Lush Yummies Pie Company: Detroit entrepreneurship at its sweetest


This spring, ioby and Eastern Market are partnering to present the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge. We’re offering 17 awesome local food entrepreneurs the chance to double the donations made to their projects on ioby’s website between now and April 3—dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donation, and up to $3,000 total. Here’s a closer look at one of fabulous projects getting underway now.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Learn more about Lush Yummies Pie Company on their campaign page, and check out all the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge winners! If you see something that moves you, remember your supporting dollars will go twice as far until April 3.

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

This spring, ioby and Eastern Market are partnering to present the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge. We’re offering 17 awesome local food entrepreneurs the chance to double all donations made to their projects on ioby’s website between now and April 3—dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donation, and up to $3,000 total. Here’s a closer look at one of the fabulous projects getting underway now.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Farm to Freezer on their campaign page, and check out all the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge winners. If you see something that moves you, remember your supporting dollars go twice as far until April 3!

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


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

ioby and Eastern Market are partnering to present the Eastern Market Growing Communities Matching Grant Challenge. We’re offering 17 awesome local food entrepreneurs the chance to double the donations made to their projects on ioby’s website between now and April 3—dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donation, up to $3,000 total. That’s big!

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

More videos on our Vimeo page

Building civic power, one block at a time


What defines a civic action? What does meaningful civic engagement look like? How can communities build civic power?

People often think of a civic action as something like voting in an election, taking to the streets for a protest, or writing a letter to an elected official. And we certainly don’t disagree! But at ioby, we support civic action of a slightly different stripe.

 

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We think the most meaningful civic actions are not merely a registering of opinion but a reclaiming of power.

We often see this happen when people step up to lead a tangible positive impact on their community.  In turn, this leadership can set off a chain reaction of larger and larger impacts that can ultimately affect the way decisions are made on the highest levels.  We think this power shift is a positive improvement to any community, but can be especially meaningful in neighborhoods with histories of disinvestment like many where we  focus. 

Sound abstract? Here’s what we mean, and how it works.

When you contribute to a neighbor-led project where you live—whether by starting it, volunteering for it, or donating money to it—you’re not just making a community garden prettier or a crosswalk safer. You’re also calling out your own stake in the place where you live, and helping to determine its future on several levels:

  • Project Level. In the most basic way, local projects build the fabric of their neighborhoods. Even the lowest-ticket undertaking can make a significant impact on a community by greening up a vacant lot, offering prenatal yoga classes to low-income moms, or renovating a basketball court.
  • Personal Level. Leading a neighborhood project is a big deal—in a good way! Summoning your skills and building mutual trust with your neighbors to do something positive, even if it’s temporary or “doesn’t seem like much,” can be a transformative esperience. When we become the agents of change were we live, we begin to see how much power we really have to make a difference.
  • Neighborhood Level. Now expand that leaders’ mind-shift to a whole neighborhood. When people see the real-time impact of their involvement, when there are visible signs that neighbors are invested in a community’s improvement, the whole place can begin to shine with possibility.
  • Civic Level. Here’s a pattern we’ve noticed: when neighbors come together to take ownership over positive change where they live, others pay attention. Policy makers, elected leaders, and the philanthropic sector take note of the good ideas, momentum, and civic strength displayed by neighborhood leaders, which in turn encourages more equitable, responsive, and inclusive decision-making processes at the highest levels.

 

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Read more about these four level of impact in our Memphis Impact Report.

One of our favorite examples of the life cycle of neighbor-led local change is the story of Binh Dam and the MARTA Army in Atlanta, Georgia. When he moved to Atlanta, Binh noticed that most of the bus stops downtown didn’t post route maps or schedules. Through his project Timely Trip (part of our inaugural Trick Out My Trip campaign), Binh raised about $500 and recruited a team of volunteers to install temporary schedules at several bus stops. His good work attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority (MARTA), and helped convince the agency to form an official citizen group called MARTA Army, in which transit riders themselves are empowered to identify and address needs within the transit system. More recently, as a direct result of pressure by the Army, MARTA announced plans for service expansions, more security cameras, mobile-ticketing technology, and other improvements. How’s that for increasingly big impact?!

