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Repair Interview: Amie Hamlin from the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food

January is Healthy Living Month here at Repair the World. Stop by all month long for interviews with our favorite health-focused organizations, inspiring stories, and tips to change your life while changing the world.

Walk down the lunch line at an average public school today and you will find plenty to eat – unfortunately, many of the options, especially for the “protein” component, are not particularly healthy. But thanks to organizations like the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, that is starting to change.

Since 2004, the Coalition has worked to foster healthier school food options for students in New York State and across the country. Their Executive Director, Amie Hamlin, recently talked with Repair the World about how she ended up becoming a champion of healthy school eating, the importance of offering plant-based foods at schools, and the country’s first-ever vegetarian public school.

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Repair Interview: Jerusha Klemperer of FoodCorps

January is Healthy Living Month here at Repair the World. Stop by all month long for interviews with our favorite health-focused organizations, inspiring stories, and tips to change your life while changing the world.

Its no surprise that we love service programs here at Repair the World. We also love organizations that work to create healthier kids and communities. So we’re pretty much over the moon for FoodCorps, an organization that’s part of the AmeriCorps service network, and that “connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy.” Yeah. Pretty awesome.
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Seasons of Giving: Interview with David Weinberger of ioby

Ever heard the term NIMBY? It stands for “Not in My Backyard,” and is used frequently in environmental and social movements to describe residents or organizations that oppose local projects that they perceive to negatively impact them. For example: protesting against wind power turbines that generate alternative energy because they are an “eyesore.”

Imagine if everyone felt the opposite. If we all actively said yes and worked together to help our communities thrive. Enter ioby (or “In our Backyard”), an organization that supports community-led environmental projects by providing a crowdsource funding platform that lets neighbors support local initiatives. Like a community garden. Or a new bike lane or a recycling program. Since its founding, ioby has enabled donors to give more than $600,000 and thousands of volunteer hours to nearly 300 community-led projects in New York City and nationally. On average, donors live 2 miles or less from the projects they support: talk about community giving, and community empowerment.

ioby’s Director of Project Development, David Weinberger, took a few minutes to share ioby’s philosophies and amazing work with Repair the World. Read on!

What was the inspiration behind ioby?
The three cofounders met in grad school at Yale and all moved to New York City in 2007 for jobs in environmental fields. They began to notice that many conversations around environmental issues seemed to center around things that felt remote and far away – like icebergs melting and the plight of the polar bears. They realized that in order to help bring these issues global to the forefront, people had to start locally. So they started ioby, which is the exact opposite of NIMBY. It offers a platform for people people who have a great idea for an environmental project in their neighborhood to raise money via crowdsourced funding, connect with volunteers, and get support behind their project.

A very small percentage of philanthropic dollars end up going to grass roots groups. Money is typically reserved for traditional organizations. That’s important work, but these small, informal groups of neighbors tend to get shafted. ioby builds the capacity for them to raise money, be more self sustaining, and be strong and connected.

How many cities is ioby in at this point?
We started in New York City and went national a little over a year ago. There are projects in 80 cities right now, and we opened an office in Miami earlier this year. We are working with the Miami Dade office of sustainability, partnering on their sustainability plan and helping to connect the office to small, local groups. We were really interested in seeing how ioby would fit into a municipal government context, and Miami has a lot of interesting climate and environmental work going on right now. (Check out ioby’s Miami-based projects.) We are also working with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team in Memphis, helping to build out the neighbor side of things.

What are the most common types of projects people submit?
A couple years ago, when we were focused solely on New York we would have said community gardening projects were most popular. As we’ve gone national,  we are seeing a lot more projects about infrastructure and transportation. We helped a project in Memphis raise $80,000 to create a protected bike lane. A bunch of members of the community decided to take the revitalization of the downtown area into their own hands. They took paintbrushes and solicited local artists and painted their own bike lane on Broad avenue in Memphis. It became incredibly popular and the city took notice and raised another million dollars to make it official. We worked with Livable Memphis to make it happen.

You mentioned there’s a volunteer component to ioby’s crowd sourcing?
On every project page, there’s a button that says, “inquire about volunteering.” When a project leader posts their project, they can request volunteers. So donors can give money, but they can also sign up to help make a project happen – volunteering on a work day, or in some other capacity. We’ve heard a lot of great success stories about that.

Who can start an ioby project?
Anyone can start a project on ioby. You can either submit a really short form letting us know what you’re thinking about, and we’ll help you take it to the next stage of development. We invite people to join a 30 minute introductory webinar on grass roots organizing, and things like how to set goals. If you’re further along in the process, you can post a full project that includes an itemized budget, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what steps you envision taking. ioby is already popular in cities, but more and more people in suburbs and rural areas are also reaching out about revitalizing their own downtowns and making a difference.

