Empowered by individuals: Ioby

Having covered so much about the various crowdsourcing modes, environmentally sustainable ways and more, this post is my attempt to see things from a real world context. In the real world, I have observed many crowdsourcers who engage in crowdsourcing for environmental sustainability. These crowdsourcers could be individuals, companies and governments. They adopt various crowdsourcing modes I discussed earlier: Crowd contest, crowdfunding, open collaboration and virtual labor markets. I find that studying the different categories of crowdsourcers is an important task as they often have different agendas and different degree of influence. I hope to observe a trend at the end of it, and may be to see how different actors interact with people.

To begin, I hope to observe sites which have environmentally sustainable projects that are initiated by individuals and small communities! Doing a quick search, ioby.com caught my eye because the crowdsourcing platform is limited to a specific geographical location: North America. Individual crowdsourcers, like those on ioby.com, are people who have realised their own environmental problems and have taken a step to react to the situation through ioby.com [1]. It is interesting to observe the type of activities and understand the motivations behind individuals starting projects and campaigns.

Introduction: In New York City, In Our BackYard (IOBY) was born to connect people in different neighbourhoods together.  Their mission as IOBY is to be a “crowd-resourcing platform that connects leaders with funding and support to make our neighborhoods safer, greener more liveable and more fun”.  Support can be rendered through volunteering and donating. Ioby.com classifies each crowdsourcing individual by their intention and their city.

Summary of Participating in Ioby.com

Taking a trip back to the post “crowdsourcing: why, how and why/why nots”, IOBY functions on a microvolunteering and crowdfunding model. This from-individuals-to-individuals model of donating can be really powerful! The receiver can now tap on the large pool of donations and help available. In 2014, 72% of donations came from individuals according to the National Philanthropic Trust [2]. This model has great potential for city building and small-scale environmental projects as individuals can pool money together to make small but impactful changes in their neighbourhoods.

In order to give you an idea of their wide scope of environmental sustainability efforts, I have tabulated a summary table of their projects:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.26.07 pm

Majority of the projects circled around educating the public on the importance of environmental sustainability and how people can adopt little ways to contribute to building a better ecosystem. Education of environmental efforts is not a direct impact on the environment but it goes a long way in sustainability planning. Though there are many many more projects, I would like to focus more on education in this post because I think it is the first step of empowerment. This Chinese proverb sums it all:


While it is common to raise awareness on effects of pollution, benefits of recycling and more, one up and coming topic of discussion is green leadership. I found it really interesting so I went to do some research and analysed this movement!

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.57.59 pm

According to Gole, P., green leadership can be defined as “environmental excellence in the company’s internal operations, the company’s products and services, and community support”[3]. Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) seeks to build a generation of leaders with technical green economy skills and green decision-making skills [4].The programme equips people with skills to install solar photovoltaics (PV), transform unused land to an urban farm and more. They target on training youths as youths set the path for the future economy. I find that building leaders who value the environment is crucial as it changes the culture, structure and strategies [5] they will create when they enter influential positions. GELT is conducted by a pool of individuals from a low-income community who volunteer their services [6] and really shows the individual’s desire to show other individuals how important the environment truly is.

However, the $232 raised is still so far off from its goal. I was thinking about it and came to several conclusions:

People may not see the cause as important because of one of these reasons:

  1. People value tangible gains over intangible ones. I feel that this may be especially true for people who donate to feel good about themselves. Given the quantifiable nature of tangible projects (e.g. growing trees), the satisfaction of giving may be easily associated with the impact of one’s donation (e.g. no. of trees planted). Intangible projects like GELT do not show immediate results and people may feel a greater sense of risk.
  2. Green leadership is still a foreign concept to many. There are so many projects that achieve ST tangible gains like building a garden or giving food to the hungry. Imparting skills to a bunch of youth may seem less important than these causes.
  3. Furthermore, $10,000 is no small sum. Are the funds used effectively? With this large sum of money, people may question if this money could be better channeled to other projects that have instant impact on the environment. People may question the legitimate usage of such a large sum of money. The lack of information on how funds are used have shown to deter people from donating [7].
  4. The division of individual’s donations among various causes. Aggregator sites like Ioby.com provide people options to donate to multiple charities. As such, individuals may weight the various projects and only contribute small amounts of money.

There may be many more reasons but these are a few from my analysis 🙂  In the next post, I will be exploring the pros and cons of sites like Ioby.com as a whole. Do share with me your own opinion to in the comment section below!


Citations to be updated:

[1] Alexander ArdichviliVaughn PageTim Wentling, (2003) “Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge‐sharing communities of practice”, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 7 Iss: 1, pp.64 – 77

[2] National Philanthropic Trust. (2015). Charitable Giving Statistics. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from http://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics/

[3] Gole, P. (2012). Green Leadership: Ways of Practicing it. IPCSIT, 54, 99-101. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.ipcsit.com/vol54/018-ICCSM2012-S2008.pdf

[4] Ioby green leadership project (website): https://www.ioby.org/project/green-economy-leadership-training#updates

[5] Green, D. D., & McCann, J. (2011). Benchmarking a leadership model for the green economy. Benchmarking: An International Journal, 18(3), 445-465.

[6] GELT About (Website): www.globalexchange.org/greeneconomy/campaigns/GELT

[7] Booth, R. (2013, March 14). Charitable giving survey finds donors put off by lack of information. Retrieved February 9, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/mar/14/charitable-giving-survey-donor-information




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