Grassroots Grantmakers and ioby Present On the Ground Brooklyn, October 12 – 15, 2015

Click here to see our agenda and more!!

Scroll down to see descriptions of the Neighborhood Conversations.


 Intentionally small to facilitate networking and peer exchange, “On the Ground” gatherings use the work of a field-leading place-based investor as a platform for learning on a particular theme. Balancing time devoted to understanding the host organization’s context, strategy and learning journey with exploring “going deeper” questions that relate to participant’s “back-home” work – matching time out in the community with time for discussion and reflection – “on the grounds” are important professional development, skill-building, and team-building vehicles for people and organizations who are working to increase the vibrancy of local communities by authentically engaging and resourcing the groups that everyday people form for mutual aid and collective action in the place where they live. Grassroots Grantmakers’ On the Ground learning gatherings are designed to begin where standard conference workshops end and go deeper. Registrations are limited to 100 participants to maximize opportunities for peer-to-peer connections and to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.


What’s planned for the Neighborhood Conversations?

 Neighborhood Conversations Part 1: Gowanus

Choose one of three tracks in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. A historically industrial neighborhood and the site of the notoriously polluted Gowanus Canal, Gowanus is currently undergoing a period of swift transition following the Canal’s designation as a Superfund site in anticipation of a neighborhood rezoning.

 Tuesday, October 13, 10:30 – 12:00 PM
Option A: Promoting Community Engagement in Green Infrastructure

The Gowanus Canal, one of the most heavily polluted waterways in the United States at the center of a rapidly redeveloping neighborhood, has become a focus of resident-led education, advocacy, and improvements in recent years. On this tour, we’ll go to the banks of the Gowanus to learn from Andrea Parker, Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, which activates over 1,000 local volunteers each year in its mission to transform the Gowanus into a clean, living waterway. Leif Percifield, self-proclaimed mad citizen scientist and founder of the Don’t Flush Me project, will discuss how he uses technology to educate residents of their personal water-use impacts on the Gowanus, and his experiences crowdfunding his work and finding support within a community of makers. We’ll conclude the visit at one of the neighborhood’s most active community gardens to hear from Judy Janda, President and Co-Founder of Greenspace on Fourth, who will discuss the green infrastructure work undertaken by her group and other self-organized, resident-led groups.

(Includes about 15-20 minutes of walking total; seating will be provided at discussion sites.)

Tuesday, October 13, 10:30 – 12:00 PM
Option B: Innovating Advocacy: Biking, Placemaking and Transit in NYC 

This conversation begins with local resident transit activist Grace Freedman, past leader of the Fix this Public Space! ioby project, who will discuss how she has paired creative re-envisioning with traditional grassroots advocacy with the Fourth on Fourth Avenue Committee. We’ll stop by the Old Stone House, a historical site and cultural, to discuss creative advocacy around NYC’s biking and transit. The innovative leaders behind the Biking Public Project and Bikesplorations will join us for the conversation.

(Includes about 10 minutes of walking total; seating will be provided at discussion site.)

 Tuesday, October 13, 10:30 – 12:00 PM
Option C: TBA – Description forthcoming

 Neighborhood Conversations Part II: Bedford-Stuyvesant or East New York

Wednesday, October 14, 1-3pm
Option A: Local Movement Building and System Change: Community Gardens and Racial Equity in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Visit the 462 Halsey Community Garden in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn to hear from the garden’s co-founder Shatia Strother on why she founded the garden and how it has been resourced, including her experience securing seed-funding from neighbors through an ioby campaign. She’ll also discuss how a small-scale project that promotes neighborhood connection and food justice connects to the Black Lives Matter movement. Arif Ullah, Program Director of Programs at Citizens Committee of NYC, will discuss his organization’s model for delivering resources to neighborhood groups. We’ll then be joined for a conversation with Ms. Strother’s fellow activists from the Brooklyn Movement Center and Black Alliance for Just Immigration, who will discuss issues of race and equity in Brooklyn. We’ll walk to the Central Bainbridge Street Community Garden, established in 1978, where we will meet with the garden’s leaders and learn more about the history of food justice in Bed-Stuy.

 (Bus to site; Includes about 15 minutes of walking total; seating will be provided at both discussion sites.)

Wednesday, October 14, 1 – 3 pm
Option B: Resourcing the Grassroots: Food Justice and Public Health Work in East New York

In 2011, Aida Castillo was an engaged resident who helped raise start-up funds for the People’s Garden, via the Pollos del Pueblo ioby campaign. Now the Community Garden Coordinator for the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC), overseeing multiple East Brooklyn community gardens, Aida will share what she’s learned about initiating and sustaining new programs in low-income communities, and the potential of crowdfunding as a tool for connecting low-income project leaders with resources outside their neighborhood. Joined by other CHLDC staff, the discussion will touch on the complex, multiple impacts of community gardening and urban farming projects, and the challenges of quantifying those impacts within traditional evaluation tools used in the grantmaking community. We’ll travel to East New York Farms! farmers market to hear from Daryl Marshall, Community Organizer and Youth Leader with, a cornerstone of Brooklyn’s urban farming food justice movement. East New York Farms, a program of United Community Centers, runs multiple farm sites, two-successful markets, and a local CSA, providing employment and education opportunities along with affordable local produce. United Community Centers staff will also discuss their role as a hyper-local grantmaker and how they catalyze and support an active, extensive urban gardening community in the midst of one of the most economically challenged areas of the New York City.

 (Participants bused between three sites; seating will be provided at the last site, standing for 15-20 minutes may be required at others, but seats can be provided needed.)

 Neighborhood Conversations Part III: Flatbush

Wednesday, October 14, 3:30 – 5:00 PM
Only Option: Creative Partnerships for Creative Placemaking in Flatbush

Visit Parkside Plaza in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to hear from community member Sonya Rocvil on how she and her neighbors leveraged citizen philanthropy from within the neighborhood for a new public open space through the NYC Department of Transportation’s Plaza program. Laura Hansen from the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership will join us for a discussion about equity and public space. She will explain how she has worked with ioby to support a cohort of leaders from around the city working to make their neighborhood plazas safer, cleaner and more enjoyable. ioby has invited a representative from the NYC Department of Transportation to discuss its Plazas program and how they are working with the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership to bring the program to neighborhoods where there the amount of private investment available for public space is limited.

We’ll then walk along the edge of Prospect Park to the site of Spring Comes to the Flatbush Trees, where we will hear from Tim Thomas about how a group of neighbors came together to refurbish an unlikely community landmark. We will be joined there by the Sustainable Flatbush team to hear about how the neighborhood’s most engaged residents are taking the lead on reimagining public space.

(Public transportation to first site; conversations will take place at both sites; seating will be available.)

\ Featured Speakers \

Jennifer Arieta, North Star Fund

Arif Ullah, Citizens’ Committee for NYC

Rachael Young, Mertz Gilmore Foundation

Tynesha McHarris, Brooklyn Community Foundation

Justin Garrett Moore, Columbia University

Naomi Doerner, Alliance for Biking & Walking

Ethan Kent, Project for Public Spaces


Let us know if you need help with planning or understanding any logistics. Below is information to help you plan.

Be sure to allow from travel time to arrive at our opening session each day. Since we are at multiple hotels this year, everyone is responsible for getting to the opening session via public transportation or your glorious two feet. For hotels, registration, and other information click here.


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