Category Archives: Events

This Saturday: Celebrate spring at Chenchita’s Community Garden, Harlem

It takes a village to raise an urban garden, and Chenchita’s Community Garden up in Harlem is no exception. Season after season, they partner up with not only dozens of local residents, but also a network of awesome local organizations, including Five Borough Farm, Urban Innovations and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, Harlem Grown, Total Equity Now, the Oberia Dempsey Center, the New York Public LibrarybookBgone, Word Up! Community Book Shop, and Def Poetry Jam.


So many good citizens are pitching in to help make the garden a gorgeous, restorative community center and outdoor classroom. But this weekend, the garden’s organizers just want everyone to come out, kick back, get a little sunshine, celebrate, and get excited for the harvests soon to come.

This Saturday, come one and come all to Madison Ave and East 112th street, 11am to 4pm, for a big old celebration. Expect a poetry reading from Urban Innovations artists, some mural-painting, the installation of a brand new Little Free Library (lumber donated by the DOT, books donated by the NYPL), and lots of merrymaking.

What is there to celebrate? Well, last year was a green year for the garden in the other sense of the word, too. We’re talking about moolah. Organizers earned a Citizen’s Committee grant, as part of the Love Your Block initiative, to beautify the garden. And we at ioby are proud to have been a part of the picture, too; Chenchita’s organizers raised money via ioby for a new shed/classroom (the old one had warped and broken down over the winter), easily blowing past their goal of $780 to $962 given. The new shed is in the works; check it out this Saturday.

“The idea is to connect people to the garden and have a celebration for getting the grants, for getting all this funding, for all the projects that we’re going to bring back. It’s springtime, it’s Earth Day,” says Stephanie Wong-You, one of the garden’s community organizers, and Coordinator of Community support at Job Path.

One of the things Wong-You loves most about Chenchita’s is the openness it inspires. Some community gardens, she says, can seem private, or inaccessible. Not this one. “The main organizers there, Angela and Pamela,” says Wong-You, “they’re incredibly dedicated and incredibly welcoming. Anybody passing through is welcome to join or to volunteer or try some mulberries in the summertime. Every time I visit there are always people passing by and asking where Angela is.”

And since locals really feel a part of the garden, they contribute. “A lot of the local stores will donate cardboard boxes and vegetable scraps for the compost,” explains Wong-You. “People will tie things to the fence, or just stop by when the see Angela and drop off compost. Everyone who passes by waves to whoever’s in the garden.”

So grab your compost scraps and come on out this Saturday. Looks to be 64 degrees and sunny!


Double your impact for Memphis neighborhoods at MEMFix! (and Online)

Calling all Memphians, neighbors,  and friends who care about making a difference for Memphis neighborhoods:  the big day is almost upon us! Tomorrow, Saturday, April 11, from 11am to 4pm, the Pinch district in Memphis comes alive with the latest manifestation of beloved community event series MEMFix. And we’ll be there loud and proud, to celebrate the seventy, yes, seventy – Memphis ioby campaigns currently running as part of our MemMatch challenge. Want us to throw some more awesome numbers at you? Don’t mind if we do:

Total raised to date:  $98,043

Number of MemMatch campaigns already fully funded:  10

Largest amount raised so far for a MemMatch campaign: $11,105 for  Trinity Playground Revitalization

So come find us tomorrow at our pop-up storefront at 358 N. Main Street. We’ll be there with Liveable Memphis and Sweet Potato Baby. Expect games, sweet treats, a book signing  by Tactical Urbanism author Mike Lydon, and the chance to learn about some really cool projects coming down the pipeline in your neighborhood.

Here’s   the best part: All donations given at MEMFix or online until  April  15 will be doubled, thanks to the match!  To whet your appetite, read a little bit below about four of the inspiring MemMatch projects.


