Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ideas in action: Reasons to start with what you already know and love

In the last week, ioby has received a massive influx of ideas for neighborhood change from across the country. We are seeing firsthand, right now, that Americans are hungry to be a part of something positive.

Are you feeling called to start an ioby project in your neighborhood? What if you’re feel energized, but at a loss as to where to start? In conceiving of their own awesome projects, many of the highly successful ioby leaders we see in action tend to hew to this old advice from civic rights leader Howard Thurman:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it,

because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

 

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Do it because you love butterflies and gardens

Say WHAT? Don’t ask what the world needs? How selfish is that? But look at Naomi Montalvo, for example. She teaches pre-K at Juan Pablo Duarte school #28, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she’s recently started the most popular pre-K gardening club we’ve ever heard of. When she opened the doors, over 100 kids showed up to join; that’s over an eighth of the entire school population! The kids are learning how to create pollinator gardens that nourish the bees, butterflies, and other critters we need to keep our ecosystems running. They’re getting connected to green spaces in ways they haven’t before.

“Our kids live in an urban environment,” says Montalvo of the school’s population, “and that’s the kind of environment I grew up in. And there was no one really teaching us about nature; we didn’t have those opportunities. So now that I enjoy gardening, and I see what a pleasure it is and how much of a difference we can make in our environment, I want to share that with our students. They’re really excited. Even the faculty are excited.”

What makes the club so popular with the kids? We’re willing to bet that it’s Montalvo’s own passion for her hobby. She loves this stuff with all her heart, and it shows. Was the school’s lack of a pollinator garden club the absolute most dire, pressing need at Juan Pablo Duarte? Did it come up at every faculty meeting last year? Probably not. Has it enriched the school community and opened kids’ eyes in ways that amazed everyone? You bet. Was it exactly the right project for Montalvo to bring to life? YES YES YES.

 

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Do it because you love soccer

Or look at Jamie Naylor, co-owner with her husband of Celtic Crossing Irish Pub and Bar, in Memphis. Her passion for soccer runs so deep that it led her to her husband, her job, her loyal soccer community, and now her ioby project – through which she’s helping to spearhead a local school’s first ever girls’ soccer team. In choosing to focus on what she already knows best and loves most, Naylor has scored a major goal. She racked up allies and funding in no time, and was off and running.

“We being husband and wife owning the bar,” says Naylor, “when you come to Celtic, it’s a very kind of neighborhood family environment. My husband and I have two children – a nine month old and an almost four year old. All of our regular customers are seeing them grow up. So they know that we’re passionate about soccer, we’re passionate about Memphis, about our neighborhood, and that we do a lot for the community, and so we wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to us.”

 

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Do it because you love street art

Or how about Karen Golightly, a photographer who is so passionate about street art and graffiti that she was able to lure 70 of the world’s best street artists (sweet sweet video clip of it here) to come to Memphis and create a massive mural covering a third of a mile!

“They really are the most uncensored voices of a city,” says Golightly of the graffiti writers she so deeply reveres. Clearly, her collaborating artists and donors alike felt and responded to that reverence: they SHOWED UP and they joined the conversation, in a big way. The mural couldn’t have been a bigger success.

 

How about you?

So. Now the really fun part. What makes YOU come alive? When your friends think of what they appreciate so much about you, what hobby or talent or quirky passion of yours comes to their minds? What’s the thing that – when you talk about it with neighbors – makes their eyes light up? Makes them ask questions?

You know what it is. Will you share it with us? We’d love nothing more than to help you share that passion with your community.

Learn from a Leader: How to turn a vacant lot into a multi-purpose community space

Want to start your own project but need some inspiration? Our Learn from a Leader blog series is profiling past ioby Leaders who succeeded in bringing more fresh food, active transport, green spaces, and other healthy improvements to their neighborhoods. Read on, and imagine what you could do on your block!

 

About the project:

San Diegoan Avital Aboody rallied her neighbors to turn an underutilized parcel of land in a commercial district into a bright and beautiful community space for play, leisure, and gardening. The idea behind the H.A.C.E.R. Project Gilliam Family Community Gathering Place was to “touch on a lot of needs and desires we heard from the community,” Avital says.

