Ellen Roberds, creative placemaker

High Ground News

March 27, 2014

ioby is the online “crowd-resourcing” platform that has been used to fund more than 280 projects nationwide with more than $700,000 since its launch in 2009. The successful Hampline funding in Memphis is one such success story; ioby collected over $75,000 to create a dedicated, protected bike lane in Binghampton.

The site has become a phenomenon of today’s virtual village, existing in cyberspace at the click or swipe of our fingertip. In Memphis, though, there is now a face to go with those pixels. Ellen Roberds is the only ioby “creative placemaker” in the country, working to inform the public and see that projects find enough traction to become success stories of their own.

The year-long, grant-funded position is in partnership with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, Livable Memphis and ioby. Roberds will seek out those with ideas and help to get those ideas clarified and onto the ioby website. Many may be in disadvantaged areas of the city, and those without the critical wi-fi or technological savvy to bring the idea to the public. The projects targeted will be limited to those of $3,000 or below.

“This is not a Hampline project,” Roberds says. “We’re looking for very small projects.”

This isn’t to say those with the grand ideas aren’t welcome, but ioby and Roberds preach baby steps. “Let’s say they want to turn a lot into a playground, but they don’t have the capacity at this point to raise $60,000, so you just kind of start with something small,” she says. “Why don’t we raise $100 and buy some soccer balls and some soccer goals, and a lawnmower to mow the lot and have a place to play outside of the street?”

Past performance shows that if you do well with a small project, that more money can be raised with ioby the second time around. The Hyde Foundation is one potential funder that might be looking at that performance, Roberds says  . . . (read more)