading this right now. If you are, you probably live in a city where ioby has an on-the-ground staff person or you are likely one of ioby’s peer organizations who have over the years asked if we would release all our “Phase 0” reports publicly. So, we went back to all the people who we interviewed to produce these reports, and asked their permission to include their quotes in these now publicly available documents.

Continue reading What we’ve learned in “Phase 0”

Detroit Food Academy: Where tomorrow’s entrepreneurs are making today’s tastiest snacks

This spring, ioby and Eastern Market are partnering to present the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge. We’re offering 17 awesome local food entrepreneurs the chance to double the donations made to their projects on ioby’s website between now and April 3—dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donation, and up to $3,000 total. Here’s a closer look at one of fabulous projects getting underway now.

“Food is universal; it’s what everybody shares in common,” says Jacob Schoenknecht, Director of Small Batch Detroit, a program of the Detroit Food Academy, and leader of the ioby campaign Mixing Up Detroit Youth Entrepreneurship. “But our program isn’t just for foodies, or about making people into chefs: it’s about leadership and entrepreneurship. Food is just the medium.”


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Detroit Food Academy (DFA) works with local educators, chefs, and business owners to give young Detroiters (ages 13-24) self-directed, entrepreneurial, real world experiences rooted in food—from creating healthy meals for their families to facilitating complex conversations about food systems with their community. The Small Batch Detroit program grew out of the earliest of DFA’s student-initiated products: the lip-smacking snack known as Mitten Bites (an homage to Michigan’s mitten-like shape). The cookie-turned-granola-bar, made with locally grown ingredients, “quickly became synonymous with DFA,” Jake says. “People would always see our students out offering samples and selling them.”

In the past few years, Jake has overseen the expansion of Small Batch from a summer program into a  business staffed by DFA students and alumni that paid out $30,000 in wages last year, and is on track for $50,000 in 2017. They’re at Eastern Market every Saturday, year-round, and on Tuesdays in the summertime, spreading the Mitten Bites love to thousands of Detroit-area shoppers. Jake says their presence there leads to more than just sales and increased brand awareness: “Eastern Market’s helped us out a ton. A lot of our students have been hired by other vendors there who’ve seen them at work.”


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Small Batch participants do indeed work for their success—on multiple levels. In addition to being trained to make Mitten Bites in the kitchen and sell them to the public, students can advance within the program and take classes about financial literacy, become team managers, learn advanced cooking techniques and production standards, and even take a shot at creating their own new products. “They’re really all ‘leaders,’ not just ‘students,’” Jake says. “On top of dealing with school and the everyday life challenges that a lot of young people in Detroit face, Small Batch participants also take on the commitment of coming here to learn, grow, and give back to DFA.”


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Mixing Up Detroit Youth Entrepreneurship is raising money for the purchase of a 60-quart commercial mixer that Jake hopes will allow Small Batch to quadruple its production output in the same amount of kitchen time. “We’ve already evolved our process quite a bit in the past few years,” he says. “When I first got here, we were mixing our ingredients in a 20-quart mixer and scooping them out by hand, which took forever and gave everyone carpal tunnel syndrome!” The program has since procured an automated sealing system for its packages, and will soon be getting a custom-made hydraulic flattener; the mixer is the last big piece of equipment they need to reach optimal production speed and uniformity.

Their crowdfunding experience has been great so far, Jake says. One reason? It’s easy for donors to see what they’re giving to. “A lot of times with nonprofit fundraising, when organizations just say ‘this is the work we do, please fund us,’ donors can feel unclear about where exactly their money will go,” Jake says. “But this is so practical.”

Jake thinks a similar practicality is at play in the success of Small Batch as a whole. “Whether you’re interested in business management, the culinary arts, becoming an entrepreneur of any kind… There are so many ways that each person’s own enjoyment can come out in this context. You don’t get too many people joining the basketball team who aren’t interested in playing basketball! But we get plenty of students here who don’t come in super interested in cooking, but who still leave the program with lots of useful knowledge and skills.”


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Jake is working to make Small Batch totally sustainable, meaning that sales of Mitten Bites will both pay the program’s expenses and generate additional proceeds for DFA. He also wants it, eventually, to be run exclusively by alumni. “I want to get this down to a science so that it can be run by just a few people, and then we could start another product and expand again.”

Ideally, Jake sees Small Batch becoming a consistent source of job training, employment, and networking for young Detroiters, as well as the “counseling arm” of DFA that can help them identify and address their personal and professional goals more broadly.

To this end, Jake says the best way to help Small Batch is to purchase Mitten Bites: at Eastern Market, in area Whole Foods, and online—with more outlets in the works. “People anywhere will buy Girl Scout cookies because they get the connection,” he says. “I want people to know that they can buy this granola bar from Detroit and be doing something good for the city and for these kids, while treating themselves to a good snack.”

