Bolstering community resilience in cities, one block at a time

In New Orleans, students help to design and build a bus shelter on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.

From parklets to DIY green infrastructure projects, tactical urbanism offers opportunities to experiment with new ideas that make neighborhoods stronger and more resilient. Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning and design firm, knows this and has been working with 100 Resilient Cities and Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) in several cities to bolster community resilience using short-term interventions. ioby’s crowdfunding platform is a clear complement to this work, and we are thrilled to be working with the team at 100 Resilient Cities to explore the intersection between tactical urbanism projects, civic crowdfunding, and community and physical resilience.

ioby is built upon the fundamental belief that residents know what’s best for their own communities. We provide powerful tools, trainings, and services for residents to organize their neighbors and fund projects that make their neighborhoods stronger and more resilient. Along the way, residents get to know each other: they identify neighbors’ strengths and challenges, and work together toward a common goal. Furthermore, with an average funding goal of less than $4,200, the value of work funded through ioby extends far beyond the immediate return. The kinds of small-scale resilience projects undertaken by community leaders are most effective when their cities’ institutions and decision-makers are listening; learning from ioby campaigns, decision-makers are uniquely situated to scale the work up and partner with residents to inform neighborhood-level investments.

100RC’s network of Chief Resilience Officers, whose work is deeply rooted in stakeholder engagement, are ideal partners for the small and experimental work done by ioby leaders. Together, we are able to address some of the most common concerns among tactical urbanists seeking support for creative solutions in public spaces. Some of these include:

  • Aversion to risk: Tactical urbanism — short-term interventions that address a long-term need of a neighborhood — is, by nature, a risky endeavor that urban decision-makers are wary of supporting. Crowdfunding offers a way for cities to easily and meaningfully partner with residents as they bring experimental solutions to public spaces. As a nonprofit entity that operates an independent website and acts as a partner to city hall, ioby offers an avenue for cities to support tactical urbanists with minimal exposure to risk.
  • Uneasy partners, or the “big is best” mindset: The old school of community engagement generates big ideas for long-term investment, then seeks input or approval from the affected community. ioby takes the opposite approach, instead lifting up the stories of small projects, led by urban residents seeking to make small and meaningful changes in their neighborhoods.
  • Difficulty shoring up stakeholders’ support: Even those with the best ideas for their neighborhoods are often unsure of how to begin building community buy-in for their tactical urbanism projects. When a leader fundraises for a project on ioby’s platform, they activate dozens of neighbors and friends as donors and volunteers. Through a combination of one-on-one mentorship and a library of grassroots fundraising resources, ioby builds up emerging leaders’ confidence and capacity to make fundraising asks. With the right support, crowdfunding offers community leaders an easy way to strengthen bonds with their neighbors and engage them in civic life.

In May, ioby traveled to New Orleans to meet with a group of tactical urbanists and city decision-makers about using civic crowdfunding to promote community and physical resilience. To kick off ioby’s visit, Heidi Schmalbach spoke to a crowd of residents about how her organization, Arts Council New Orleans, used ioby’s platform to fund an innovative piece of transit infrastructure that was designed and built by high school students. With the more than $14,000 that Heidi and her team raised with ioby, the Arts Council’s Youth Solutions team joined forces with five seniors at NET Charter High School and a local designer and fabricator to build a new bus shelter on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. The design of the shelter is the collective result of students’ firsthand experiences as transit users as well as community research that included direct observations and a conversation with a local transit advocacy group. By directing funds to an important new neighborhood amenity, and by helping young residents flex their civic muscle, this project emboldened a new generation of urban changemakers and made the community stronger and more resilient. Going forward, ioby hopes to continue to support the growing movement of tactical urbanists in New Orleans.

As a 100 Resilient Cities Platform Partner, ioby helps CROs and city agencies unlock new and untapped financial and social capital for resilience projects. By encouraging, enabling, and accelerating resident-led, tactical projects, 100 Resilient Cities and ioby are bolstering community resilience in cities around the country, one block at a time.