 

 

If you, like many people, are questioning how you can find your place in civic life—especially in this political climateconsider what you could do on your own block. ioby projects may start small, but their impact can grow step-by-step into something much bigger: real, meaningful, and long-term civic power.

What’s your idea? ioby.org/idea

Leaders Wanted


Have you ever wondered why we use the term “ioby Leader” to describe the people running the projects you see on our website?

If you have, you’re not alone—we get this question all the time! Here’s our thinking:

Why not… creators?

Leading an ioby project is a team effort. Individual initiative is key to making an impact, but leaders lead others! Successful ioby projects are more about getting people together than being a creative genius.  (And in general we’ve found that the more people you have on your fundraising team, the more successful your project will be.)

Why not… users?

While ioby does provide an online platform for neighborhood projects, we don’t think of the people who take advantage of our resources as “users” (the way many websites do), because most of their work takes place offline, in their neighborhoods.

Why not… residents, or community members?

Everyone who lives somewhere is a resident (not all residents are “citizens,” so we also generally avoid that word). Everyone belongs to some kind of community. But a leader is someone who steps up and starts something.

We believe that everyone can contribute to the betterment of their neighborhood in some way, but ioby Leaders are the rarer birds who are driven, connected, and unafraid to ask for help or risk failure. They’re working at the vanguard of positive change.

Why not… participants, or grantees?

In the worlds of philanthropy and city government, it’s common to hear these terms, as well as phrases like “bottom-up” and “community input.” or “stakeholder outreach.” We’re wary of descriptions that paint resident leaders as low-ranking, passive consumers enjoying the fruits of benevolent decision making, or being optional voices in neighborhood planning. ioby projects are not about asking residents to rubber stamp plans that were drawn up without them; they are dynamic and neighbor-led processes that start at the beginning—with identifying problems and solutions—and they call for leadership, not just participation.

 

Starting to see a pattern here?

The term “leader” reinforces the agency, power, and motivation people have and need when they plant something good and see it through. To be a leader, you don’t have to have any special experience or credentials; you just have to lead.

Whether you’re thinking about starting your first project, or are a practiced hand at getting good done, we’re here to help you become a successful ioby Leader (with a capital L). Get started now: tell us your idea.

AWESOME PROJECT: 16-year-old creates bike libraries for Cleveland public schools


Some people wait a lifetime to realize that they have a voice. That they can be the one who dreams up a solution to the problem.

Randy King was only 16 when he recently figured that out, and we’re beyond impressed by the way he’s launched right into putting his voice to awesome use. To combat climate change, he’s creating a bike library program for his former middle school and his current high school (he transferred to the school so that he could shepherd the pilot program himself, close-up, every day). He wants students to have healthy exercise options, as well as a carbon-free mode of transport to get them to and from school. Once those two pilot programs have gone live and proven stable, he aims, by 2020, to expand the bike library system to all 100 or so Cleveland public schools.

 

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Get by with a little help from your friends

The idea didn’t come to King in a vacuum. He attended the Sustainable Cleveland Summit as a student ambassador, met ioby’s  Indigo Bishop and learned how ioby could support him, sat in for the launch of the University Hospital Bikes program, was asked to lead a breakout group discussion, and was exposed to all kinds of climate activism.

“Growing up,” he says, “I thought about what I could do to fight climate change, but I always thought, I’m younger, I have to wait a little bit longer. But the Sustainable Cleveland Summit really showed me that it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are,  your gender, anything. If you want to make a change, and you want to make a difference in the whole world, there are people who can help you. It opened my eyes. I can do it. These people were giving me the opportunity to make a change.”

 

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Bikes to combat climate change

What got King into riding? It wasn’t the passion for the wind in his hair that some people describe. You know those people who only feel free when they’re on a bicycle? King likes to cycle, but for him, it’s a means to an end. What he really wants more than anything is to stop climate change.