She organized members of the Logan Heights neighborhood to design and build a vibrant, safe, and functional space where kids could play, people could enjoy lunch from local eateries, neighbors could watch outdoor performances on a small amphitheater and movies on a small screen, and everyone could learn about plants from a teaching garden. Sound good to you? Us, too! Read on to see how Avital made it all happen.

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The steps:

  1. Secure your space—and permission. If you have an underutilized site in mind for your community space, first make sure it’s in a highly-visible location. (Hidden lots in low-traffic areas aren’t the best candidates, since you want people to have easy access.) It’s also important that you pick a place where you’ve already established relationships: maybe you’ve led a trash pick-up or organized an event there in the past. You want to build trust with your community before asking for their support. Once you’ve checked those boxes, try to find out who owns the land. This can take some time, as you might have to sift through a lot of records, make a lot of phone calls, write a lot of letters, etc. Once you have a handle on it, reach out to the owner, explain your idea, and ask for permission to use their land for this community benefit. If they say yes, you’ll want to draft at least a simple lease (starting from a template is fine), and have an entity like your neighborhood association or a local nonprofit sign it as the space’s representative.
  2. Tell people—and ask them. Get as many kinds of supporters together as you can: organize community meetings and pass out flyers to advertise them; send emails to local organizations informing them of your idea; contact teachers and ask if they want to give their students credit for volunteering… And ask everyone what they’d like to see in the space, as well as what skills they might be able to share, what materials they might be willing to donate, what days they could come volunteer, etc. (We met our key design and architecture partner, Space 4 Art, through this process!) We knew whatever we built needed to reflect what the people in our neighborhood wanted, so I kept a running list of everything they shouted out. Space 4 Art took those ideas and helped us narrow them down to what was most feasible, economical, and practical. You’ll also want to put together a dedicated group of organizers who will be with you from start to finish. In our case, that was the H.A.C.E.R. Project (Helping Achieve Community Empowerment and Revitalization) steering committee.
  3. Then, show people. As we were holding meetings and gathering ideas, we also started organizing volunteer cleanups of the site’s weeds and trash, and put on a trial movie night with a $1 cover charge and food for sale by local vendors. These efforts made people aware that we were serious about our plans, already “plugged into” the space, and making progress toward our goals. We also set up a Facebook page and website to help keep people engaged as our plans (slowly) came together.
  4. Divide and conquer (your budget). We raised about $65,000 total, through many different means, large and small. I pursued avenues like grants, reaching out to the city council and funders I already knew from my job, and funding competitions I found online. Meanwhile, the steering committee put together a list of the materials and supplies we needed and sent it around to their contacts; we got some good in-kind donations from that. The committee also came up with fun money-making ideas like placing “tip” jars—decorated by students—in local stores, which I collected once a week. All those quarters and dollar bills eventually added up to probably $1,000!
  5. If you build it, they will come. Everything we did culminated in a highly-publicized “build week” where we tried to get the whole thing constructed in one week by hundreds of volunteers. To prepare, we identified the people with the best building skills and made them “captains” who could show up consistently and teach others. (When people don’t know how to do the tasks on offer, you get the problem of “idle hands.”) While in the end, the scope of the build was bigger than I imagined and took longer than a week to finish (more like a couple of months!), we did eventually get all the talent and elbow grease we needed to get it done. Then we celebrated with a gathering in our new space!

 

Time/timing:

Happily, there aren’t many seasonal issues to work around in San Diego (no snow, for example!). But we did want to get lots of student participation, and that’s easier to accomplish during the school year than in the summer, so originally we planned to build in June, then wound up pushing it to September.

It took about two years from the time I secured permission with the landowner to the time we were done with the build. One year might be enough for a less design-heavy project, but I wouldn’t budget any less than that since fundraising always takes time—grant cycles in particular.