Strengthening Memphis communities by improving public basketball courts

When Daniel Peterson was a junior in high school living in Putnam County, New York, the middle school in his town renovated its basketball court. No big deal – just your average renovation. But it changed Peterson’s life. His school team, “perennial losers,” as Peterson puts it, had within three years of the renovation started sending kids to play in college. He started practicing by himself every night – getting to know the cops, who always kicked him off at midnight – and soon found himself playing Division 1  in college. Fast-forward a few years and a few careers, and he was stepping into a new role as senior coordinator for health and fitness initiatives for the Memphis Grizzlies. Today, he’s the director of an organization called Project Backboard, which strengthens communities by improving courts. The game has never left him. And it all started with that renovation back in Putnam County. “Having those courts renovated really changed the trajectory of my life,” says Peterson.

A Memphian now, Peterson is focused on making as many improvements as he can to as many public Memphis courts as possible. Even something as minor as painting posts and covering graffiti makes a difference. “My feeling is that if you add minor improvements that draw people out of their cars and off their bikes and out of the house and into the parks, then you start getting that social interaction that strengthens community ties.”

There are 51 public courts in Memphis parks, only 13 of which are striped. Most of them are in pretty bad shape. Peterson is raising money right now to get to 15-20 of those that need stripes, and to replace backboards where possible. Striping and painting an entire court takes only $150, which means that with the current one-for-one match offer, $75 of your cash will go a long, long way. Click here to learn more about the campaign.


Memphis churches coming together to save the bees… and to serve survivors of prostitution and trafficking

Last year, Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Memphis found itself with a massive bee problem on its hands. The church’s bell tower, it turned out, was teeming with tens of thousands of the little guys. But instead of calling the exterminator, Calvary did something remarkable: they put out a call to other churches in the area, and set to work on finding a new home for the hive. That’s how the “bee garden” at the Church of the Annunciation, in Cordova, was born. The bees now make their home here, on a gorgeous nature trail near a meditation garden and a very special spot that the church calls the Stations of the Cross. The Church of the Annunciation offered the land for free; they simply wanted “to be good stewards of the land,” as Amanda Jemison, director of operations at All Saints Presbyterian, puts it.

Jemison got involved in the project early on. She was particularly excited to learn that the honey produced by the project would be sold locally, and that proceeds would be donated to Lives Worth Saving (LWS), a prostitution intervention program in Memphis. For her, that made the honey that much sweeter. Her reaction to the first honey harvest? “Amazing! I just finished my jar. It was delicious. It’s local honey that’s contributing to a dream and a mission that I just believe in so fully.”

Now Jemison is helping to lead the charge to raise the funds to another three apiaries in the bee garden, which will make five, total. The original two hives produced twenty pounds of honey in their first go-round; the second big harvest will take place in September, and is expected to produce 95 pounds of honey. Click here to help make that possible!


Bringing bats back to Buntyn  (Late breaking: This project is now FULLY FUNDED, although donations are still being accepted!)

When Shannon Langellier, Vice President of the East Buntyn Historic District Neighborhood Association, heard about ioby’s MEMmatch challenge, she put out a call to community members, asking how they thought the neighborhood could best be improved. And a very interesting suggestion came in from Caroline Carrico, who works at the local natural history museum. We need more bats, Carrico said. And more homes for bats.

Some of the best insect-eaters around, bats are critical to ecosystems, especially in areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are a problem. That includes Memphis, which is starting to see more and more West Nile virus. And bats are equally critical for their top-notch pollinating skills; organic gardeners love them.

But Carrico was right – bats had all but left the neighborhood of Buntyn. “I’ve lived here 30 years,” explains Langellier, “and it was not uncommon to see bats and chimney swifts around. At twilight, you could go out and see them fluttering around and such. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a bat anywhere in our area. I haven’t seen any in years and years. And you don’t realize it until someone points out that they’re gone!”

The money that Langellier and her partners are raising now will go toward the construction and installation – with the help of experts from the local nature center – of ten bat houses and one chimney swift tower in the neighborhood. So here’s to healthier gardens and fewer skeeters next year! Click here to learn more.


New rock garden and rotating art exhibit coming to an empty Soulsville lot  (Late breaking: This project is now FULLY FUNDED,  although donations are still being accepted!)

