It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot. The universe is awesome.Emma Watson is awesome. A porcupine eating some corn on the cob that Santa left for him is awesome.
While it might be tough to put boundaries on the definition of awesome, one could argue it’s like what theSupreme Court Justice said about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”
Well, you might not know awesome when you see it, but Tim Hwang does. In 2009 he created the Awesome Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts and since then, it’s taken off like gangbusters. From Ann Arbor to Zurich, regular folk the world over are coming together to form their own local Awesome Foundation chapters.
Why? Well, to “forward the interest of awesomeness in the universe” of course.
Each chapter is comprised of ten folks from the community—artists, activists, innovators, and interested persons of any stripe—who form a Board of Awesome. Every month, each board member contributes $100 of their own money for that month’s grant. The board convenes and chooses one idea that they think will make their community just a little (or a lot) more awesome. That pool of $1,000 is then placed in a paper bag and given to that month’s winner, no strings attached.
That’s it. They don’t demand a portion of any future revenue or a 20-page quarterly reports on project process. And there’s no expectation of repayment—just that the $1,000 will be used by the winner to go forth and pursue her awesome idea.
So what kind of “awesome ideas” are they looking for? “We want ideas that are knock-your-socks-off, awesome ideas. The kind of idea that you dream about and can’t wait to get up in the morning and start doing,” says Bonnie Shaw, Awesome Foundation’s DC Chapter’s Dean of Awesome (yes, that’s her official title.)
So far those have included a dance-off for nursing home residents; guerrilla sunflower gardening in downtown Baltimore; a Helmet Hero who chases down cyclists in LA not wearing protective headgear to give them helmets; and “Cardboard Fortnight” which is —you guessed it—a night of making cardboard forts in Toronto. The group’s very first grant was awarded to a woman to make a massive hammock for people to hang out in, located smack dab in the middle of the Boston Common.
You’ll notice that all these ideas have something in common aside of their general awesomeness. The foundation says that the projects it tends to fund push the conventional limits of individual and public potential. They strongly emphasize throwing out old notions of community building for new and inhibition-busting methods of bringing people together.
What they explicitly don’t fund are vague ideas, maintenance fees for established charities or purchases for strictly personal use.
Altogether, these autonomous chapters have awarded over one million dollars. If you’ve got an awesome idea (and we know you do) and would like to apply, simply find your local chapter and fill out the very simple online application.
No chapter near you? Check out “Awesome Without Borders”. Even better, start an Awesome Foundation chapter in your area by emailing the group—because you’ve got too much awesome not to spread it around.
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