Training for legal observers. Community gardens. School uniforms. A documentary film about hunger and poverty. Feminine hygiene products for underserved girls and women. Accredited CPR training. Exterior home improvements. All these projects are currently being funded in Cleveland through ioby ("In Our Backyard"), a nonprofit crowdfunding platform that brings community projects to life, in the organization's words, "one block at a time."
In Cleveland, the on-the-ground team organizing ioby's efforts is comprised of one woman: Indigo Bishop. She lives in Buckeye/Shaker, where ioby is also headquartered, in the renovated St. Luke's Manor on Shaker Boulevard, and right now, she's deciding whether to grab a cup of coffee at Dewey's, her favorite local haunt on Shaker Square, or down at the Perfect Cup on East 116th.
"They do free doughnuts on Fridays," Bishop tells Scene, "So I may have to do that."
Bishop is a Cleveland native. She grew up on the westside — she played sports at Cudell Rec Center, where Tamir Rice was gunned down in 2014 — but moved to the Larchmere area after her first year at Laurel.
"That was too long of a commute from the westside," she jokes.
She did both undergrad and graduate work at Case, studying sociology and anthropology and then social work, and then went on to work at Neighborhood Connections for almost five years doing community organizing. Ioby, she says, was a natural extension of the work she had already been doing.
"I'm really about finding leaders and innovative people who not only recognize things need to change, but have the drive to make things change," she says.
With ioby, Bishop says, people are empowered to make their communities better places in the ways they see fit.
"That element is super important," Bishop says. "They have autonomy over their projects. A lot of people know about GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites, but the big difference with ioby is that it's a nonprofit. It's mission-driven and all about supporting residents in communities that need extra support and resources. These communities have the drive, but if they have the right coaching and capacity-building around fundraising, along with the tech tools to mobilize resources, they can make a lot of great things happen."
Any notable upcoming projects? Scene wanted to know.
"There's one, a woman is creating a healing center where folks can come do culturally appropriate healing practices," Bishop says. "There's yoga, meditation, reiki, things like that, and they're used as ways to combat social ills and the injustice of living a marginalized life. I really want that to be successful, partly because I want to go!"
A community center for expectant mothers is also in the works, and that's a particularly important resource for a community ravaged by infant mortality, where young mothers don't have the opportunity to take classes to prepare for motherhood from and with people who look like them.
Bishop says that the fundraising, thus far, has been hyper-local, and the reasons are obvious:
"You get to see the community garden that you contributed to," she says. "Or you know that your grandma will get to go to the computer lab."
Ioby started in Brooklyn, New York, in 2009 and has since raised more than $2.5 million for more than 700 projects nationwide. In Cleveland, if you have an idea for your neighborhood, Bishop says the first thing to do is go to ioby.org/idea. Every project goes a long way to improving Cleveland's communities.
"In general, I'd like to see resources and accolades going to more than just one or two neighborhoods in the city," she says. "It's an uphill battle, but these neighborhoods have a lot to offer that really should be highlighted."