Erin Barnes

Equipping new local leaders across the country to improve their neighborhoods through resident-led, crowdfunded community change

The Problem:

Across U.S. cities, local residents know best how issues like poverty, health, education, and the environment affect them, and they can have the best ideas for addressing them. But neighborhood-scale change is often dismissed as unimportant or small, so these citizen problem-solvers remain under-resourced and untapped, preventing the kind of concrete improvements, community cohesion, and long-term stewardship that, in aggregate, their efforts could bring.

The Approach:

ioby (“In Our Backyards”) is a civic crowdfunding and leadership development platform that trains, supports, and promotes new and existing civic leaders to drive resident-led change. Neighbors submit ideas; ioby helps them craft a plan; coaches them through fundraising, organizing, and project management; and hosts their campaigns on its site. By targeting locals instead of outsiders as donors and volunteers, its asset-based, “inside-out” approach seeds self-determination and gives all neighbors a chance to get involved. Since 2009, ioby has trained more than 20,000 leaders in 260 U.S. cities, and raised $4.4 million from 29,000 donors, funding more than 1,400 projects on everything from public health to social justice to schools. In addition to making neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable, and more fun, ioby projects build civic capacity and confidence, equipping local leaders to continue working together for positive change.

My civic hero:

Ms. Lucille—A long-time crossing guard in Cleveland who is helping raise money to make her crosswalk safer.


In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin and her team at ioby have stepped up to produce several op-eds and guides to adjusting to this new reality:

Check out Erin’s reflections from the kickoff for the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Fellows. Read more +