Category Archives: Detroit

Lush Yummies Pie Company: Detroit entrepreneurship at its sweetest

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.

Lush Yummies Pie Company makes delicious “lemon butta” pies using founder Jennifer Lyle’s grandfather’s recipe, fresh ingredients, and lots of love. But she thinks there’s another reason Detroiters go gaga for the velvety citrus treats: they’re reminders of home.


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“A lot of people who live in Michigan aren’t from here,” she explains. “In particular, a lot of African Americans, like my granddad, moved to Detroit from Alabama to work for Chrysler when the automotive industry was booming. People like him have southern roots, and you can’t get all the same food here; people miss it. These kinds of creamy lemon pies are native to the south—up north, they’re more like Jell-o. No thanks!”

After spending a couple of post-college years in Atlanta with Teach for America, Jennifer decided to follow her first passion—food—and enrolled at the Pâtisserie and Baking Certificate program at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami. She returned to Detroit about five years ago and experimented with making and marketing a number of dessert types, from wedding cakes to granola candy bars. “After all that, I came back to my granddad’s recipe that he made with his mother in the 1940s on their farm in Birmingham. I came back to the basics.”


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Jennifer currently has two employees (not including her husband, who handles the majority of Lush Yummies deliveries—in addition to holding a full-time job). Her long-term goal is to grow her accounts so she can hire more kitchen staff (Detroit locals preferred) and eventually take herself out of the production process. “Oddly, I think getting out of the kitchen is what most food entrepreneurs want to do!” she says. “Being there 24-7 just wears you out. I want to focus on building my brand, and eventually securing my own production facility.”

Lush Yummies is currently stocked in 15 stores, and will be adding Whole Foods to their roster starting in May. Jennifer would love to expand further, into outlets like Kroger and Wal-Mart nationwide. In the meantime, she’s set her crowdfunding sights on one important upgrade: a commercial-grade citrus squeezer that will save her and her staff the many hours a week they currently spend squeezing hundreds of lemons by hand!


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While her company is poised to go far, Jennifer recognizes that there’s no place like home. “Eastern Market is wonderful,” she says. “They really treat you like family. I support them and they support me.” Jennifer participates in the organization’s vendor gatherings, and has enjoyed visiting the market herself when she’s not working. “There are always families here,” she says. “I’ve pulled my kids down here in their wagon. They have music going, high school bands, you can smell the barbecue from down the block… It’s like New Orleans!”

She also appreciates Eastern Market shoppers. “The market is really diverse, and has put me in front of a lot of customers who wouldn’t otherwise see me,” Jennifer says. “The people who shop there want to support Detroit: they like meeting the farmers, they really interact with their produce. It’s ideal.”

Jennifer grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, and spent time working in their businesses. Her powerhouse grandmother, for example, was the first female president of Michigan’s Booker T. Washington Business Association, an African American Chamber of Commerce, as well as the first woman to run the state’s Liquor Control Commission—and she founded her own network of Detroit-area adult education facilities. “Honestly, it was sometimes difficult working with her,” Jennifer says. “The dynamics of a family business can be intense, and her expectations were very high. When something is yours, it’s different from when you’re a manager or director: your heart and soul is in it.”

Eventually, Jennifer had to explain to her grandmother that she had dreams and aspirations of her own, and didn’t want to take over the family business. Now, her two small kids are growing up with a strong entrepreneurial caretaker, too. “When I’m able to have my own commercial kitchen, my own sustainable company with my own name on it, when I’m able to hire all the Detroiters I need: that will give me ultimate pride in my business. I want my kids to say, ‘This is my mom’s company.’ I want them to know this is something their mom did.”



Learn more about Lush Yummies Pie Company 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.

Farm to Freezer: Celebrating Michigan’s growing diversity in every season

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 all 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 the fabulous projects getting underway now.


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“There’s nothing new about freezing fruits and veggies,” says Brandon Seng, founder of Farm to Freezer, a program that flash-freezes produce at peak ripeness for schools, institutions, and retailers to offer throughout the year. “People have long been putting up food grown in season for consumption in the wintertime. It’s the way we’re doing it that’s unique.”

