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Crowdfunding platform comes to DC to help residents make their neighborhoods better

District residents looking to make change in their communities will have a new resource early next year.

“We're a one stop shop for people who have great ideas to make their neighborhoods better places,” says Erin Barnes, co-founder of New York-based ioby, which stands for “In Our Backyards.”

Since launching its pilot in 2010, ioby’s crowdfunding platform has financed nearly 600 projects from transforming school rooftops and vacant lots into community gardens to creating safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists.

“[Projects] also have to do with social justice and supporting families during emergencies,” says Barnes. “We supported a project in a small town in Arkansas right after an oil spill so reporters could bring attention to what happened in the neighborhood.”

Another notable project, says Barnes, was coordinated by Miami-based group Soul Sisters, which focused on “undoing racism and sexism and making sure that young women have a voice in their communities.”

Atypical from traditional crowdsourcing models, ioby donors typically live within 2 miles of projects and are led by volunteers from the community.

The program also equips community leaders with more than cash. “A lot of people aren’t necessarily fundraisers or community organizers so we support them around implementation with technical assistance and connecting them to other people,” says Barnes.

While ioby projects span 150 cities across the country, D.C. will be one of a handful of cities with onsite management. Over the course of two years, the organization will focus on sustainability projects in some of the city’s most underserved communities.

“I think a lot of D.C. has experience a real boom—a lot has changed for neighborhoods really quickly, but Wards 5, 7 and 8 have geographic and demographic marginalization and isolation and haven’t necessarily gotten some of the same benefits as the rest of the city,” says Barnes. “iboy is really interested in making sure that communities that bare a disproportionate burden of environmental or social issues get more support.”

In preparation for launching in D.C., Barnes is building relationships with non-profit organizations and government agencies.

And on Thursday, October 8, ioby will host a fundraiser at the Murrell Building in Petworth from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

“We’re inviting people who are interested in community development, sustainability and civic participation in D.C. to meet us to talk about how they see change in D.C. and how ioby can support their ideas,” says Barnes.

Read more articles by Christina Sturdivant.

Christina Sturdivant is a native Washingtonian who's always watching and writing about the latest cultural, community and innovative trends in the city. She's interested in people and companies that create equitable opportunities for longtime residents and transplants alike.
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