It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot. Emma Watson is awesome. A feminist “smart vibrator” is awesome. The universe is awesome.
The broad nature of the word is part of what makes it so special. It is as powerful as it is colloquial granting everyone the power to spread their passion and thus their awesomeness. In 2009 Tim Hwang recognized the potential to harness the power of awesome and started The Awesome Foundation to provide micro-grants to individuals with unique, community centric ideas. While Hwang started the operation in Cambridge, Massachusetts the foundation now boasts chapters everywhere from Ann Arbor to Moscow to Zurich.
Hwang’s mission in creating the Awesome Foundation is to “forward the interest of awesomeness in the universe” and in this regard he is certainly succeeding.
Each chapter is comprised of ten folks from the community—artists, activists, innovators, and interested persons from all walks of life—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 their 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.)
But the best part of the Awesome Foundation is that parameters for awesome ideas are subjective so projects funded range from arts, to technology, to community development. Some examples of ideas that have been funded so far include dance-offs for nursing home residents in Austin; guerrilla sunflower gardening in Baltimore; creating a Helmut Hero in LA who chases down cyclists 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 lounge on, located smack dab in the middle of the Boston Common.
While all of these projects sounds vastly different they all have one thing in common. They all strive to “push the conventional limits of individual and public potential,” as is one of the main goals of the Foundation. Additionally, they strongly emphasize throwing out old notions of community building for new and inhibition-busting methods of bringing people together.
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” or even better, start an Awesome Foundation chapter in your area by sending them an email—because you’ve got too much awesome not to spread it around.