Farm to Freezer, founded in Traverse City, partners with farmers across Michigan to procure high-quality produce that’s prepped and frozen in small batches by people with barriers to employment: many are returning from prison, recovering from addiction, or transitioning from homelessness; some have been out of the workforce for years. Farm to Freezer gives them the opportunity to learn marketable job skills (both physical and social) and healthy cooking basics, while helping to make the most of a tremendous local resource.

“Michigan is the number-one blueberry producer in the nation,” says Brandon. “We grow 78 percent of the nation’s tart cherries! Plus a significant amount of apples, peaches, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower—the list goes on. We’re really kind of a national leader when it comes to what you find on your dinner plate and in your smoothies.”

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Of course, Michigan’s awesome produce is limited to a relatively short growing season: basically June through October. Farm to Freezer got its start about five years ago when Brandon was directing a school lunch program. He wanted to get more local produce on his menus, but while the farm season was on, school was out—hence the motivation to freeze.

“We do some really cool stuff with what I believe to be misunderstood veggies, like romanesco and kohlrabi,” Brandon says. “All of our produce bags are clear, so people can see the color and texture variation in what they’re eating. I’m most excited about our root vegetable medley—it’s just a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors.”

Farm to Freezer couples their produce offerings with extensive educational outreach to their consumers, so people know how best to prepare the food. Their packages also give simple instructions like, “Best roasted or grilled on high heat with the oil of your choice,” and they’ll soon be posting recipes online. “Eating whole foods simply is so easy and tastes great,” Brandon says. “That’s what I’m encouraging folks to do.”

His idea quickly attracted interest from from parents, colleagues, and other schools in the area, and he eventually partnered with Goodwill Industries to become a full-fledged workforce development program offering healthy produce throughout Northwest Michigan.


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Now, “we want to grow the food system and share Michigan produce more widely,” Brandon says. Motor City is next on the list.

“Opening a location in Detroit will help us connect the regional food economies in the Southeast part of the state,” he explains. Currently, Farm to Freezer’s Traverse City location serves an area with a population around 400,000; when they open in Detroit, they’ll be able to market to the roughly six million consumers in the city’s metro area. He looks forward to making relationships with new farmers as well as new buyers.

He also looks forward to relocating. “Because we’re taking an old model and renewing it, it’s really fun and fitting to be moving into an institution like Eastern Market that has such a vibrant heritage in the state,” Brandon says. The building Farm to Freezer will be occupying has been vacant for 10 years. “I don’t want to be quiet about it coming back to life,” he says. “I want folks to know that we want to connect with the region in a new and exciting way. To that end, we want to stand out with artwork that speaks to our initiative.”


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The $6,046 Farm to Freezer is raising on ioby will pay for the design and installation of a 20’ x 20’ banner that will hang outside their space on Mack Avenue. Brandon’s vision for it is a celebration of the beauty of agriculture.

“If you’re able to drive through any of these rural areas and see the cherry blossoms when they’re out, the fields of cauliflower in pretty rows with the sun on them… There’s such striking imagery here. I’m in love with it, and I want to share it in a powerful statement that speaks to who we are and what we’re about.”

As for the long-term future of Farm to Freezer, Brandon’s goals are clear. They’ll grow into their Eastern Market space, starting with five employees and increasing to 25 by their fifth year. “Michigan has a ton to offer the rest of the country by way of the food we produce,” he says. “We want to limit our sourcing to the state, but we hope to soon be utilizing the Detroit hub to serve sales channels into Toledo and Chicago, and hopefully Canada at some point.”

“I know we’re going to rock it,” he says. “We’re really fired up about it.”

Learn more about Farm to Freezer 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!

Eastern Market and ioby: Bigger is better in Detroit this spring!

Look out, Detroit! This spring, something big is about to get bigger.

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, up to $3,000 total. That’s big!


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But “big” is nothing new here. The venerable Eastern Market has been a big deal for the city of Detroit for well over 100 years. Each week, hundreds of vendors and thousands of shoppers congregate inside and outside its signature network of “sheds” to buy and sell fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, and more. As a nonprofit organization with a mission to enrich Detroit—nutritionally, culturally, and economically—Eastern Market Development Corporation (EMDC) also develops and supports a variety of local programs and development projects that help to build a healthier, wealthier, and happier Detroit.

With a history and mission this cool, we’re nothing short of ecstatic to be taking part in this matching grant challenge.