 

Budget:

Once we had our design plans solidified, we drew up a detailed budget. Remember to include a line item for ongoing maintenance costs. You don’t want to build out a space and then not be able to keep it clean, beautiful, and safe!

When sending it to potential funders, we always made sure to illustrate how much of our budget we were already meeting with in-kind donations. This showed them we were being proactive and making use of every type of contribution we could.

 

Parting thoughts:

We met lots of people who don’t live near the space but who love to come out and support projects like this. That’s great, but it can become a sticky situation when residents see “outsiders” come in to help. Key to our success was engaging the people who live near the space in actually doing a lot of the work. We tried hard to make them feel it was really theirs: while our nonprofit partner was technically the leaseholder, we encouraged the community to organize their own programming; we made sure the gates were always unlocked during open hours; and we had our steering committee (which included some residents) take the lead on maintenance issues, instead of the nonprofit. You want your residents, more than anyone else, to be in charge. If they’re not involved, the space might go unused and become just another artifact of gentrification.

 

Additional resources:

Our website: A good snapshot of the project.

San Diego Foundation: We got a $30K-ish grant from them. Your community might be home to a similar funder.

 

About the author:

Avital Aboody is an organizer, social justice advocate, and grassroots community planner who has facilitated several participatory projects that create beautiful public spaces and build community wealth in historically looted neighborhoods.

Avital Aboody Gilliam Family Gathering Place

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.

Learn from a Leader: Bring a Farmers Market to Your Community Garden!

Want to start your own project but need some inspiration? Our Learn from a Leader blog series is profiling past ioby Leaders who succeeded in bringing more fresh food, active transport, green spaces, and other healthy improvements to their neighborhoods. Read on, and imagine what you could do on your block!

 

About the project:

Chenchita’s Community Garden is a teaching community garden located in East Harlem, NYC. For well over a decade, its members have been growing delicious food and teaching their neighbors about urban farming, as well as hosting arts and crafts events, open mics, crocheting and knitting clubs, and more.

Last winter, the campaign to expand Chenchita’s Community Garden Farmer’s Market got underway. Their members used a combination of indoor seedlings they started themselves with flowers, herbs, and vegetables from GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Farmers Markets to offer affordable fresh food—with a side of horticultural education and locally-grown entertainment—to the surrounding community.

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The steps:

  1. Determine your scope. What kind of market do you want to set up: just a farm stand with a few selections, or a full-on market? Do you want to sell only edibles, or also flowers and plants like groundcover? Is your intended audience people in a three-block radius, or would you like to bring in your whole neighborhood? How many garden members will be helping you organize the market (at Chenchita’s, we’ve had between three and five per season)? Answering these questions at the start will allow you plan your next moves.
  2. Start making connections. Unless your market will be teeny-tiny, you’ll probably need to get both farmers and volunteers on board to help stock and run it. Reach out to places like NYC Greenmarkets and Just Food to connect with farmers. The Youth Leadership Council can be a good place to find volunteers, as can NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority] resident associations—since NYCHA residents can earn community service hours for working in community gardens. This phase takes some researching and networking.
  3. Dig into the details—and look for discounts. We wanted to make sure our visitors could use EBT [Electronic Benefit Transfer: a card that allows shoppers to use food stamps to pay for purchases], so we had to get that set up. We wanted to make sure we had banners to advertise the market, and porta-potties for shoppers to use. We needed to make our water supply accessible to all our farmer-vendors, and ensure everyone had a tent and a table… The list goes on! Your farmers and any experienced volunteers can help you figure out everything you need. As you work your way through the list, remember to ask if you can get a nonprofit discount on any purchases—we got a free EBT setup and some money off our porta-potties because we specified that Chenchita’s is not a retail store.
  4. Offer extras for better attendance. We used our market as a chance to host cooking demos by Just Food and the NYC Department of Health. We gave composting workshops and gave away samples of herbs we grew. We offered puppet shows and “storytime” readings for kids and families. Not everyone will come around if you’re just throwing a farmers market—but they might if you advertise that some other fun things will be happening!
  5. Treat your people right. Since your volunteers will play a major role in your market’s success, don’t forget to show your gratitude. At Chenchita’s, we make sure to give our helpers a share of veggies as a thank-you gift, and we offer them other tokens whenever we can. People love useful items like plant pots and countertop compost cans—and things like that can also remind them of their community garden in the off-season!

