Category Archives: News

Meet our new Pittsburgh Action Strategist, Miriam Parson!

As we wrote to y’all last year, ioby began as a hyperlocal organization with a mission to support neighborhood leaders and residents making positive change happen where they live. Since our founding in 2009, we’ve become a national organization (meaning that anyone in the U.S. can use our platform and services), but we’ve also been expanding our network of local offices around the country. We’ve always done this intentionally, by going to cities we’ve determined are especially likely to use and benefit from ioby’s platform and services for citizen-led change.

In 2013, we began working in Memphis, and earlier this year we opened our doors in Cleveland and Detroit. Now, we couldn’t be happier to introduce our newest office and newest team member: Action Strategist Miriam Parson of Pittsburgh!

Miriam Parson

“My family were farmers in central Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh is my home,” Miriam says. “I’ll never leave.”

Since 2009, Miriam has collaborated across Pittsburgh’s sustainability and revitalization communities to support many of the city’s environmental and community development solutions.

“Pittsburgh is a very open, collaborative city where people are committed to their neighborhoods’ wellbeing and pool their resources,” she says. “There’s a deep-rooted and collective sense here of our place in history, and we have a diverse, neighborhood-led investment in our home and its future.”

A first-generation college graduate who grew up in systemically under-resourced communities, Miriam is personally dedicated to building equitable collaborations that support neighbors determining the future of their own communities. For the last nine years she has served community initiatives in central PA and Pittsburgh.

Mariam Parson ioby

“My thinking about problems has grown to be very action-oriented,” she says, “and I’ve learned that, as activist Lilla Watson said, ‘your liberation is bound up with mine,’ so we have to work together.”

Miriam says there are lots of organizations out there doing good work, but she’s especially excited by ioby’s “democracy on the ground” approach. “It’s civic engagement, it’s citizen philanthropy, it’s active self-determination,” she says. “It’s, ‘How do we pitch in some money, some time, and make this happen?’ That’s what we should all be doing as citizens anyway. ioby  listens and provides support for Pittsburghers to build the future they want to see in their neighborhood.”

Read more about how we choose cities to work in.

Brandon Whitney, the Distributed Co-Founder!

As ioby grows larger — we’re up to 18 full-time employees now! — we are also growing more distributed.  We were founded in NYC, and  many of our  team still sits in our Brooklyn office. We also have offices and team members in Memphis, Cleveland, and Detroit, and will  soon bring on team members in Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.  We work with partners and resident leaders across the country, and our team spends a lot of time on videoconferences,  as well as doing  a good deal of travel to interface directly with partners and community leaders in cities from LA to Miami.

We’re actively working on being a better distributed team —  to make our work seamless, transparent,  and inclusive, so that there is very little difference in working from a home office in Cleveland as there is working alongside ten colleagues in our Brooklyn office.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 1.11.35 PM

[Another day, another videoconference at ioby]


At the end of the month, we’ll get another opportunity to test and improve on our goal of being a seamless distributed organization: our Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer  Brandon Whitney is moving  to San Francisco! After 10 years as a New Yorker, Brandon will be moving along with his partner  Matt, who will be pursuing a great professional opportunity in the Bay Area.

Other than having to get up painfully early west coast time for staff meetings,  we anticipate  Brandon’s  role at ioby, and his work life,  to remain exactly the same as it has been since he and Erin Barnes founded ioby several years ago.  He will still work closely with the teams he manages, our Leader Success, Product, and Operations teams  via videoconference, tools like Slack and Asana, and phone.  He will likely travel back to Brooklyn  frequently to be part of essential in-person meetings with the Board of Directors and  all-staff meetings.



[Did you ever know that you’re our hero?]


Brandon’s move  also provides some great opportunities for ioby.  The Bay Area is home to many partners, peers, funders, and leaders in the  civic tech  world, as well as countless  leading  community activist and grassroots groups.  We’re excited that Brandon’s move brings a chance to more closely align  with all the great Bay Area-based work being done in our various worlds.

Brandon, bon voyage and best of luck getting settled as a Californian! We’ll miss  your  head sticking up above your cubicle at your standing desk and your bike parked in our Brooklyn co-working space, but we’ll see you on a videoconference very soon!

Come on, get healthy with the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge

In the United States, the formal health care system—insurance, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals—tends to dominate the conversation about health. But research is making it increasingly clear that what’s going on in our neighborhoods has as much or more to do with our wellbeing as what insurance policy we can afford or which doctor we see.