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Joe Rashid, ioby’s Detroit Action Strategist, says Eastern Market is an ideal partner because they have deep roots in the community and can help ioby Leaders make the kinds of important connections that can help them grow their businesses long-term. While supporting the local economy and food system are the big focus, Joe says the growth spurred by these projects stands to reach beyond Eastern Market’s purview—to neighborhood-based urban farms and businesses around the city, and in some cases, even to agricultural operations in rural parts of the state.

“Especially in Detroit, trying to grow the local economy outside of the central business district is really important. Doing that helps to support the entire city, not just the part where the ‘action’ is,” he says. “And in a time when many small businesses in Detroit are having difficulty securing funding, I really think the crowdfunding model—together with great matching grants like these—can play an integral role in getting new businesses off the ground and shaping Detroit’s future.”


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The Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge adds another layer of support to the services EMDC has been providing to its vendors for years. We’re excited to be helping to make this big deal even bigger.

“Supporting local businesses one-on-one is really meaningful,” Joe says. “And it’s another expression of the ioby model of working on the project level to create a much larger impact.”

Read more about the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge—including the amazing additional in-kind donations being offered to project Leaders by Skidmore Studio! If you’re curious about how these projects were chosen, check out the eligibility page.

p.s. ioby is organizing a Detroit Convening on April 29, location TBA. Stay tuned for more details!

NEW VIDEO: Dilla Youth Day inspires Detroit youth through Hip Hop

Dilla Youth Day is an annual event celebrating and sharing the legacy of one Detroit’s most prolific music producers, J Dilla. Piper Carter of the Foundation of Women in Hip Hop, founder and organizer of the event for six years running, talks about using hip hop to educate, inspire, and nurture youth to be passionate creators in music, technology, the arts, science and more. This year Carter raised funds on ioby to launch thestudioArena Mobile Maker Space, which combines the “genius traditions of hip hop’s powerful visual, musical, and performing art forms together with the genius hackers and makers with a vision inspired by the strong spirit of invention in Detroit.”

More videos on our Vimeo page

AWESOME PROJECT: Two fed-up sisters bring Hollaback! to Detroit

Do you remember the worst time you were ever catcalled? Harassed? Followed in the dark? Told by a stranger that “you’re so beautiful, you should be smiling?” Told things waaaay worse than that?

You can probably still picture the street corner or sidewalk or café where it happened, right?

What if you could go back to that place, armed with thought-provoking, surprising anti-harassment stencils and stickers – ones that would really make people stop and think – and do your part to mark that place as a safe zone? Would it be healing? Would it make a difference?

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stencils, stickers, and solidarity

Sisters and Detroit-area natives Brooke and Brea Harris think so. They’ve long known that women in many parts of Motor City don’t feel safe, and even as Detroit explodes with waves of fresh creativity today, they see the problem getting worse instead of better. It’s not that the things harassers do or say in Detroit are definitively worse than in any other city, they notice, but that because it’s not a super walkable city, and because there’s not a great public transit infrastructure, you’re more likely to be caught facing your harasser alone, in an empty street. And when you’re alone, you’re less likely to, you guessed it: HOLLABACK.

“What’s gonna happen if I react this way,” explains Brooke, “what’s gonna happen if I react that way and he doesn’t like it? If I’m alone and get harassed, even I just ignore it.”

That’s why Brooke and Brea – a social justice organizer and an artist, respectively – have created the first ever Detroit chapter of Hollaback!, a fantastic international movement fighting to end harassment. They’re raising money via ioby right now (just $70 more needed to meet their August 20th deadline) to commission four different anti-harassment stencil and sticker designs from local artists.

Hollaback! volunteers and chapter members will put the newly-minted, artist-designed spray-chalked stencil designs and stickers up all over Downtown and Midtown Detroit, where some of the worst harassment happens. The works’ messages will range from the bitingly sarcastic (for those vicious and even violent harassers who know exactly what they’re doing) to a gentler awareness-building (for guys who might not mean harm, and just don’t know better, even in 2016).