At the corner of Mississippi and Mclemore, in Soulsville, Memphis, is an empty lot about to get a serious makeover. It’s a high traffic corner (the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy are both nearby) in a very walkable part of town, and residents often sit and hang out amidst the remains of the building that was demolished across the street. Lori Robertson, VP of the neighborhood association, wants to build an inspiring and permanent space where residents can gather. There’s a fabulous “I love Soulsville” mural in place in the empty lot already, and all it needs now, says Robertson and her team, is the attention of some Memphian creatives.

Robertson’s hope for the art garden? To “create a little happy in Soulsville,” she says. She and her team are raising money now to turn the lot into a rock garden, which will serve as a canvass on which local artists will create their own public works. The exhibition will change – if all goes according to plan – every two or three months.

“My husband and I have this personal mantra that we try to live by,” says Robertson, in explaining why she loves her corner of Memphis. “It says ‘live in the vision, not in your circumstances.’ And I feel like the residents of Soulsville truly believe in that. Despite that Soulsville is part of an inner city neighborhood, they focus heavily on the opportunities. What can we do to make sure that Soulsville grows into something greater than what people may see it as today?” To learn more, click here.

$85,000 in Match Funding for Awesome Projects in Memphis!

When we announced the $50,000 for Memphis match campaign in February, we were anticipating being able to fund about 20 projects across Memphis that aim to make the city greener, safer, more livable, and more fun. 20 projects – that’s a lot of citizen-led, neighbor-funded awesomeness!

But we had no idea that we would be completely overwhelmed with great ideas from Memphians. As the amazing project proposals kept rolling in, far exceeding our expectations in number and quality, we knew it was going to be impossible to choose: we had to grow the pie.

[The Mobile Porch in action! via The Mobile Porch Flickr]

So we’re thrilled to announce that we were able to up the match to $85,000, supporting 78 great projects across 40 Memphis neighborhoods! (Match funding comes thanks in part to the Hyde Foundation in Memphis, which supports education, arts and culture, and livable communities.)

And it’s quite a range. When these projects launch on March 30 on, look for community gardens,  collaborative art projects, block parties, and more. Then on April 11, project leaders will be at MEMFix: Pinch, rallying support from their friends and neighbors to kick off the public match period. All public donations raised between April 11 and April 15 will be doubled thanks to the match funding.

As if that weren’t enough, a number of the projects were awarded free use of the Mobile Porch, a traveling interactive citizen engagement experience – literally a front porch on wheels – designed to get neighbors talking about important issues. The Porch, created by Livable Memphis and Memphis Tomorrow, an association of business and community leaders, will travel to different neighborhoods and help project leaders bring their neighbors together.

Here are a few projects to look out for in Memphis over the next few months:

  • Train art and trees for Jacob’s Ladder: Neighbors led by Rev. William Marler will decorate the front of Jacob’s Ladder, a community resource center in the Beltline with railroad-themed metal artwork, and will plant 25 new decorative trees to provide shade near the center.

  • Bus stop seats: In partnership with the Memphis Area Transit Authority, neighbors led by Emily Trenholm will purchase and install 24 sturdy and colorful seats at bus stops in high visibility locations citywide.

  • Bat houses in East Buntyn: Neighbors led by Shannon Langellier will build bat and chimney swift houses in the East Buntyn neighborhood. Bats eat West Nile-carrying mosquitos and also provide entertainment and education.

We can’t wait for these 78 awesome projects to get funded and get underway. One thing’s for certain, there’s going to be a lot of great stuff growing in Memphis this spring!


ioby Party In Our Backyards

Announcing ioby’s FOURTH annual Benefit: November 13th

Calling all community activists, all tactical urbanism fanatics, all environmentalists who believe that combatting climate change starts right at home, in our own backyards…

You’ve been hard at work, so you know firsthand that there’s nothing more rewarding than fighting the good fight – but who can keep going without sharing a beer now and then with like-minded citizens, optimists, and change-drivers? Who doesn’t to kick back now and then, and celebrate in the company of inspired peers?

This year marks our fourth annual ioby benefit, and we can’t wait. Thanks to an all-star list of sponsors this year, and thanks to YOU, the evening is shaping up to be a great time.