Got a project in mind or want to learn more about ioby? Check out the video below and visit their website for more info.

Pride Interview: Shane Windmeyer and Campus Pride

During Pride Month, Repair the World is featuring interviews with the people and organizations who are on the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. This week: Shane Windmeyer talks about founding Campus Pride, the leading organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students.

Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind Campus Pride.
It grew out of my experience being gay on a small, rural campus in the middle of Kansas. I came out to my fraternity brothers and luckily had a very positive experience, but I knew that wasn’t the case for many people. I went to college in the early 1990s when there weren’t a lot of resources for LGBT students who were closeted and trying to come out, or students who were already out. A small handful of campuses had started centers or clubs, but students needed basic resources. Campus Pride started out as an online clearing house where students from different campuses could share and find those resources.

How has Campus Pride changed and evolved over the last decade?
The biggest and most important evolution is that we’ve moved from being an online clearing house to a full-fledged organization that provides programs and services to students. Another thing that has changed is how we talk about students, and the way we look at LGBT young people. It used to be a common idea in the 1990s that there were gay people, but they did not necessarily talk about the intersectionality of their other identities. Now younger LGBT people are bringing their full identities to the table – things like their faith, gender, ethnicity, and race, in addition to their sexuality. It’s not a surprise, for example, that young people of faith who are LGBT have a very different experience because of what their faith means to them. Our programs try to work with people across the full, complex spectrum of who they are.

What is one of your favorite Campus Pride initiatives?
Camp Pride is one of our best programs. It’s a five day, five night training and conference for LGBT college-aged students. This year we had 70 undergraduate leaders from over 60 different colleges come together. I never would have imagined that, but now we have this national presence and students who take back these ideas and resources to their campuses. In tandem, we have a professional advisor boot camp for grad students, faculty and staff who work with LGBT students.

We also have the Campus Pride Index, which is an online tool that allows campuses to analyze, benchmark and share the resources they provide for LGBT students. The index is based on research, is updated every year, and is based around different criteria – things like housing and resident life, campus safety, recruitment and retention, student life, academic life, and institutional support. Each of these areas addresses different questions like, “does your campus have a mentoring program for new LGBT students?” or “Do you have a supplemental lavender or rainbow graduation to honor graduating LGBT students?” or “Do you have gender neutral restrooms?”

Campuses mostly want to be LGBT friendly, and some think just having a club is enough. But at the end of the day it’s about institutional commitment. Only 12% of our nation’s colleges have a non-discrimination policy that includes sexuality. And while 500-600 campuses are doing great work, a number of colleges are not doing any work to take responsibility for LGBT students. The good news is, 80% of colleges participating in the index have improved year on year, which means they are adding additional services and becoming increasingly supportive to their school’s LGBT community.

Tell me about Campus Pride’s faith initiatives?
We’ve always had students of faith who have come to us and participated in our programs. For the longest time, we would refer people to Faith in America, and other organizations doing good work in that arena. But within the last two years we’ve had students say, “we’d really like Campus Pride to make a commitment on faith issues.” So it’s been a newer journey for us. Right now, we have a group of about 15 students from different academic institutions that have a religious framework, like Notre Dame. The goal is to take the voices of students that sometimes get isolated at these institutions and magnify them on a national level, while creating greater resources for these campuses.

Where do you think Campus Pride will grow in the future?
I’m excited about the next five years of Campus Pride. We’re in a good position to continue our growth, and are doing the work that needs to be done for young people today. We also have the good fortune of being closely connected to students, and hearing what is important to them right now, and in the future. For example, while marriage equality is an important topic, by talking with young people on campus, we hear what other issues are bubbling up, and are able to get our finger on the pulse for what’s coming next.

Learn more about Campus Pride’s work at their website.

Repair Interview: Ami Dar of Idealist.org

Like many young people, I found my first non-profit job out of college on Idealist.org – an organization that “connects people, organizations, and resources” online to help build a better world. On the morning of my first day I distinctly remember having a realization of my 21st-century privilege. “How on earth did people do this without the internet?” I wondered.

Idealist.org founder, Ami Dar, had that very same question. On a backpacking trip in Chile in the mid 1980s, Dar first had the idea of creating a global network to help interested people plug their energy into the organizations and initiatives that needed them. Several years later he was introduced to the internet and its remarkable ability to connect people – and Idealist has not looked back since. Dar took the time to speak with Repair the World about his own inspiration for social justice work, what Idealist might have been like if the internet never came along, and why now is the perfect time to follow your dreams and change the world.
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