“Cars, buses, that type of thing, they’re not that safe for our atmosphere,” explains King. “Personally, I believe that for a long time, we were trying to discover new things. We were doing a lot of things to evolve, and make things a lot easier. But in doing that, we messed up. We’re messing up the world, instead of making it better. And what we need to do now is take a step back, and start trying to preserve the world itself. If we continue on the path we’re going down, things aren’t going to be that good.”

 

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[Photo via Cleveland Metro Schools]

 

Progress so far

No big deal, but King’s kind of a youth bike celeb right now. He spends two hours a day, on top of his homework, mapping out the future of the Library, fielding requests from organizations that want to partner, and responding to press requests. He’s applied for and won a $5,000 grant from the Cleveland Climate Action Fund. He’s got the support of the CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, of board members, and of local bike advocacy groups.

In other words, things are coming together. “A lot of people are passionate about this,” says King, “and some people didn’t know how to get started, and I took the initiative to make this change, and I’m letting everybody else get on board.”

Just shows what can happen when you dare to speak up and share your good ideas, doesn’t it?

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

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Have a great idea, but feel like you need a blueprint to get you started? Or a recipe to follow? NO PROBLEMO! We’ve got you covered. Check out some of our very best recipes for change, here.

Looking for a blueprint to launch your project?


“Recipes for Change” is a new series of successful and replicable blueprints that can be applied to your ioby project. We’ve made them available to you online or in print-out form.

 

What are “recipes for change”?

Change requires collaborative action, time and plentiful resources. So, we’ve reached out to leaders in community organizing, advocacy, planning and other fields and asked them the need-to-know questions about getting a project off the ground. Within these how-to guides, our experts will not only cover the basics like industry standards and definitions, they will also show you how to apply these resources to leverage stakeholders or manage skeptics. These recipes provide a wealth of knowledge, alternative approaches and additional resources for your journey to making positive change in your neighborhood.

 

 

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So, visit our new Recipes for Change page and explore what these experts want you to know about starting an ioby project.

 

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.

 

Memphians share stories of transformation at ioby Memphis convening


ioby’s Memphis  convening (and the kickoff of a national series, with events coming up in Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York) took place on Saturday afternoon, January 28th at the historic Clayborn Temple! With a crowd of 75-plus ioby leaders, community partners, project donors – and engaged Memphis residents who were new to ioby as well – we dug deep, reflected, and shared experiences with each other about the challenges, motivations, and triumphs of working to make positive local change.

Read the Commercial Appeal article  

 

Clayborn Temple

We are grateful to ioby board member, five-time ioby leader, and planning equity advocate Naomi Doerner for framing the day with her own personal remarks about what has brought her to the work of race, inclusion, and urban design. And Playback Memphis made the day come alive with their extremely powerful listening and performance technique that lifted up the voices of the amazing neighborhood activists in the room.

We closed the day mingling, chatting, sharing more about our stories and building relationships over delicious food from local caterer LUNCHBOXeats.

Special appreciation to the Playback Memphis troupe, the staff team at Clayborn Temple, ioby project leaders Jacqueline Shotwell and Jennifer Shorter, Naomi Doerner, our partners at Livable Memphis, and Choose901 for their support. And – Without the openhearted participation of all of our attendees, none of the learning and connection would have been possible!

Read stories from ioby Memphis in our Memphis Impact report

 

Q&A: Nashville’s Chief Data Officer on the parallels between crowdfunding and the Open Data movement


Three-time ioby Leader Robyn Mace  raised  the money, buy-in, and manpower needed to convert a neglected lot adjacent to her family’s Memphis home into a flood-ready  rain garden, butterfly sanctuary, and community space. That grassroots work – with its ups and downs – has informed the groundbreaking work she does on open data, in her day job as Nashville’s Chief Data Officer.

The Open Data movement is a relatively new one. Born about a decade ago, it first took hold in big cities like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Philly, and Boston, and is spreading beyond. City officials who specialize in open data are interested in making public data just that – public. Available for all to see and to use. They’re interested in the democratization of city data, seeking to engage as many people as possible, and ensure complete digital inclusion. We talked with Mace about some of the sweet spots where crowdfunding and open data overlap.