“The ‘smile’ comments, the ‘sweetheart,’ the ‘honey,’ ‘baby you look good today,’ I think a lot of people are still conditioned to think that is a compliment, that that is okay, that that is how you’re supposed to interact with women,” says Brooke. “We’re trying to point out that no, just because a woman’s walking down the street doesn’t mean she has to stop and talk to you, and just because she doesn’t stop and talk to you doesn’t mean she’s a bitch.”

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how harassment handicaps women

Harassment is more than an annoyance, or even a threat: it’s a handicap. It limits women’s lives in real ways. Women drive the longer way to work, to avoid a harassment hot spot, or wonder if it would be easier if they asked a male coworker to meet them in the parking lot each morning, or don’t feel free to wear the clothes that make them feel comfortable, beautiful, themselves. They plan their days around it. They have to waste their valuable time thinking about it.

“Definitely women in the city are changing the behavior, whether it’s going out with friends, or taking an Uber, or going  around the long way because there’s more street lights or more pedestrian traffic on that street,” says Brooke. “And I think the biggest impact is psychological. It definitely takes an emotional toll on you to constantly, 24/7, have to be aware. For me personally, I’m way less friendly than I used to be. People say hello to me, and I’m not going to respond because I don’t know if it’s a genuine hello, or if it’s an opening line to harass me.”

For someone who’s lived in the Detroit area her whole life, who is trained as a teacher and social justice organizer, and who cherishes the friendliness of Detroiters, that is a sad, sad state of affairs. So here’s to the fight for a harassment-free world!


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What you can do

  1. Is this an issue close to your heart? Donate $6 to buy a can of spray chalk, $10 to see 10 stickers made, $20 to create a custom stencil, or $50 for 50 stickers. Any amount helps.
  2. Live in Detroit? Have time, inspiration, and ideas to contribute? Hollaback! Detroit wants your help! And if you want to help stencil or post stickers, you can work on the ground in whatever neighborhood you think needs it, whenever you have spare time. Just email for more info.
  3. Explore the world of Hollaback!. This truly incredible organization offers resources, harassment research and data, a place to share your story and read others’, site leader trainings, nine-month intensive workshops, and no shortage of solidarity. You are not alone, and you do not have to accept harassment as a part of life. Spread the word!


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Got a pond in your neighborhood that’s growing more toxic algae than anything else? Here’s what one community organizer is doing about it.


Walking in the Motor City: Live Love Detroit Jane’s Walk

Post by Joe Rashid,  ioby Detroit Action Strategist

Detroit is known as the Motor City; here the car is king. With the city spread out in 139 square miles of single family homes, walking and public transportation are sometime   seen as an afterthought. Freeways divide the city, making  distinct physical and social borders between neighborhoods that can be difficult to overcome. In recent years, however, many Detroiters   have begun to  push for   walkability and functional mass transit. There is an increasing demand for both as access to goods and services at times are few and far between.

To Madhavi Reddy, walking and functioning transit just make sense as key elements to creating a healthy community. Four years ago, Madhavi moved   to Detroit from Toronto, where she had been working   to build cooperatives, organize immigrant communities and lead Jane’s Walks. In Toronto there are hundreds of these citizen-organized, citizen-led neighborhood  walking tours   each year on the first weekend in May. Madhavi partnered with her neighbors Mark Loeb and Vickie Elmer to bring Jane’s Walks to Detroit in 2012. Since then, they’ve grown the program into  Live Love Detroit Jane’s Walk , a city-wide event taking place annually  on the same weekend as walks in Toronto, New York, and dozens of other cities across the US and Canada.


Jane’s Walks  celebrate the life and work of  Jane Jacobs, an urbanist and   native New Yorker who famously worked with her neighbors to stop Robert Moses’s freeway system from dividing Manhattan. Walking was one of her most powerful organizing tools: She was able to change sentiments by simply taking people on walking tours of neighborhoods, to get them to see the value of a walkable space, observe the streetlife,  and hear stories from neighbors   along the way.

In Detroit, where walking can sometimes seem like a forgotten art, these Jane’s Walks around the city are doing something very powerful: they’re helping   Detroiters imagine   how neighborhoods can once again be walkable centers. Walks will be led by residents, community organizers, youth, and neighbors all over the city. These  events  are meant to showcase a side to Detroit that is often missing from the dominant narrative surrounding the city.They’re   a great way to meet neighbors, and experience a new part of the city  or to  see your own neighborhood   through a different lens.