Teaser: Kombucha Brooklyn is prepping growlers and getting ready to tap some delicious elixirs (possibly jasmine) for us – all donated from the bottoms of their fermentation-crazed hearts. And the sustainability gurus at Williamsburg-based egg restaurant will be donating all kinds of brunchy deliciousness; check in later this week for the menu. Last but not least, the event space has of course been graciously donated by our longtime friends at Brooklyn Brewery.

So, to recap: Come join us at Brooklyn Brewery on November 13. Expect to reenergize with fellow activists and forward-thinkers, fuel up on Brooklyn brews and kombucha cocktails, and leave with more hope than you brought in. That’s crowd resourcing, baby.

November 13th Benefit Sponsor Highlight: Egg Restaurant

This just in: the hors d’oeuvres menu for our November 13th benefit – generously donated by Williamsburg’s amazing Egg Restaurant – is to die for.

Wrap your brain around this: Newsom’s Country Ham-wrapped roasted butternut squash, on toothpicks. Plus devilled eggs with beet chips, and marinated leeks with pecan romesco. Drooling yet? Oh, also: farro salad with apples, almonds and kale, mini biscuits (mini biscuits!) with fig jam and Grafton Farm cheddar, and (can you even handle it?) smoked trout toasts with arugula.

We love Egg Restaurant. They do farm-to-table and sustainable/ethical sourcing for real, and they’ve been doing it since way before it was cool. They’ve got their own farm upstate, and make a point of visiting the other farms they buy from. They often invite their providers – fish mongers, most recently – in to Brooklyn to lecture on their sourcing and methods, trade notes with Egg staffers, and enjoy a “family meal.”


Chef Evan Hanczor and founder/owner George Weld pour hours of consideration into each sourcing choice they make, truly. Lately, for example, they’ve been on the hunt for locally grown russet variety potatoes. “We’ve done a lot to try to find people in New York, which used to be a huge potato growing state,” says Hanczor. “We’ve been able to switch all of our potatoes for French fries to local potatoes, but we still use potatoes from Idaho for hash browns. We’re always on the lookout for a lead.” And that’s no joke: when Weld was upstate at Egg’s restaurant recently, he stopped by a farmers’ market, happened to spot a box with the name of a potato farmer on it, and immediately took a picture to send to Hanczor. “Maybe this guy has some!” he wrote.

That kind of diligence is all the more impressive when you consider what a busy year it’s been for the restaurant. First, they grew out of their tiny, well-loved North 5th Street space in Williamsburg, and moved around the corner to North 3rd. Now they’re hard at work on the final edits of a forthcoming cookbook titled Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For. The book should be out sometime in April.


For Weld and Hanczor though, sustainability goes far beyond the food itself. It’s hugely important to them that Egg be not just a good place to eat, but also a good place to work. Even before Obamacare went into effect, they offered health insurance to all employees, as well as paid time off. They’re adamant, too, about keeping staffers to 40-hour work weeks, rather than forcing overtime as most New York kitchens do.

That mini biscuit with fig jam and Grafton Farm cheddar sounds even better now, doesn’t it? November 13th, Brooklyn Brewery, 6:30pm. Come and get it.

ioby Benefit Sponsor Showcase: SmartSign


When was the last time you encountered a public sign that made you not just stop, but stop and think? We all know our reserved parking, our no trespassing, our this property is protected by video surveillance. But what about a sign for handicap parking that actually works – actually keeps spot-stealers at bay? What about public restroom signs that don’t alienate the trans community? And since the old ones seem, tragically, to be failing us left and right, what about speed limit signs that take a more creative approach to slowing drivers down in pedestrian areas?

The good folks over at Brooklyn-based SmartSign, a generous sponsor of ioby’s upcoming benefit (Nov. 13 – mark your calendars), think our signs can do better. For the last decade, they’ve been hard at work – while continuing to pump out big red stop signs and all the other usual suspects – to shake up the rote conversation between we Americans and our boring signs, making it just that little bit more enlightened, more playful, more current.