 

Time/timing:

Farmers start setting up their market schedules for the coming summer in January, so get yourself organized in the fall so you can approach them before their plans are set. (Example: If you want to offer a farmers market in summer 2017, start organizing in fall 2016 so you can approach farmers during the winter and be ready to roll out by May or June.)

 

Budget:

This of course depends on the scope of your market (see step #1!), but many markets will need somewhere in the $5,000 range to get going.

Making a list of the things you need will help your budget come into focus. For example, a 10×10-foot tent could cost $400. If you want to become a member of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, that’s about $100. Printing a big vinyl banner could cost $150. Liability insurance could be $300…

When you’re budgeting, keep in mind that starting small and growing can be a great way to go. This allows you to learn from your mistakes before wasting too much time or money, and many farmers say they’d rather have a small market than a large one, since they get to know their customers better that way. Remember: Don’t judge your market by the quantity of its produce; judge it by the quality of interactions your visitors have with your farmers!

 

Additional resources:

 

About the author:

Angela Maull—known to many as “the Goddess of Chenchita’s Community Garden”—is a Harlem native who’s been growing food there for over 15 years. She is also a certified master composter, beekeeper, garden designer, Trees New York-certified Citizen Pruner, and a member of the NYC Community Garden Coalition and the greenNYCHA Garden & Greening Program—just to name a few.

Angela Maull Chenchitas Garden

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.

 

Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge! Bring a Kitchen Classroom to CPE II

ioby’s Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge is launching loud and proud this week. We’re super excited to be partnering with the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHF) to support citizen leaders in nine neighborhoods and cities across New York as they take an active role in creating a culture of health where they live. Extra excitingly, the first $200 of each gift supporters like you make to their campaigns will be matched dollar-for-dollar by NYSHF through September 30!

Learn more and browse all the awesome Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge campaigns, like Krishna who is creating a haven for moms in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

 

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“Our school, CPE II, is located in a diverse and vibrant neighborhood. There has been enthusiasm around our schoolyard garden, and this project will create a resource that will build even more community around good food,” said Anat Grosfeld, a parent, resident of Harlem, and one of the leaders of the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge project Bring a Kitchen Classroom to CPE II.

Anat and fellow leaders Miyonna Milton and Liz Simmons have all been active participants in the schoolyard garden at Central Park East II School in East Harlem, a co-located elementary and middle school. Anat says that parents and teachers successfully got the garden up and running, but then ran into a dilemma: there was no dedicated place to store or prepare the fruits and vegetables it produced. “We organized several events where parents came in to prep and pass food to the kids, but it was not the ‘360 experience’ we wanted them to have, where they were planting, harvesting, preparing, and then eating the food.” Despite space constraints, the group was eventually able to secure a room in the school for produce storage, kitchen equipment, and food classes (it also doubles as an art room, but it’s space nonetheless). The funds they raise through the Challenge will go toward purchasing appliances and utensils, and possibly to enriching the school’s “kitchen education” offerings.

Bring a kitchen to CPE II ioby

Miyonna helped maintain the school’s garden over the summer, and says that activity alone opened a lot of conversations with their neighbors. “There’s lots of low-income housing around the school on one side,” she says. “On the other side, there are the biggest museums in NYC. That disparity leads to quite a bit of discussion already. But we noticed our older neighbors in particular liked to stop by and ask questions: ‘Who’s growing this stuff?’ ‘What are you planting?’ Most people are very supportive and want to get involved; they want to know how they can do the same thing where they live, in their own backyard.”

Anat agrees: “It’s been a powerful experience, seeing how a little bit of green cultivation of an area can pique so many people’s interest.”

