Lots to Love (About Neighborhoods)

Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods.

There are 90 of them, after all. Each one has its own charms, and problems, and groups of people working to solve them. But, like individuals, these neighborhoods often focus on their own challenges, and sometimes forget that other neighborhoods are working on very similar problems. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These community leaders work hard to make their neighborhoods better one step, or one lot, at a time. But such individuals can also play the role of neighborhood representative, sharing their challenges and successes with other communities in the same position, benefitting not just their own, but two or more neighborhoods!

Last week the Hazelwood Urban Ag Group and other interested residents met with residents from the Larimer Green Team to learn about energy efficiency, explore Lots to Love, and talk about their experiences – an opportunity to share challenges and successes and learn from what the other group has accomplished.  

We knew that Larimer and Hazelwood were facing similar challenges: each has lots and lots of vacant land, with big development moving in (for Larimer, a Choice Neighborhood grant to the tune of $30 million; in Hazelwood, groundbreaking at the Almono site and concurrent community development). But they also both have dedicated teams of fantastic individuals working to improve their communities lot by lot.  And so we thought, let’s bring them together to show them Lots to Love.

Lots to Love is a guide for community organizations and residents who are interested in transforming vacant lots into well-loved spaces. It was built precisely with groups like these in mind.

So I picked up Larimer Green Team members to commandeer (with their blessing) the Hazelwood Urban Ag meeting. We spoke about how they all might save on energy at home by following some simple tips and using online tools to track energy usage, and then dove into a Lots to Love training session, registering each group and their projects on the site. Throughout the meeting, we learned about projects that each group is working on, from the planters that Elaine Price of Floriated Interpretations hopes to install in Hazelwood, to the revamping of the Larimer Community Green. These projects and more are now registered on Lots to Love, so feel free to explore! 

By bringing these groups together, we got to share resources with each, and more importantly, they got to share lessons with each other.  Pittsburgh may be a city of neighborhoods, but it’s also the City of Bridges.  Maybe we ought to put Mr. Rogers’ famous question in the context of neighborhoods (and the bridges between them) and ask all 90:

“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Remember the acronym “NIMBY”? That’s how sociologists and cartoonists often characterize the visceral reaction that a proposed new development (airport, power plant, strip mall, etc.) will elicit among the residents of the surrounding community: “Not in my back yard!” ioby, however, is all about empowering local projects that bring positive change to our communities (our collective “backyard”). That’s why a partnership between Lots to Love and ioby made so much sense.

Weinberger, David

ioby is the polar opposite of NIMBY, as you might have guessed, it stands for “in our back yards.” ioby is a nationwide nonprofit that supports local leaders of projects that have a positive impact on communities. ioby’s emphasis is on what they call “crowd-resourcing,” a combination of crowdfunding and resource organizing. As such, they provide a platform for crowdfunding (the pooling of small online donations for a project) as well as tools to organize volunteer time, advocacy, social networks, etc. to help grow and implement ideas that make neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.

ioby has a great track record of success in their six year history. They have helped 596 projects raise over $2 million collectively (about $3,300 per project), and they have 300 projects underway right now. The average donation to an ioby project is $35, and most donors live on average only 2 miles from the projects they fund. Check out the Pittsburgh-based ioby projects, including a few projects by GTECH Ambassadors like Annaya. With all of this success and a thoughtful focus on local leaders, as well as ioby’s decision to open an office in Pittsburgh this spring, Lots to Love is excited to partner with ioby in order to better support our local leaders and their projects. If you’ve already found a lot to love and are working on raising funds, ioby can help!

Once you’ve consulted our resources and are ready to start fundraising, begin by filling out this form and selecting that you heard about ioby through GTECH Strategies. After you submit the form, you’ll be contacted by an ioby strategist to discuss your project and think through a timeline and best practices for fundraising. It couldn’t be easier, and you’ll be that much closer to making your lot a success!