There are as many stories about each neighborhood as there are people, and hearing directly  from the  citizen leaders of the walks is  one of   the most valuable things anyone can do to gain perspective.


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The Jane’s Walk weekend in Detroit  has grown from one walk four years ago to   eleven walks this year happening all over the city. Because of all this success, this is  the   first year the event has grown large  enough that it needs logistical and promotional support. With the recent launch of ioby Detroit, the timing was right for Madhavi and her fellow organizers to launch   an ioby campaign to raise money – just over $1,000 – and  awareness about the walks.

For a citizen-planned, citizen-led series of events meant to celebrate neighborhoods, we think  ioby is  a perfect match, and we’re proud to support Live Love Detroit Jane’s Walk.  We hope you will support this  great project too!




New team members in Cleveland & Detroit: Meet Indigo, Rhiannon, and Joe

As we’ve been shouting from the rooftops for a while now, ioby is opening in two new cities—Cleveland and Detroit—and we’re doing it (drum roll please)… this week!

Many months of research and interviews have shown us that these cities are especially likely to use and benefit from ioby’s platform and services for citizen-led change, so we’re thrilled to be opening our doors there, and quite excited to see what develops.

We’re equally excited about the new Action Strategists we’ve hired to staff these new locations: Indigo Bishop of Cleveland and Rhiannon Chester and Joe Rashid of Detroit. They all finished the ioby onboarding process in our Brooklyn office last week, and are now back at home and getting down to business. In their respective cities, each staffer will be in charge of connecting local civic leaders and grassroots organizations with ioby’s online and offline tools and resources—and with each other—to help support neighbor-led improvements made block by block.

Please put your hands together and join us in welcoming…


Indigo Bishop


After devoting nearly a decade of her life to a variety of community engagement efforts, a tragic event catalyzed Indigo into thinking even more critically and intentionally about her native Cleveland. “Tamir Rice was shot at the same rec center where I grew up playing sports,” she says. “It’s one thing to know about injustice intellectually, but this one hit my heart, not just my head. I am a proud auntie to three young black boys, and I need the world to be a better place for them—and for all kids—to come up in.”

Indigo has a BA in sociology and an MS in social administration, community, and social development (respectively) from Case Western Reserve University, and has worked as a community outreach coordinator; program manager and development consultant; and community engagement specialist for several local organizations. Throughout, her mission has been to bring out the best in people and help them connect and take action.

“It’s like Cleveland has all the right ingredients,” she explains. “Great green spaces, great libraries, awesome people doing great things… But they haven’t yet been combined in the right way to make a delicious meal. The stories people hear about Cleveland are often not too good, so I’m excited to start using ioby’s national platform to tell the stories of our amazing leaders and projects. I want people to see Cleveland in a different way—including some Clevelanders!”


Rhiannon Chester


Rhiannon was born and raised in Detroit, where she says resilience, pride, and joie de vivre characterize the citizenry. She was introduced to civil rights activism as a teenager and has since dedicated her career to working for affordable, high-quality, public education in Detroit; immigrant rights; affirmative action; LGBT youth; marriage equality; economic justice; and ending workplace discrimination.

Before getting her master’s in social justice from Marygrove College, Rhiannon earned a BFA in photography from Wayne State University. “I decided early on that I wanted my art to have a message,” she says. “Combining art and social justice is a way to have a conversation about hard topics.”

Reflecting on her passion for community development and the path that’s brought her here, Rhiannon explains, “From a young age, I’ve seen what inequality looks like. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve acquired a language for it. And now, with ioby, I’m better able than ever to help people identify change and make moves that can combat the inequalities they face. I really look forward to seeing more Detroiters not waiting for anyone else to solve our issues.” She laughs. “I want to see what we come up with when left to our own devices.”


Joe Rashid


“There’s a never-quit attitude about Detroit that I love and fit into,” Joe says. “But there are tough issues here. You can either choose to work hard on them and invest the time in securing a better future for the city, or you can leave. I’m not going to leave.”

Joe grew up in a family of activists whose Detroit roots go back 150 years; to date, he’s called 10 of the area’s zip codes home. Joe founded the Detroit Parks Coalition to strengthen community engagement in the city’s green spaces; worked to educate residents about the social, environmental, and economic issues surrounding the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project; and has helped to amplify local voices in planning for the future of the Brightmoor neighborhood, where the presence of hundreds of vacant lots is spurring sweeping development.

