3. Why give away $100 a month?

(Cross posted from my blog, here.)

When I first heard about the Awesome Foundation in Boston, I was skeptical. I didn’t want to just give away (a lot of) money for no coherent reason. i wasn’t sure who would apply. I was afraid it looked like trying too hard to be cool. It seemed frivolous (although that didn’t stop me from going to the parties to see some cool people).

Two years later, I’m a trustee of Awesome Seattle. So what changed? For me, the Awesome Foundation isn’t about giving away money, it’s about bringing a lot of different people together.  The overall theme of this is “interdisciplinary,” but here’s a few places that surfaces:

1. The Parties – Awesome parties are unlike any other type of event I’ve been to. Conferences are formal, bars aren’t where you meet people to network, and most meet ups are segregated by “tech,” “art,” or some other boundary. Awesome Foundation parties are the type of event where anyone in the community can show up and hopefully feel at home. This might not be entirely the case yet, but I know we’re striving for it. I think it’s one of the first places that’s really shoving everyone with cool ideas in an area in one place.

2. The Trustees – The trustees bring together a group of people who might not otherwise know each other. Everyone brings a different giving and planning perspective to the table. I’ve learned a lot more planning the Awesome Foundation events than I have events that were just in my field. The nature of having rotating guest seats means even more people, and more opinions.

3. The Project Proposals – Getting to read a bunch of different proposals sparks more ideas. I see more crazy things, and have more crazy thoughts, now that I dedicate a few hours every month to just reading ideas. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be so focused on writing now if it weren’t for all the proposals that center around writing. All of the ones around art remind me how large-scale art can be. It just brings the spectrum forward.

4. The Organization – It’s really hard to run a lightweight organization- much harder than a bureaucratic one. Who organizes the applications, but doesn’t feel burdened? How do you run the meetings and still hear everyone? How do you have a regular schedule without stifling things? It’s an experiment in organizational minimalism that I think I’ll be able to take away.

5. The Grants – Finally, the grants. I wasn’t entirely sure how they helped at first, but much in the spirit of #3 (The Project Proposals) the grants help others in the community to see awesome things. It’s not just me who gets inspired to have more ideas, and when more people see them (and apply in future cycles, or not) it can help create more awesome ideas.

The Awesome Foundation is a huge motivator for me personally – I have more ideas, I think more about interdisciplinary work, and I strive to see how to make other things more lightweight. But I think the biggest thing is I’m hoping this effect goes further than me, further than my influence network, and throughout the community.


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