Learn more about Mixing Up Detroit Youth Entrepreneurship on their campaign page, and check out all the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge winners! If you see something that moves you, remember your supporting dollars will go twice as far until April 3.


Detroit Mushroom Factory brings wild nutrition home for locals

This spring, ioby and Eastern Market are partnering to present the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge. We’re offering 17 awesome local food entrepreneurs the chance to double the donations made to their projects on ioby’s website between now and April 3—dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donation, and up to $3,000 total. Here’s a closer look at one of fabulous projects getting underway now.

“I think Americans got their ‘myco-phobia’ from the British,” says Chris Carrier, half of the team behind the Detroit Mushroom Factory, about Westerners’ fear of mushrooms. “We don’t have the same history of foraging for mushrooms that people from Eastern Europe or Japan do, and mushrooms certainly aren’t as prominent in our cooking.”

“Sometimes people walk into our 100-year-old house, where mushroom production is going on in every room, and they get a little weirded out!” says Deana Wojcik, Chris’s partner.


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Indeed, fantastical-looking fungi can appear more like something out of Dr. Seuss than an item you’d want on your dinner plate. But it’s Deana and Chris’s mission to dispel the weirdness around mushrooms and spread the word about the good nutrition, flexible farming options, and rich culinary possibilities they offer. The Detroit Mushroom Factory, their urban farm, grows several types of edible and medicinal mushrooms, year-round, on recycled materials produced locally—like sawdust from a furniture maker and grain from a brewery. Then they sell them at Eastern Market on Saturdays and to local shops and eateries.


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They got the idea to build a mushroom business after taking a social entrepreneurship class a few years ago at Detroit’s Build Institute. Chris’s career background is in software engineering, and Deana’s is in education. Together, they wanted to start something that could make money, do good, and draw from their past experience. Initially they landed on the idea of teaching code to young people, but soon realized that not only was that too similar to their previous day jobs, “it’s also more fun to work on something that many people are unfamiliar with,” Deana says. “A lot of us approach STEM with baggage: we already think of ourselves as math and science people—or not. But mushrooms are new and fascinating! It’s easier for people to say, ‘I know nothing about this. Teach me!’ As an educator, I love that openness.”


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Currently, Deana and Chris produce mostly fan-shaped oyster mushrooms (which Chris describes as “most people’s introduction to the gourmet mushroom world—which is really everything beyond the white buttons in the salad bar!”); a spiky puffball one called lion’s mane; and a stick-shaped one called reishi which they package for use as coffee stirrers. While many of their customers (particularly people without access to quality health care) key in on mushrooms’ purported medicinal benefits, Chris and Deana are careful not to over-promise.

“We’re not doctors or scientists,” Chris says. “We can attest that mushrooms are high in protein, low in fat, and sometimes contain other nutritional value like B vitamins. And they taste good! But we just talk about them as something that’s healthy to eat, not as a cure for anything.”

After about three years in business, Deana and Chris are experiencing every entrepreneur’s ideal problem: customers’ demand is exceeding their supply, both in terms of volume and variety. To keep up with all the locally-grown mushrooms Rose’s Fine Food wants for their broth bowls, Sister Pie wants for their savory scones, and The Farmer’s Hand wants to stock on their shelves, Detroit Mushroom Factory will be expanding into a formerly obsolete warehouse near Chris and Deana’s home in Detroit’s North End. The pair is also raising money to buy more robust equipment like a high-pressure misting kit and a commercial refrigerator. Together, these changes will mean a hefty increase in production capabilities, customer satisfaction, educational opportunities, and community building.

“We’ve moved around a lot as adults, and it can be hard to meet people,” Deana says. “The Factory has been a great way for us to find community here. The degree to which we’ve been been embraced, as business owners and as people, has been exciting and surprising. But Detroit is a very creative and collaborative place. When we started introducing ourselves as mushroom farmers, that’s when the good conversations really started.”


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She and Chris are talking with administrators at the elementary school near their new space about offering field trips and hands-on mushroom workshops to students, and they want to expand into other green markets across the city. They’ve gotten interest from beyond Detroit’s borders—like fine dining restaurants in Ann Arbor. “But before we start reaching out, we want to make sure that every Detroit restaurant and resident who wants Detroit-grown mushrooms is getting them,” Deana says.

“We’re in the right place to do this,” she continues. “I don’t think we would have had the same success somewhere else, and we want to give back by being a source of education, training, and eventually jobs. For now, we hope that providing fresh, healthy, affordable produce to our neighbors is a good way to say thank you.”

Learn more about Detroit Mushroom Factory on their campaign page, and check out all the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge winners. If you see something that moves you, remember your supporting dollars go twice as far until April 3!