Category Archives: News

News from ioby’s CEO Erin Barnes

I’m excited to share some news with everyone in the ioby community:  Next year, I plan to step down from my role as CEO and into a founder-in-residence role. When I shared my decision with the Board and the Senior Management Team a few months ago, I made a commitment to support a process and a timeline that centers equity and inclusion. Together we decided that the best time for me to transition into my new role at ioby would be late summer of 2023, about a year from now. 

Erin Barnes ioby CEO
Courtesy of The Obama Foundation

I’m deeply proud of what we’ve built together over the past 15 years. ioby began as a small idea to build political will for climate action by engaging real people in real places. The core concept was to center residents, who are often overlooked and underfunded despite their deep understanding of their own neighborhoods. And listening to and trusting residents has remained our main guiding principle as we’ve grown.

Little by little, step by step, one person at a time, deep listening has allowed our little idea to grow and evolve. An NYC pilot. A funding platform. Fiscal sponsorship. An expansion from a focus on just “environmental” projects to all positive change projects at the neighborhood level. City partnerships. National expansion. Researching civic capacity of places for deeper partnerships. Match programs. Flexing our services to be responsive to community needs during the overlapping crises of the past few years. 

I’m proud that these years of listening has allowed us, as an organization, to understand deeply and build our services around the unique needs of small, grassroots, movement-building organizations that often struggle to find funding and support elsewhere. 

Today, what ioby is and what ioby can do is far more powerful than my co-founders and I ever dreamed possible. We imagined ioby could help make positive change on a block level, like the community gardens and murals that are a bright point in so many of our neighborhoods. But the ripples from these individual projects are—I believe—fostering something bigger. We’ve seen an ioby-funded community composting pilot get adopted by city government; resident-led street improvements have become safer road redesigns; public health projects have resulted in real outcomes at the population scale; racial justice projects have tipped the scales (and monuments), and on and on. 

As I prepare for my next role, I feel confident in, and comforted by, my belief that this movement of resident-led change will continue to grow. Because at the soul of ioby are the people who lead positive change in their neighborhoods. These are an impressive, tireless group of nearly 4,000 and growing, who have decided to step into civic life, and whose passion and talent inspires and fuels me every day. Their work is critical to creating a healthy multiracial democracy, and they are critical to creating joyful communities for us all. I can’t wait to watch this movement grow.

I’m not going anywhere for awhile, so you’ll still be hearing from me and from our fantastic Board leadership and staff throughout this transition. And I’ll continue to be close to the organization in my founder-in-residence role. 

None of this would be possible without all of you, and the love and support that you give to ioby in so many ways. I am so grateful to all of you for this. Thank you for helping us create this beautiful community together. You’ve been an important part of ioby’s history, and I am so grateful to you for being a part of our future.

With immense gratitude, 

Erin Barnes

CEO & Co-Founder, ioby

Announcing ioby’s Digital Inclusion Policy

Our new Digital Inclusion Policy is the latest component of ioby’s larger Racial Equity & Inclusion (REI) framework, which is currently under development in a co-creation process with our staff and Board. We see ioby’s Digital Inclusion Policy as a guiding tool so that we can hold ourselves accountable to make just, equitable product and marketing decisions in both long-term and daily work. The policy was created based on formal and informal feedback from ioby Leaders throughout the years, and drafted with input from our entire staff.

The new policy is rooted in ioby’s five Principles

  1. Local is Best
  2. Small is Big
  3. Inclusivity is Key
  4. We’re Whole People
  5. Learn, Experiment, Share 

In order to apply these principles into our product and marketing work, here are the actions we will take as part of the Digital Inclusion Policy:

  • We center the people we serve—ioby project Leaders and their teams, project donors, projects volunteers, and those who are learning with us—in our decisions about our products and marketing. We use feedback from the people we serve to inform the product roadmap. We use research recruitment guidelines to ensure the feedback we receive comes from a diverse pool of users. We use insights from ioby staff to prioritize our roadmap.
  • We meet people where they’re at. We create a user experience that is simple, easy to follow, and grounds the resident leader in their place in the experience. We do this with clear communication and stages, from ideation to disbursement and project implementation, with smooth transitions between teams and third-party apps. We make it clear that each resident leader is assigned a strategist, with a photo, a name, and list of responsibilities throughout the process.
  • We recognize that the people we serve are whole people with different abilities. We strive to make and resources available in an appropriate language when we have the capacity to do so. We use videos, graphics, short-form content, and text that is accessible to the communities we serve. We use ASL interpreters or auto captioning for online events. We conform with Level AA Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure we’re including anyone experiencing any permanent, temporary, or situational disability. We have a design system to ensure functionality of User Interface elements are consistent across different devices.
  • We know that deep participation at the local level is meaningful and so we strive to provide the most relevant and location specific information. 
  • We value contributions and generosity of all kinds and so strive to make the most inclusive giving platform possible by accepting cash, check, credit / debit cards, digital wallets, employer-matched gifts, donor-advised funds, text to give, as well as sweat equity and volunteer time. We will continue to evaluate the ways that people contribute and give.
  • We serve as a bridge to give resident leaders more access to institutional funding through match programs. We communicate availability, and approach distribution based on eligibility.
  • We strive to simplify, streamline, and consolidate any tools to be as inclusive of all the people we serve (all ages, comfort levels with technology, and device capabilities). We strive to support any browser or device used by 1% or more of the people we serve.
  • We follow the best practices of privacy protection. We publicly disclose our methods of data management and analysis as well as how they are used by ioby staff. When conducting user research related to ioby’s online services, we provide a consent and authorization form detailing types of information ioby collects and how it will be used and shared internally.
  • We share learnings from our data and sometimes share raw anonymized data. Non-aggregated data is only shared when a non-disclosure agreement is in place with the third party.