But although many East Harlem residents might be keen on greens, the food they have ready access to can be anything but. “I’m not originally from New York, so this whole bodega thing kind of caught me off guard,” Miyonna says. “Kids always want to go to the bodega to get an after-school snack. But the bodegas in our community only serve to help addict our kids to these sugary, fatty tastes, and it’s leading to the destruction of our health. It may not be politically correct to say, but communities of color have been targeted. We suffer the most from diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure… I’m over it.”

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CPE II has a healthy eating policy inside its walls, Anat says. “But once you step outside, you’re besieged: it’s just bodegas with junk food or ice cream trucks.” She says the garden creates a focal point and “beautiful alternative” to everything else surrounding the schoolyard. “It’s an important thing to be doing in a school,” she says. “We need to teach life skills as well as academics. The kids who go to this school will have a different perspective: they’ll know about the many things they can grow, what vegetables look like, how they taste, and how they feel when they eat healthfully. And they’ll carry that knowledge into their future.”

One of the project’s aims is to integrate learning with eating. “Lunchtime here is typically a get-in, get-out affair,” Anat says. Her goal is to get students—and teachers—cooking and eating mindfully so that mealtime can still be learning time, not just a rushed break between classes.

Another goal is to eventually use the kitchen classroom for afterschool and evening food classes for families and friends. “As the project gets off the ground and we find ways to bring our neighbors in more—with events like parent cooking workshops and expert talks—community participation will be key to strengthening and sustaining the whole thing,” says Anat.

“I will think our project is successful if I walk into the building and smell food—real food that offers nutrition,” Miyonna says. “Food really is love. It’s about community, health, wellness, and sharing.”

“And it’s so important for people to feel the power and intentions in those things when they’re making food choices,” Anat adds. “We don’t have to order pizza for every event.”

Feel 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.

Now until Sept 30: We’re waiving all fees!

Fall is the time to get busy and start putting those summer dreams into action. We want to help you jumpstart your fall fundraising, so we’re waiving all fees if you launch a project with us from now until September 30!

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That’s right, if you start your campaign in the next four   weeks, it’s TOTALLY FREE to use ioby’s platform and services. That means no platform fee, no donation processing fee, and no fee for fiscal sponsorship.

Because we’re focused on helping resident leaders make positive change in our neighborhoods, our regular fees are among the lowest of any crowdfunding platform, but we want to make it even easier to take that first step this fall.

You can make a huge impact on your community. Don’t wait to put that great idea into action. Tell us your idea today, and we’ll help you get started right away.

 

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Trick Out My Trip: Lithonia Ride to the Future

Marie-Antoinette Singleton of Lithonia, Georgia raised funds through ioby and Transit Center’s Trick Out My Trip campaign to improve a downtown bus stop. This improvement included a community and youth event, and helped draw attention to much-needed transit improvements in this bus-dependent community.

Have an idea to improve transit? We can help!
ioby.org/trip

 

 

Read more about the Trick Out My Trip campaign

 

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Our 2015 Giving Report is out!

ioby’s 2015 Giving Report is out!  Explore stories, stats, graphics and photos of a neighbor-led movement of positive change.

With your help,  ioby Leaders have now raised more than $2.2 Million in citizen philanthropy – money that  goes a long way toward making our neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.

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Remembering Yanet Rojas, Community Gardener and ioby Hero

We are deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Yanet Rojas,  a passionate community garden leader and  beloved member of the Cypress Hills community. Yanet came to us in  2012 as the leader of the People’s Food Project in East New York, a grassroots  effort to transform a vacant lot into a  revolutionary hub of community building, urban agriculture and organic egg production.  The  ioby project she led, “Pollos del Pueblo,”  was just one small example of Yanet’s ability to unite her neighbors around important issues of open space access and community health.  For her work on this project, ioby  recognized  Yanet as  one of our “Heroes in Our Backyard”  in 2012.

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Yanet was a true leader  and an incredible force for  good on a neighborhood scale.  In a  profile  on GrowNYC’s  blog, Yanet said,  “Gardening for me is a kind of philosophy, because you are not just growing plants, you are growing yourself – your humanity and your soul.”  While her great work and spirit of positive change lives on, she will be deeply missed.

