Lisa Duran of Grassroots Grantmakers and Erin Barnes of ioby on Place-Based Grantmaking and Community Action

Erin Barnes.png

Twitter: @GrassrootsGM                                           Twitter: @ErinArgyle and @ioby

Lisa Duran is Grassroots Grantmakers’ Executive Director. Lisa brings over 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to her new role.  For the past 25 years she has worked with grassroots social justice organizations, including eleven years as the founding Executive Director of Rights for All People, an immigrant-led immigrant rights organization based in Aurora, Colorado. There, Lisa helped create a culture of member ownership, in which those most affected help lead the change. She also led the establishment of successful collaborations around the state of Colorado. Lisa’s graduate studies included a focus on philanthropy, foundations, race, and social movements. In her organizing work she developed popular education practices that stress the co-creation of knowledge, the importance of participant stories in building relationship, and the necessity to productively address imbalances of power and privilege.

Erin Barnes is the Executive Director of ioby (in our backyard), a project she co-founded with her partners Brandon Whitney and Cassie Flynn while they were completing a Masters of Environmental Management program at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. They moved to New York City and started ioby as a funding platform to support individuals who are launching "green" initiatives, around education, beautification, and other social initiatives. They have since taken the model to other cities around the country, as they continue to expand. The team was awarded the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for New Technology and Innovation by The Rockefeller Foundation. 

Today, Lisa and Erin discuss the community grantmaking model and place-baed funders who work from a resident perspective - supporting active citizenship and building civic capacity at the hyperlocal level. This is a highly relational form of grantmaking, highly personal, and highly intimate, where people are taking action on issues that they are passionate about in their own backyards. The transformative effect that the micro-level initiatives have is felt on the communications, on local governmental agencies, and on the citizens, who feel empowered to create change. They also discuss the On The Ground event taking place this year in Brooklyn on October 12- 15. 


In this interview, we discuss:

  1. How do you set up evaluation methods to measure community and resident impact? (10:00)
  2. What is the On The Ground event and what makes it so effective.  (15:20)
  3. The challenges and success of investing at a hyper local level in communities. (17:30)
  4. The myth of crowd funding and how much work is needed to spark a real movement. (26:30)
  5. How national funders are catching on to the idea of community and place-based grantmaking, and the movement continues to grow. (30:00)


"We cannot make any change if the people who are directly impacted don't feel honored and respected."  -Lisa Duran

"People are recognizing that small, neighborhood-scale actions are have really far reaching and long lasting impacts."  -Erin Barnes


  1. Grassroots Grantmakers course on grantmaking
  2. 8 Tools for Successful Grassroots Grantmaking article. 
  3. On The Ground event. 
  4. Profile of ioby co-founders. 
  5. The Social Innovation model of ioby. 
  6. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein (Lisa's recommendation)
  7. We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For by Peter LaVine (Erin's recommendation)


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