 

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[Photo by Jamie Harmon]

 

How did your ioby project, the Evergreen Rain Garden, come about?

Well, I had thought about it for a long time, because my family owns that house, and everyone in the neighborhood blamed us for not maintaining the lot next door, even though it wasn’t ours. So when I moved there in 2013, I felt it was incumbent on me to start to address that.

When  people realize that the City owned the lot, and that there was something we could do about it, that’s when it really took off. I approached the neighborhood association, and they were instrumental in getting the sidewalks rebuilt, but we couldn’t get any kind of agreement with the City for the garden. We had offered to pay liability and get a Memorandum of Understanding with them, and basically they never followed up with us. So it left me in a position of either having to maintain a really big grass lot, or figure out an alternative. I’m a Master Gardener, and I was a member of the Garden Club, as well as I’d approached the Evergreen Historic District Association Board. The more volunteers worked in the garden, the more people were interested in supporting that work.

 

Did the project bring people together?

Absolutely. Instead of having an ugly lot and impassable sidewalk, now we had four beautiful garden beds, and a really pleasant and interesting landscape to walk by. You’d see people talking in the garden, or people would pull over to talk on the phone. It’s just a lovely focal point, and it’s just nice to not have it look ratty, frankly.

 

“The ioby project reinvigorated me, and really helped me understand the importance of civic engagement, and how residents  and municipal employees can work together”

 

What’s your focus, as Nashville’s Chief Data Officer, and does your experience on the ground with crowdfunding ever sneak in?

Municipal data, for the most part, is publicly owned, and the idea is that by opening the public data access, we can help citizens understand what is happening in their government. Traditionally, cities haven’t been so great at using the data that they have and collect. I think Washington DC had the first open data portal in 2006, and it’s been sort of a movement since then. So it’s about transparency and accountability but also citizen engagement, in terms of giving people  the ability to identify trends and patterns around different types of services and activities that they’re particularly interested in.

The ioby process and doing a project really helped me better understand how to use community engagement to drive good outcomes. We work closely with the civic tech community, and now  I’m  trying to think about how to engage and deploy residents  in  data visualization and analysis.

 

Does your crowdfunding experience make you more prone to see little pockets of opportunity, as you look at Nashville?

Absolutely. Even though I’m a city official, recognizing the important of being able to be agile and do tactical urbanism is pretty important. One of the things we learned from the development community is you don’t try to design and implement a full-blown program; what you need to do is  deploy and see what works and what doesn’t, and then try again, and try again. So it’s in some respects  introducing the ability to fail, because we’re trying different things. It’s a huge paradigm shift. And so in thinking about the ioby project, it’s  the same kind of engagement: how do we get the results we want, in small, incremental steps?

I had worked for municipal government before, and done a lot of advising and training of municipal employees. The ioby project reinvigorated me, and really helped me understand the importance of civic engagement, and how residents  and municipal employees can work together on problems that they both identified, maybe with different interests or concerns. This has made it so much easier for me to work with the civic tech community.

 

Why is it important for cities to be willing to experiment, fail, and try again?

The problems are so big and so complex,  you can’t expect that you can fix them right away. You have to understand that complex problems require multiple partners and complex solutions. And you don’t get to those with the same business as usual approach. It’s  a big risk politically. At the same time, it’s really important to engage citizens and have them understand the complexity of issues that are faced as well as the fiscal issues. Because once you help people understand the dynamic, they can set their own expectations and decide how much they’re going to participate. And even understanding that they have avenues and ways to participate is critically important.

 

For those in the crowdfunding sphere who are new to open data and want to explore, what’s a good first step?

Just go to your open data portal, and start to click around. Traditionally, governments have been taking information, keeping it in a black box, making decisions, and then providing information on demand. And Open Data basically says that public information is going to be open by default, and we’re going to share it with you, because we want you to know what’s going on, and we want you to have input into the processes, because this is your government.

 

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

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Do you have a project in mind for your neighborhood? Hesitating on getting started, because you need a green light from city officials, and you’re loath to ask? Fear not! ioby Action Corps is here! Click over here to learn from the pros about “getting to yes” with city officials. If they did it, so can you.