Joe became intrigued with ioby when we contacted him as part of our “Phase 0” research on Detroit. “I liked that ioby was about not coming into a city blind and hiring some random people,” he says. “They want to get it right the first time, instead of taking a shot in the dark. That impressed me.” Joe says his ultimate goal and ioby’s are the same: “To hear people’s visions and help connect them with the resources they need to make that reality.”
Have a great idea for your neighborhood in Cleveland, Detroit, or anywhere else? Our staff is eager to help!


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That Wonky Stuff: What is Phase 0?

ioby Cleveland and ioby Detroit are about to launch!

Before they do, we wanted to shed a little light on what happens in preparation for our work in a new city, what we call our “Phase 0.”

We believe there is no off-the-shelf solution for building neighbor-led change in a given community; each neighborhood has its own unique history, opportunities, challenges, and civic landscape. The research and conversations in Phase 0, which can last a few months to over a year, help us better understand whether and how our platform and services can best contribute to the citizen-led work already taking place in a given community. That way we can make sure we are  adding to, rather than duplicating  or competing with local groups.


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What Phase 0 looks like

Initial Research

We begin our research by examining a variety of materials, including existing and recent reports from the local civic landscape from all sectors, and macro-level demographic and philanthropic  data from the US  Census and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Synthesizing all of this  helps clarify our understanding of the social and economic structures  at work, and prepares us for an in-depth series of conversations.


We conduct  up to 70 interviews with resident leaders in and around our target neighborhoods. Interview subjects include nonprofit leaders, grassroots funders and grantmakers, longtime residents, neighborhood organizers, and many others. These conversations are crucial in helping ioby to identify the context, opportunities and challenges involved in working in the city.

Potential partner identification

Informed by what we learn through research and conversations – and by what we’ve learned from  early experiences  in New York, Miami, and Memphis – we then identify potential partners who have a strong reputation of meaningfully engaging with community,  experience working with asset-based community development, and a number of other areas of alignment with  ioby’s mission and work.


How can we tell our services will be helpful?

Although anyone from any neighborhood across the US can use ioby’s platform and services, we are looking to grow our presence deliberately in  cities, like Cleveland and Detroit, which  meet these initial criteria:

  • There has been a history of disinvestment;
  • People of color make up more than a third of the population;
  • Civic leaders are interested in taking an innovative approach to supporting community-led and place-based projects;
  • Civic leaders value authentic civic engagement, and are interested in building leadership capacity within communities;
  • Civic leaders are interested in achieving and measuring social, economic and public health outcomes as components of a long-term vision for sustainability.

Beyond these criteria, we look at a few factors to help  us understand the opportunities and challenges in a neighborhood. This understanding will give us a more nuanced  sense of the civic landscape and help us strategize our approach. We ask:

  • Is there a strong attachment to place among residents? Do residents demonstrate a sense of ownership of and belonging to their city, including  knowledge of history and services; social ties; and a sense of security, hope and pride?
  • Is there a cooperative environment that encourages  collaboration among organizations, where  collaboration is born out of a mutually enforced creative or strategic ethos rather than from an external force like a funder?
  • Does the  local government have strong ties to  the social sector, either through interpersonal relationships or formal partnerships?
  • Is there a high  demand for services, including unincorporated or informal networks of leaders who could benefit from  ioby’s fiscal sponsorship and capacity-building support?
  • Is there project area alignment, meaning leaders in the social sector who are engaging in areas of work that  ioby supports (e.g. placemaking, tactical urbanism, food, safer streets, etc.)?
  • Are there  strong community development intermediaries that act as intermediaries for directing funds from city government to the neighborhoods?
  • Is there a higher than average participation in charitable giving?
  • Is there a  citywide sustainability plan with which ioby can help align citizen-led projects?

These questions form the framework for  our research and conversations with civic leaders and potential partners. While we don’t require a strong “Yes!” in every category, in general the more positive the findings, the more likely our platform and services will be seen as a valuable asset to citizen leaders. These questions are also designed to identify areas of particular challenge, such as low charitable giving or a city administration with little interest in citizen engagement, that might mean significant barriers to our model working in a given city.

