We're pleased to announce Brandon Whitney is joining the Colin Powell Center as a 2012-2013 leader in residence. As the Center expands its work on environmental issues through its Partners for Change program, Whitney will guide the professional development activities and research projects of our fellows.
Whitney is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ioby, a non-profit organization that supports small scale, local environmental projects. He spoke with the Center about what drew him to the leader in residence position, and what he hopes to accomplish in the next year.
What is ioby?
Ioby is a non-profit organization based in New York City that mainly runs what we call a crowd resourcing platform, which is online at ioby.org. That means we provide the ability to collect donations, find volunteers, and also share ideas and advice and tips between people doing local environmental projects primarily in urban areas.
We operated for two years as a pilot in New York City, and on April 22, 2012 we launched nationally.
How nationwide launch going? It’s going pretty well. We’ve got about 25 projects, and we aren’t really doing anything more than word of mouth at this point. We’re expecting to ramp that up quite a bit as the summer progresses.
What is your role as COO? It’s all of the work around the technology platform that we leverage, developing and making sure we provide all of the services that people who use our platform need. That means both donors and volunteers, and especially the people leading the projects throughout our neighborhoods. Those are things like workshops, as well as online resources.
Why the focus on cities? We have a bias, you could say, toward urban areas. That’s primarily because our founding vision for the organization was to connect people and projects in their own neighborhoods, as a way of rethinking what the environment meant by talking about places that are close to us and involved in our day-to-day. Places that we live, work, and play.
There are a lot of demographic shifts going on. Across the country and globally, more and more people are moving to cities. So we need to understand the environment from an urban perspective. It doesn’t mean that we don’t think the same community garden in a rural area is not important. It just means it’s a little easier for people to get involved in a city than in the suburbs or a more sparsely populated area.
What drew you to this position with the Center? A couple of people forwarded the call for applications to us. I was really interested in the ability to work with students directly. My professional development over the last six or seven years has been tangentially involved in academia, but it’s been a while, almost five years, since I’ve done any work directly with students.
There’s also a project we’re working on that has a pretty significant research component around measuring the outcomes of our work. So I thought that would work, and it turns out to be a pretty good fit.
There’s a natural fit between what the Center was looking for, which is urban-focused environmental work, and our work.
What do you hope to accomplish as a leader in residence, outside that research project? For the students, insofar as they’re curious about our work, how you build an organization from the ground up, I’ll be happy and interested to share that with them.