You can watch a video piece about Yanet that we produced in 2012 here.

ioby’s Draft Principles and Actions

At ioby, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about what drives — and should drive — our work. As we gear   up to begin working in earnest in several new cities in the coming months, and  as  we prepare  to bring   on several new team members,  we wanted to go through the exercise of  listing explicitly the principles that   drive what we do each day.

The following is our collaboratively-created draft list of Principles and Actions.  Our hope is that by creating and listing our shared principles, and the actions they inspire, we’ll be better equipped to  handle the challenges of  growing on a national scale while remaining  true to our shared values of local, small-scale, neighbor-led change.

Do any of these resonate with you? Or maybe you have your own list? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

 

Local is best.

Neighbors know best what their neighborhoods need. They are best equipped to innovate, organize, and make positive change, and are the best long-term stewards of solutions.

And so: We will support our citizen-leaders as experts, truly listen to them, offer guidance if they ask for it, and connect them with resources to help ensure their success.

 

Small is big.

Small, neighborhood-scale actions have far-reaching and long-lasting impact on places and on people’s lives. When taken together, these seemingly small projects make up a powerful movement of neighbor-led positive change that inspires hope and benefits us all.

And so: We will approach our work, and the work of our neighbors, as if no project is too small and no interaction too insignificant. Even as we work on the small scale, we will keep the big picture in mind.

 

Inclusivity is key.

Deeply rooted social and environmental problems such as systemic racism, wealth inequality, and climate change can only be addressed if all voices are heard and all ideas are considered. Including all voices in solution-building is particularly crucial when it comes to local decisions.

And so: We will seek out and elevate those whose voices have been historically repressed or underrepresented and actively encourage their ideas. We will remain conscious of the social and economic barriers to action that our neighbors and team members may face, and will offer our support in overcoming them. We will work toward inclusive solution-building by striving to dismantle inequity in all its forms. And we will build upon, rather than duplicate, the great work of others.

 

We’re whole people.

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.

 

Learn, experiment, share.

Successful and lasting change come when we embrace struggle and uncertainty as opportunities for creative experimentation and trust its potential for transformational impact.

And so: We invest in and support efforts to experiment, learn, and share solutions and insights through documentation, storytelling, data, feedback, and network building.

 

Meet the 2015 Get2Gether winners: moving toward more FUN, less STUFF

Imagine a world in which we all had more fun and less stuff. Imagine a world in which baby clothes, power tools, and all kinds of resources were shared, instead of used once and then left to collect dust, or worse, sent to the landfill. Imagine if we all fixed broken lamps, instead of buying new ones. Imagine if every town had a community garden whose fruits and veggies were free for all to take. Imagine if every town was full of community bee-keepers, skill-lenders, time-bankers.

Imagine if we were all conscious consumers.

 

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That’s the world Anna Awimbo wants to live in. With 20 years of work experience identifying and developing effective alternative systems to address poverty, unemployment, and climate change, she’s steeped in the sharing culture mentality. In fact, in January of this year, she and a few friends and colleagues took a leap and founded a time bank in Silver Springs, Maryland – with no outside money. Already, the bank has close to 100 members. Check out Awimbo’s social media profile pic; it was taken by a photographer who happened to offer services via the time bank. Awimbo, who telecommutes, often doesn’t need the use of the car that sits in her family’s driveway; she offers rides to the airport or to run errands around town. And this summer, Awimbo’s 11-year-old, craft-oriented daughter “bought” an hour-long sewing-machine lesson with another time bank member, and was off and running. “It was a great way for her to use her summer,” says Awimbo. No camp signups needed. It was icing on the cake that Awimbo’s daughter learned a lot about volunteer work and local outreach in the process.