We’ve completed Phase 0 in Both Detroit and Cleveland, and have found that both provide key opportunities for our platform and services to work in tandem with, and support, ongoing citizen leadership.

We’re thrilled to take the next steps in both of these amazing cities!

More on ioby Cleveland

More on ioby Detroit

ioby in Detroit: The Why and How

Since ioby launched in New York City in 2009, we have been a hyperlocal organization, on a mission to support neighborhood leaders and residents making positive change happen where they live. In 2012 we went national, with the idea that we could extend our services to people all over the country who have great ideas. And that’s the model that we use now – anyone from anywhere in the US can use our platform and services. However, we’ve found that we can make the most positive impact when we work closely with people and organizations who have deep local roots. In order to stay hyperlocal, we need to grow hyperlocally.

In 2014 we began working in Memphis, first partnering with the Mayor’s Office and local organizations, then hiring a Memphis-based community organizer with a long history of neighborhood leadership who could connect with change-making Memphians on a face-to-face, day-to-day basis. It was so effective to have someone on the ground that we realized this type of expansion was ioby’s future.

Now, we’re thrilled to be partnering with more local leaders around the country to bring ioby’s resources to four new cities in 2016: Detroit, Cleveland, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. This week, we’ll tell you how we arrived at these four, and why we’re super excited to be setting up shop in each.


Student Recycled Art Gallery

[Detroit-based ioby project  Student Recycled Art Gallery]

“The most important thing we’ve learned so far about working in Detroit is that there’s an incredible amount of positive momentum and energy among residents and groups who have been in Detroit for many years,” says David Weinberger, ioby’s City Partnerships Director. “There’s no need to re-invent the wheel;  our goal in beginning work in Detroit  is not to  duplicate the efforts of Detroiters, but rather build on their great work.” (Detroit’s neighborhood leaders include the team behind the ioby-funded Soulardarity, one of our all-time favorite citizen-led infrastructure projects.)


Where does ioby fit in?

We spent a long time determining whether, and how, a tool like ours could be used in Detroit — how we could provide a platform and services to complement and catalyze, but not complicate, the work of civic leaders there. Earlier this year, David interviewed around 60 of Detroit’s local leaders—in nonprofits, government, religious organizations, small business, and more—to get a feel for the civic landscape and how ioby might fit in.

Based on his conversations with Detroiters, David says, “There are a lot of great ideas bouncing around Detroit right now, but several Detroiters have told us that because the city is so spread out, and because so many people have left, there’s a sense that many neighbors don’t know each other anymore.” Our simple goal is to put cash in the hands of Detroiters with good ideas — we think that’s a powerful way of helping re-grow those social connections. Quickly-funded, small-scale, highly visible neighborhood projects have a way of bringing people together and strengthening networks of neighbors. Our local staff and the leaders we support can use crowdfunding and implementation to actually help people feel more connected.


Partners and allies

We’re very excited to work with and contribute to the efforts of a number of partner organizations such as CDAD, Michigan Community Resources, Detroit Future City, the Detroit Department of Neighborhoods, and Detroit Land Bank Authority. We’ve concluded that to start off, our best approach could be in working with organizations who deal with vacancy issues. Partially in response to what Detroit Future City has reported on some Detroiters’ sense of disconnectedness, we’ll begin by holding convenings about crowdfunding for neighborhood projects in order to bring together like-minded and action-oriented neighbors. ioby will also hold technical trainings to help contribute to the convenings our partner organizations already have planned.

We’ve been wanting to work more in Detroit for many years, and are thrilled that the generous support from The Kresge Foundation and the Ford Foundation has at last allowed us to establish an office there—set to open in March. Detroit’s greatest asset is its residents, and we’ve seen Detroiters show a real understanding of how small donations—and small actions—can add up to major, positive change. That’s what we’re all about, so we can’t wait to become part of this amazing city.


What you can do

– We’re hiring two Detroit Action Strategists to recruit and serve community leaders in the area. You can help us by spreading the word to any great Detroiters you know!

– We want to hit the ground running come March, so we’ll be hosting a series of webinars meant to inspire new ioby leaders in Detroit to start projects, starting now! Click here for more info, days and times, and to RSVP.

Read more about how we developed our approach to working in Detroit.