In zip codes with  bountiful public transit, inexpensive exercise options, education about nutrition, and affordable fresh food, residents are likely to enjoy good health. In areas without these  essentials, people are much more prone to be dealing with chronic illnesses like diabetes and obesity.

What can we do about that? Well, we thought you might have some ideas.

This summer, ioby is excited to be partnering with the New York State Health Foundation to launch the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge, which will support residents of nine neighborhoods and cities in New York as they take an active role in creating a culture of health where they live. If you live in Brownsville, Claremont, East Harlem, Hunts Point, the Lower East Side, Morrisania, Niagara Falls’ North Side, Plattsburgh, or the Near West Side of Syracuse and have an idea to make your community a healthier place to live, apply by August 1 to receive fundraising training and dollar-for-dollar matching funds to run an ioby campaign and bring your idea to life.


What kinds of projects will we be looking for?

Any resident-led, resident-engaging, neighborhood-scale initiative that will help create a culture of health in your area by making it greener or safer; improving local access to affordable healthy food; promoting walking, biking, or other exercise; educating your neighbors about healthy choices; etc. This campaign is limited to the nine geographic areas mentioned above, but the types of projects that will qualify are wide open: we’re imagining new community gardens, all-ages exercise groups, weekend yoga in the park, bike-to-work promotions, healthy parenting programs, food justice fanfares, creative nutrition classes, pedestrian parades—you name it! (Literally.)

“One of the reasons ioby is really excited about this match is that it cuts across so many fields and topics we’ve worked on with our leaders before,” says Ethany Uttech, ioby’s Leader Action Strategist & Partnership Manager. “It pulls together the impacts of park advocates, food justice warriors, bike education activists—just to name a few—and connects the dots between them. It brings everything together under the umbrella of holistic neighborhood health.”

ioby has been working with some of the NYS Health Foundation’s key partners, like Brownsville Partnership, Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative, and Bronx Lebanon Hospital to help spread the word and get ready to support our local leaders. Leaders will fundraise in August and September, and projects will ideally take place in late 2016 and early 2017.

This is a generously-funded program—we’re hoping to support 50 projects—so don’t miss out! Apply by August 1 and make your fundraising work go twice as far to help your neighborhood get up, get out, and get healthy.

For more information, visit

Announcing the Livonia Avenue El-Space Challenge

“What’s really exciting about this partnership is that it’s turning the traditional planning process on its head.

– David Weinberger, ioby’s City Partnerships Director

Livonia Ave 1

The 2016 Livonia Avenue El-Space Challenge is a partnership between ioby and the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) that’s connecting community leaders in Brownsville, Brooklyn with funding and support to reimagine the spaces around the elevated train structure (“el-space”) along the neighborhood’s Livonia Avenue.

Too often, especially in neighborhoods of color that have experienced disinvestment, people often become aware of a big project happening in their backyard after all the decisions about it have been made. But this time, the City is coming to the community first thing, asking the people who inhabit the space every day what kinds of changes they want to see there. It makes the community’s input active, not passive.

Earlier this year, DOT and ioby reviewed a variety of proposals submitted by residents for creative, short-term placemaking projects, and selected four of them for inclusion in the challenge. You’ll be able to read more about the projects and their leaders on our blog later this week!

The partnership takes cues from last year’s Great Streets Challenge, a similar collaboration between ioby and the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Both initiatives sprung from the conviction that everyday residents themselves are best equipped to identify their community’s assets, challenges, and opportunities.


Livonia 2

Another thing that makes this challenge especially exciting is that none of the winning proposals came from people who have a background in design. Some of them have community development experience, but none of the leaders are experts in urban planning. They’re just people who live or work in the neighborhood and have a good idea to improve it.

The challenge is part of DOT’s citywide effort to reconnect communities by improving the spaces around elevated train lines, bridges, and highways. Temporary, innovative projects like these are meant to inform and inspire future urban design and neighborhood revitalization efforts. And: they’re super fun.

For every dollar you donate to one (or all!) of these awesome projects, DOT will give an additional three to make them happen. That’s a 3-to-1 match! The fundraising deadline is June 3, so don’t delay—give today!

Have an idea to improve your local transit experience? Trick Out My Trip is back!

Could your transit trip use a makeover?

Would you love to see an eye-catching mural where your bland bus shelter is now? Do you think a freshly-painted crosswalk could smooth your steps to work? Or would you just like to know when the next ride is set to arrive, thankyouverymuch?