“I’m a little bit fanatical about it,” says SmartSign Content Director Conrad Lumm, who’s been known to dabble in a little signage-oriented guerilla tactical urbanism here and there. He and some colleagues recently took to the streets of Brooklyn with a batch of provocative handicap parking signs (‘Taking my spot? Take my disability’), tacking them up wherever they could find handicap spots. Everywhere the crew went, people thanked them. “The more we look the more we see,” says Lumm. “There are a lot of issues that need messaging, that need signage.”

Some of those issues are ones you’d expect. Take speed limits. As Lumm points out, “There’s a lot of statistical evidence that just lowering the speed limit by five miles per hour saves just an absolutely stunning number of lives in places as perilous as NYC.” SmartSign recently donated a bunch of “20 IS PLENTY” signs to activist group Right of Way, which installed them in Park Slope, Brooklyn, as a form of citizen protest.


But some of the issues that need signage are more obscure than you could imagine. In some rural parts of the country, for example, unofficially designated “pet dumping sites” are an emerging phenomenon, posing a huge threat to animal welfare. “We started hearing from police departments that this is actually a thing,” says Lumm, “so we started developing signage offering people alternatives to abandoning unwanted pets in isolated areas.”

SmartSign’s forward-thinking attitude has proved great for business, too. More and more communities across the US are tailoring their signage to their own very specific needs, and they’re turning to Smart Sign for production. “We kind of got ahead of that, by setting up a proprietary system that allows people to print pretty much whatever they want to,” says Lumm. “Across the industry, there’s just been an explosion in the different varieties of signs that people want.”

The company was the first, for example, to manufacture an all-gender public restroom sign that depicted not the person who should use it (Pants? Skirt? Neither? Both?), but rather what was on the other side of the door: a toilet. “It’s kind of a big step for a lot of organizations,” says Lumm. “For a long time, people in the trans community have said that everyday public restroom use can be an utterly horrifying experience where they’re called out or policed or people yell at them for using the quote unquote wrong bathroom.” A huge number of the new all-gender signs have sold, and this year SmartSign donated about $10,000 worth of the all-gender signs to colleges across the country. They wanted to send graduating seniors into the work force with a more 2014 take on public restroom signage.

It’s all pretty cool, groundbreaking stuff. Lucky for us, Lumm and his colleagues think we’re doing good work, too. They graciously plan to continue to support ioby project leaders by providing free custom signage, enabling funds raised to stretch that much further. Lumm is all in for the Nov 13 ioby benefit – which he says is always a blast – so make a list of your tactical urbanism questions and get ready to nerd out over delicious KBBK-donated kombucha cocktails. And don’t forget to look for the sign he had made up for the benefit. Hint: bring your dancing shoes.

“I think the work ioby does is amazing and necessary,” Lumm says, “I like knowing that there are people who are thinking about how to make cities more liveable, more user friendly places, and that they’re in my neighborhood, I love that.”

So. Now that you know the sign’s the limit: If you could design a sign to better your neighborhood, what would it say? Where are the gaps in communication on your street? What’s your message?

4th Annual ioby Benefit Sponsor Shoutout: Mobile Commons

In today’s world of smart phones and hyper connectedness, text messaging is emerging as a new communications frontier in financial inclusion, in health, in social services – in so many of the threads that strengthen our social fabric. Text campaigns can get people to the polls, to the doctor, to a hot meal at a homeless shelter, to volunteer opportunities, even to the support kids need to help them stand up to bullies, and more and more organizations are starting to tap into that power.


Which is why we’re thrilled to announce that our November 13th ioby benefit (tickets here) is being sponsored by Mobile Commons, a Brooklyn-based firm that offers a self-service solution for managing mobile and text messaging campaigns. Mobile Commons is the big leagues: it was the lead mobile strategist for the Obama 2012 campaign. It managed to get New Yorkers out to the polls even in the chaotic aftermath of hurricane Sandy, when no one knew where to go queue up. Along with dozens of for-profit organizations, Planned Parenthood, the MTA, The Ad Council, and the New York City Health Department have all been clients. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

We’re particularly excited about a few of the campaigns being run right now by Mobile Commons’ clients. There’s The Ad Council’s oral hygiene program, which uses text messaging to engage parents in fun brushing challenges, ultimately aiming to ensure that kids brush for a full two minutes, twice a day. Best of all, parents don’t text into the void; they correspond directly with “Joy,” a carefully crafted persona and oral hygiene helper.


