ioby Empowers Neighbors to Transform Their Hoods [Q&A]

Meet communications and creative director Katie Lorah, who is helping local neighborhoods through ioby’s fundraising and volunteering platform.

Jul 2, 2015

ioby's Katie Lorah derives inspiration from amazing people who are making positive change within their communities.

Crowd-resourcing platform ioby stands for In Our Backyards, and brings neighbors together by helping them raise money to make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and enjoyable. Steering away from the every man to himself approach, ioby facilitates grass-roots neighborhood change in which local leaders can post projects, raise money and rally volunteers to improve their living spaces. From community gardens to safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists, learn more about ioby’s activities as we speak with Katie Lorah, the communications and creative director for ioby in this week’s 10 Good Questions

1. What is your organization’s mission?

ioby mobilizes neighbors who have good ideas to become powerful citizen leaders who plan, fund and make positive change in their own neighborhoods.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

Most people know us through our online crowd-resourcing platform, ioby.org. It looks and functions a lot like a crowdfunding platform - people use it to raise money, enlist volunteers, and spread the word about their great ideas for their neighborhoods. But we’re much more than just an online platform. Our staff is extremely hands-on in helping to ensure that our projects are successful. We spend *a lot* of time on the phone with individual project leaders, and offer tailored trainings in online fundraising, grassroots organizing, effective communication, and other areas. We aim to unlock this great tool, crowdfunding, for people who would not ordinarily be comfortable running a fundraising campaign online. During our springtime Memphis Match campaign, more than 60% of our project leaders had never raised money online before. We also have a really high rate of project success -- over 90%! We’re super proud of the diversity of our project leaders and the neighborhoods they work in, and it’s because we put in the extra time and effort to make a personal connection with each leader.

A community gardening project in Delray Beach, Florida.  

3. Offices or open work space?

We work in an office that’s so open, it’s actually a co-working space. (The Brooklyn Creative League - Three cheers for locally-owned co-working spaces!)

4. What three words describe your organization?

“neighbors making neighborhoods”

5. What inspires you?

We work with so many inspiring, amazing people who are making positive change within their communities, it’s difficult to choose just one. (You can read some of our favorites on our blog.) We’ve been especially blown away by all the incredible work being done in Memphis recently. There are more than 120 ioby projects in Memphis at the moment, and they range from building bat-houses to re-striping public basketball courts to providing feminine hygiene products to homeless women and girls. It’s a huge wealth of inspiration - whenever our work gets stressful we try to return to telling the individual stories of the incredible people we get to work with.

Urban cyclists project. 

6. What is the best part about your job?

We love hearing stories of course, but we also love it when ioby project leaders send us pictures of their projects completed or in action. There’s something really powerful about before-and-after pictures: a vacant lot turned into a community garden, a traffic-choked street turned into a lively bike corridor, an empty-looking block turned into a crazy multigenerational dance party. It’s amazing to be able to physically see the impact our project leaders are having on their own neighborhoods. We like to imagine these pictures all coming together to create an awesome collage, a portrait of a movement of citizen-led positive change. 

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

Not nearly as much as we should. Besides being a nonprofit, we’re also a tech startup, and the eating-at-your-desk startup habit has unfortunately come with that territory. A few of us have recently switched to standing desks, which makes eating at your desk super awkward - it you spill, it’s a long way down. We’re trying to institute a regular series of “Lunch’n’learns” where our staff can hear from each other and outside experts in our field about interesting topics. Check back with us in a few months to see that goes...

8. Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter. But we use Facebook too because our people hang out on both. 

Neighborhood block party. 

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

We’re trying to flip the cliché of the cranky NIMBY (not in my backyard) neighbors on its head. We think it so much more powerful when neighbors work together to build something positive instead of protesting against something negative. That’s how lasting social connections are made, and it strengthens the social fabric of our neighborhoods, making them more resilient for the long haul. Little projects can make a huge impact not just in our physical space, but in our collective social and civic lives.

10. How can people get involved?

It’s easy to start a project in your own neighborhood! Just look around: how can your neighborhood be safer, greener, more livable, more fun? We can talk through your idea with you and put together a fundraising plan that’s realistic for what you want to accomplish. Visit ioby.org/idea to get your own project started!