In 2014, ioby partnered with TransitCenter to launch the first Trick Out My Trip—a campaign to equip citizens nationwide with the tools they need to make small but crucial changes to their local transit experience. From an enthusiastic lot of submissions, we chose ten awesome local leaders who share our belief that regular riders—people who take transit every day, know the routes, and how they fit within the system—have the ability to improve their transit experience quickly, cheaply, and outside the lengthy processes of capital planning and construction. Take a look at the fabulous ideas they initiated and the progress they’ve made in our first-year report.

Now, we’re positively thrilled to be rolling out our second annual Trick Out My Trip. With fresh funding from TransitCenter, we’re again taking proposals from neighborhood leaders with ideas for improving the mobility experience where they live. All selected participants will run their own crowd-resourcing campaign to fund their projects—but ioby will be there to help every step of the way.

Like the first time around, we’ll be keeping a keen eye out for projects that are poised to deliver not only a positive immediate outcome, but that will also help build long-term systemic change. As our project leaders learned the first time around, even small positive actions can help build relationships with transit agencies. Government-led improvements to transit are much needed, but they can be even better when they’re complemented, and informed, by the faster, “lighter” changes that only on-the-ground residents—who live their local scene every day—can initiate.

Take northwest Denver’s Great Paths, a project to identify top destinations in the neighborhood and promote the ped-friendly path that links them. Or Walk This Way, L.A., which is creating street signs that show the walking times between different destinations to change the perception that many places are too far to go by foot. We love placemaking projects, too—like Memphis’s Bus Stop Love, which asserts: “We cannot change the weather but we can improve the commute!” Bus Stop Love is building a beautiful bus shelter that will celebrate the artistic legacy of the city’s Soulsville neighborhood—and help make riders’ wait times feel shorter, even if they aren’t. Ditto for Lithonia Ride to the Future, for which residents of this Georgia town came together to improve a downtown bus stop—with a bench, bulletin board, and trash can—where before there was only a bus stop sign. Volunteers will also beautify the surrounding area and keep it clean. You can already feel the difference!

Need inspiration and tips to craft your own great submission? Check out our “5 Projects Any Community Can Do To Improve the Transit Experience” guide.

To be eligible to receive matching funds, you must fill out our quick-and-easy idea form by May 20, 2016, and to participate, you must agree to our terms. And be sure to read these additional details on how the match will work, deadlines to know, and other requirements for eligibility.

Want a bit more background info? Read about how ioby works. Or if it’s the personal touch you’re after, you can email David Weinberger, ioby’s City Partnerships Director, at with any questions.

We can’t wait to hear you how you want to trick out your trip this year!

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!


idea button


Join our team! ioby is hiring

Come work with us!
ioby is hiring a Development Officer in our headquarters in Brooklyn, as well as five  brand-new  Action Strategist positions in Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC!

And stay tuned; in the coming weeks we’ll be adding even more positions.

This could be your Executive Director

[This could be your Executive Director.]

Do you or does someone you know want to join a growing team of passionate, smart, and fiercely fun people who are dedicated to growing a nationwide movement of neighbor-led change? We hope so!

Check out our open positions here.

ioby is coming to Washington, DC!

Building on our existing relationship with our nation’s capital—that’s included some awesome projects and grassroots fundraising workshops with the city’s parks department—we’re super excited to be opening an office in Washington, DC early next year.

We’re especially happy about our growing   partnership with the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), an agency with a mission to improve the quality of life of DC’s residents by protecting and restoring the environment, conserving natural resources, mitigating pollution, and educating the public about ways to secure a sustainable future.

Common Good City Farm

[DC’s Common Good City Farm has worked with ioby to raise funds for its youth internship program. Image courtesy Common Good.]

One of DOEE’s particular goals at this time is to support neighbor-led change in several DC districts that have historically been disenfranchised—specifically, wards 5, 7, and 8. The agency—and ioby—believe that residents of these neighborhoods can lead the charge to meet many of DC’s sustainability goals, and can benefit from more support and education about grassroots coalition-building, crowdfunding, and the many possible ways they can improve their communities. That’s where we come in.

DOEE and ioby hope to support citizen-led projects that align with the   Sustainable DC program, the city’s major planning effort to make it the most sustainable town in the nation. Sustainable DC was first initiated in 2011 and involved more than 700 resident volunteers in drafting a vision and developing recommendations for goals and actions around the built environment, climate, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste, water, and the green economy. We’re so glad to be lending our expertise to this community-led greening and urban development effort that’s already reporting considerable progress.

We’re throwing a little party in DC this Thursday, October 8 – that’s tomorrow! – to say a more formal hello and explain how we plan to begin working with our new DC constituents. Registration is still open!