To be truly effective, digital inclusion must go beyond ADA-compliant screen layouts, and must be rooted deeply in equity and inclusion. At the same time, it must be actionable enough to make a difference in the everyday user experience of ioby Leaders when they work with our staff and our digital products. 

By adopting this new Digital Inclusion Policy, ioby aims for full transparency in the principles with which we measure the success of our work together. At the same time, we want to share the actionable, concrete steps we pledge to take every day. We hope you will join us in holding us accountable as we communicate with and serve our neighbors.

Questions? Reach out!

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.

Continue reading A bittersweet farewell to our dear David Weinberger

We’ve raised $10 million! Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like.

Today, we want to celebrate those special neighbors. You know who we’re talking about. In fact, you’re probably one of them! They’re the changemakers. The movers and shakers. The unofficial mayors of the block. Got an issue in the neighborhood? They know what to do, and they’re ready to help.

They’re the everyday folks who’ve raised over $10 million dollars on ioby to make positive change, and they’re just getting started! That’s right–neighbors like you have raised over $10,000,000 on ioby.

That’s a lot of zeros! We’re so incredibly excited to celebrate this milestone with you today, and we’re even more excited to see what you will get done next. We rounded up below just a few of the campaigns that brought us to $10 million dollars. Check them out, then, start your own project!

Continue reading We’ve raised $10 million! Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like.

A note from Erin and Jamie

Dear friends, 

Together, we’ve had front row seats to ioby’s founding and evolution. Many critical moments have changed the course of ioby’s history, none so much as ioby co-founder Brandon Whitney’s contributions. 

From the very beginning, Brandon was laser focused on building an organizational culture that fit our mission. One of the most important pieces of ioby culture that Brandon created was ioby’s Whole Person Policy, which states:

Each staff member, intern, volunteer, partner, and board member brings with them a rich variety of experiences, values, hopes, inspirations, stories, and challenges. By honoring that we are “whole people,” and by drawing on our individual qualities, we are better equipped to help others succeed.
And so:  We will honor the diversity within our team, and respect all individuals as equal members of a collegial community and as people with lives outside ioby. We will nurture our whole selves through pursuit of our own passions, knowledge sharing, fun, and active involvement in our communities.

Brandon, understanding that ioby was combining two worlds—grassroots activism and tech startup—both notorious for staff burnout, saw that this was a potential recipe for disaster. And so, he drew on the work of Parker Palmer and created this policy.

It has resulted in some of the most beautiful things at ioby, including a community of staff who share mutual love and respect for one another. 

Continue reading A note from Erin and Jamie

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

Some important news from our Co-Founder Brandon

Dear friends,

I write with the hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. With the challenges that this global pandemic poses, the lives put in jeopardy and even our best-laid plans postponed, it can be a difficult time for change. But I wanted to share some important news with you: After working for over a decade to help build ioby to be where it is today, I’ll be leaving ioby this summer.

I’m confident that ioby is in more capable hands at both the board and staff levels than ever before in our history.

I believe in our mission and ability to achieve it as much as the day we founded ioby. I’ve spent the last decade of my life building this organization and it has been the greatest honor, privilege, and challenge of my career. And while this timing may feel odd right now, ioby’s Co-Founder and CEO, Erin Barnes and I have spent the last year planning this inevitable leadership transition. 

I’m incredibly proud of the way ioby has responded to the pandemic’s impacts, and it’s helped me to reflect on one of the values that I think is most important to us at ioby: listening to residents and centering their voices. 

Continue reading Some important news from our Co-Founder Brandon

Matching funds available NOW for COVID-19 projects, wherever you are in the U.S.

Hi neighbors, 

We hope you’re able to find some peace in the midst of these challenging times. 

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen so many everyday people all across the country organize to support their neighbors and care for front-line medical workers in their community. It’s been heartening to see these generous acts of care, and we hope they’ve lifted your spirits too. As more and more neighbors continue to step up to take action we wanted to share a new opportunity to support COVID-19 response efforts in your own community. 

Wherever you are in the United States, when you crowdfund for a COVID-19 relief effort with ioby we’ll double your donations dollar-for-dollar up to $8,000. 

Continue reading Matching funds available NOW for COVID-19 projects, wherever you are in the U.S.

An update from ioby on COVID-19

Dear ioby community,

I wanted to share some information with you about how the rapidly unfolding situation concerning COVID-19 will impact our work together at ioby. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our community, and we know that these will be challenging times for all of us. In order to fulfill our role in ensuring our community’s health, and in order to continue to provide support to you, we’re making a few temporary changes to our work together. 

Until further notice, ioby will be transitioning ALL in-person workshops, trainings and events to an online format. This also includes all one-on-one in-person meetings. 

ioby will remain open with all staff working remotely until further notice. We will continue to be ready and available to support your projects via phone, email, and online. 

Continue reading An update from ioby on COVID-19

Doubling down for sustainability in Connecticut: Get matched!

ioby is always looking to partner with other organizations innovating in the civic leadership world. Today, we’re proud to announce our new partnership with Sustainable CT, leading innovation in sustainability and equity work inside government. 

Sustainable CT runs a voluntary certification program for municipalities in Connecticut and has been operational since 2016. The model is not unique to Connecticut: similar programs have been in place in New Jersey for 10 years and in Maryland for 8 years. We’ve been familiar with it for a long time at ioby through our work supporting Sustainable Jersey City, and lifted up their work on green infrastructure

So, when we had the opportunity to explore an innovative new partnership with Sustainable CT, it was easy for us to imagine how we might work together. Even so, the depth of the partnership we have today was beyond the scope of our imagination and we couldn’t be more excited. 

Continue reading Doubling down for sustainability in Connecticut: Get matched!