Peace.Love.Swap & Play Community Center:  Grass Valley, CA

[Peace.Love.Swap & Play Community Center:  Grass Valley, CA]

Awimbo is also the director of the Collaborative Communities Program at The Center for a New American Dream, an organization that does amazing work to help people and communities shift towards sustainable consumption habits. Since 2013, New Dream has teamed up annually with ioby to select and support a cohort of New Dream community projects, via their Get2Gether Neighborhood Challenge; this year’s five winners are an awesome bunch, and they’re well into their fundraising. Awimbo is thrilled about each and every one of them. “I’m always telling people that this is the most exciting piece of the work that I do,” she says “I’m drawn to ordinary folks doing extraordinary things.”

We think you’ll love this year’s winners as much as she does. Some quick teasers for you:

 

CVille Repair café,  Charlottesville, VA

This one is as simple as it gets: a group of handy volunteers meet to hang out, build community, and fix whatever broken lamps, phones, thingamajigs and whatchamacallits their neighbors bring in that day. “The antidote to planned obsolescence,” they call it. It’s an idea that was born three years ago, in Amsterdam, and is taking hold in the States.

This repair café in particular is, as Awimbo points out, “a great example of how one project can grow and lead into another.” It sprang out of a Charlottesville time bank started two years ago. “It’s an offshoot of the time bank,” explains Awimbo. “They’re basically diversifying, and in the process, they’re able to market the work that they do and reach new people.” Super low-budge, super high-impact. Not to mention super fun.

 

One-BEEing, Hartford, CT

Two problems. One: Connecticut lost 40% of its bee hives last year. Two: lots of youth in Hartford need more to do during the summer months! Enter One-BEEing, a project that’s making beekeepers and sustainable-businesspeople out of Hartford youth. “He’s just really passionate about working with youth,” Awimbo says of the project leader, Olusanya, who works on a volunteer basis, “and about being a part of any initiative where he lives that will keep them engaged and give them new skills and keep them busy over the summertime.”

 

Capitol Hill Tool Library,  Seattle, WA

Did you know that the average power drill gets between 6 and 13 minutes of use in its entire lifetime? Kind of crazy for every household to have their own, right? “The Capitol Hill Tool Library team are folks who recognize this,” says Awimbo, ”and have jumped in and said ‘well, this is a great way to reduce overconsumption.’” They’re building a community-run tool library, where neighbors can go to check out that power drill for a day, or an ice-cream maker, or a table for 12 when the in-laws are in town.

 

 Permaculture Park,  Ithaca, NY

What if your local park was full of strawberries, herbs, and other goodies that were free for the taking? Public parks can be MORE than gorges, say the Ithaca Permaculture Park’s founders. They can be DELICIOUS, too! The project’s long-term goal is to fill the park, already well underway, with a dizzying variety of self-maintaining edible plants. In progress at the moment are five raised beds (to be filled with international veggies), an herb spiral, and interpretive signage designed to teach the public about permaculture, and to let grazers know what they’re tasting.

 

Peace.Love.Swap & Play Community Center:  Grass Valley, CA

A mom herself, Awimbo feels a strong connection with this project, a space where parents can gather, connect, take classes, and swap clothes, books, toys and tools.

“Child-rearing is one of the places where we see the majority of waste,” Awimbo explains, “in terms of toys, clothes, all these seasonal celebrations like Halloween and Christmas and Mother’s Day and all of this. A lot of the members of New Dream start off as young parents and realize that they would like more of a balance in the way that they’re living and that they want to convey this message to their children that sharing is really a great way to go. It’s just a group of moms who decided, hey, wait a minute, we want a more coordinated way of exchanging and reusing the clothes that we have, and then also sharing childcare at zero or low cost, so why don’t we get a room and pull everything together. And they’ve pulled it off. It’s amazing. Anyone can jump in and change their community, if they have the right tools.”

So! Do these projects inspire you? Revved up to start sharing? Got an idea for a project in your town, or on your block? Good news! This year’s Get2Gether winners will, as always, serve as mentors to next year’s winners – so get the ball rolling on your project now, and you may just find yourself working with these seasoned pros in 2016. Never too early to get started. And in the meantime, make like a New Dreamer: buy local, share, and green your community. You’ll make a much bigger splash than you thought you could!