There’s also The Ad Council’s financial literacy program, developed in partnership with the American Association of CPAs. The campaign’s finance persona, “Ben,” texts tips, quizzes, and resources to young adults aged 25-34, nudging and empowering them to save money and to plan for their financial futures.

And then there’s the National Cancer Institute’s fascinating SmokeFreeTxt program, which uses text messaging to connect smokers with the support, resources, encouragement, and timeline management they need to help them quit. Amazingly, the quit rate among teens who used SmokeFreeTxt was double the average teen quit rate of about 2-3%.

Mobile Commons’ CTO and Co-founder Benjamin Stein sits on ioby’s board, and advises nonprofits on how to best use technology. We’re so grateful that he and the Mobile Commons team continue to have our back, and look forward to watching the partnership grow.




Getting Good Done Miami

The January 30 Getting Good Done Miami conversation at the Miami Green Lab was an exciting event. More than 60 of you came out on a rainy night to share practical skills and challenges in doing positive community-based work in Miami.

A full podcast from the event will be available soon. Until then, you can read the storify here.

We were really grateful to have several members of Miami city and Miami-Dade county staff at the event to work with community activists on expediting their great ideas for Miami. Special thanks to Nichole Hefty and Susannah Troner from the Miami-Dade County Office of Sustainability, for initiating this partnership with ioby that is now one year in the making.

We also wanted to recognize Christian Guerrero, the Chief of the Environmental Plan Review at the county, Carlos Hernandez from the County Wastewater Division, and Patrice Gillespie Smith, from the County Community Image Manager for bringing their great ideas to the table. Thanks also to Glen Hadwen from the City of Miami Sustainability for hosting the event at the Miami Green Lab.

Our speakers, Marta Viciedo, Eric Katz, Ileana Collazo and Gayle Zalduondo shared fascinating presentations with us about their projects (all found on


Notable among the practical skills shared to Get Good Done were a focus on taking small steps initially to build support and work within a limited budget at first. The speakers shared that using a light, tactical intervention at first, like a pop-up park, pop-up parklet, or even a pop-up train station, can be great ways to introduce new ideas to a community. Many speakers talked about building creative partnerships and working in neighborhoods where they don’t live and building community, person to person. Marta mentioned that it’s really important to “be nice” when you’re asking people to help you with your ideas. Ileana noted that creative alliances, like hers between artists and developers, can be long lasting. Eric shared his passion for transit-oriented development and said that it is a useful skill he’s acquired in articulating his vision for bringing ecological commodities to all Miami-Dade residents. He emphasized the importance of bringing other people into his network by connecting to them to a shared vision, similar to how one might do so in a grant proposal. Gayle described her surprise when an informal conversation with a new friend about her idea to install a public chalkboard in Wynwood ended up landing her a partnership with a women and girls organization at Miami Dade College.


The Office of Sustainability at Miami-Dade County offered to create a resource guide to try to help ioby leaders and community groups figure out how to get different types of permitting. Miami-Dade County will share this resource guide with all ioby project leaders once finalized. The Office of Sustainability also offered to assist in making connections with other County staff members (and municipal staff when possible). Office of Sustainability staff can be reached at 305-375-5593 or It’s a good idea to contact ioby first so we can help you prepare for your meeting with the county. All ioby staff are notified when you email If you have an idea for an ioby campaign visit or email


Thanks to Luis Munoz for these great photos!

Miss us at #EPIPCrowd?

Last night was a fantastic event at the Housing Works Bookstore hosted by EPIP-NY with DonorsChoose, kiva, and Benevolent moderated by The Networked Nonprofit co-author Allison Fine.

If you missed it, you can listen to the whole podcast right here. Enjoy! Photos below are by Vlad Drekalo. Thank you, Vlad!

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