We’re planning more exciting expansions for next year, too: ioby will be launching offices in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland in early 2016 as well! If all goes according to plan, we’ll be onboarding all of our new staff in these different cities at the same time. Keep an eye on our website for job postings.

[For more on  our approach to getting to know new cities, read our post about Detroit.]

We’re really looking forward to putting down more roots in Washington, DC: a diverse city with a monumental history that remains a hub for new ideas and community-led action. Please spread the word to your DC friends and colleagues that ioby is coming to town! We’ll post news and updates as we get settled.

Trick Out My Trip: Ten Citizen-Led Transit Projects to Rethink How We Ride!

Last fall, ioby and TransitCenter announced  the Trick Out My Trip campaign. The idea was   to help mobilize citizen leaders    to make small but crucial changes to the transit rider’s experience — the little things that wouldn’t necessarily be covered in a transit agency’s capital budget but can make a huge positive impact on how we get around.

Now, we’re thrilled to announce that the results are in!

We think  that riders—who take transit every day, know the routes and how they fit within the system—can improve their ride quickly and cheaply, outside the lengthy processes of capital planning and construction.  The ten citizen leaders featured in the Trick Out My Trip report have implemented their transit projects across the country, and by working with their neighbors and their transit agencies, have laid an important groundwork for citizen-led transit improvements.

Full reportTOMT campaign pages

20150922 TransitCenter report_WEB_SECOND DRAFT

Full reportTOMT campaign pages

Announcing LA Great Streets Challenge Grant Winners: 8 Ways LA’s Great Streets are getting even greater!

This morning, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the eight winners of the Great Streets Initiative’s Challenge Grant,  a partnership between LA Great Streets and ioby that   challenges  citizens to re-imagine their city’s streets as vibrant public spaces.

These winning applicants  are being awarded up to $10,000 in city funding , and  have the opportunity to raise additional funding on ioby – up to $10,000 of the funds they raise will be matched dollar-for-dollar through the Great Streets initiative—that’s a potential total of $30,000 per project!

Out of scores of great entries, eight winning projects were selected earlier this   month. They’re a diverse lot, but every project incorporates aspects of community engagement, data collection, creativity, and long-term impact.


We’ll be featuring their  individual stories on our blog next month. In the meantime, and in no particular order, here’s a brief rundown of all of them:

  • The Arid Lands Institute’s Connect the Dots project will bring citizens together to envision Van Nuys Boulevard between Victory and Oxnard as a culturally and environmentally resilient Great Street, especially concerning “optimized hydrologic function” for this drought-prone area.
  • Through [[RE]] VISIT [[RE]] SEDA, the Northridge Chamber of Commerce will encourage performers and participants to rethink the traditional streetscape on a corridor of Reseda Boulevard as a performance space, art gallery, cinema—and more.
  • Pacoima Beautiful will build off the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s “People St” program to pay homage to local DIY placemaking efforts by formalizing and propagating them on Van Nuys between Laurel Canyon and Bradley Avenue.
  • With its Make It Mar Vista Small Business Saturday event, the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce will invite all Angelenos to interact with local businesses, artists, and each other for a day of true community engagement along the Great Street of Venice Boulevard.
  • The National Health Foundation will organize a Complete Streets Pop‑Up event on Central Avenue in South L.A. that will engage youth as community ambassadors to demonstrate and implement innovative and healthy interventions along the corridor.
  • Street Beats is the Community Health Councils’ day-long, collaborative, outdoor event to help bring safety improvements and quality streetscape amenities to Crenshaw Boulevard in Hyde Park.
  • The North Figueroa Association will produce FIG JAM, a free, family‑friendly, educational, and cultural event that will honor the neighborhood’s rich heritage while creating buzz for its promising future.
  • Multicultural Communities for Mobility’s Cesar Chavez Complete Street Demonstration will create a vibrant corridor in Boyle Heights with improved multi‑modal safety and healthy lifestyle streetscape amenities, and will include an economic lift from within the community itself.

Great Streets projects

More about the Great Streets Initiative

LA’s   Great Streets Initiative launched in October 2013 to help reimagine the city’s neighborhood centers, one main street at a time. Streets are the backbones of neighborhoods: the places where we live, work, learn, and play on a daily basis. Mayor Eric Garcetti believes that great neighborhoods deserve Great Streets that are livable, accessible, and engaging for all the people who live and work around them. And ioby agrees!

Read more on Tumblr and Twitter, and check out highlights from a related series of events held this past May, called #EyesonTheStreetLA, that celebrated life on the streets of Los Angeles.