Awesome Foundation, Spreading Awesomeness Across the Universe, Expands to West Coast

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successful in a social way, but if it’s something that’s just crazy and brilliant and has no kind of practical value, that’s fine.

It’s a pleasure for us to go through the submissions that we get. It’s a great motivator for us, personally, to pick the one we want to see in the world, maybe because it has some great value or maybe because we just think it’s really great and really fun. To be in a position to be able to make that happen is a really enjoyable experience for us as trustees, and we hope that by highlighting some of these projects, it will enable people to follow through on them but also inspire people to do projects of their own that are like this. The goal really is to see more awesome stuff in the world.

X: Can you back up a bit and explain how the Awesome Foundation actually runs?

JP: Each trustee chips in $100 per month, and typically each chapter has 11 or 12 members. One of those members is typically the “Dean of Awesome.” That person, instead of contributing money, contributes some time to handling logistics, wrangling people about meetings, getting their selections in, and setting up the party for the grant award.

The grants are monthly. It used to be that we would have the applications open for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the month and then cut them off, but now we leave it open all the time. We have a central database of submissions, and people go and review them, and the chapter gets together and decides by whatever process works for them on a grant to fund. Typically they have a party where the awardee, if they are in the same city, can come and talk a bit about their project. It’s a way for the community to get an understanding of what the project is.

X: How do new chapters get started?

JP: We’ve done some level of coordination to seed the chapters with people we know and trust. Because it’s just getting started, we are setting the tone for what we want the Awesome Foundation to represent. We like to have some sort of confidence that [the founders of a new chapter] are not crazy, that they are responsible and have the right mindset about the process. Beyond that, as long as we think that they can pull it off and get a chapter together, that is about the extent to which we care.

Once you get a few people on board, [the chapters] are meant to run autonomously. Each chapter is more or less free to set their own direction about what projects they want to fund and what schedule they want to get together on. It’s really the power of the organization structure that makes it work. It’s not a lot of money—it’s $100 a month per individual. For a lot of people, that’s within reach. There’s no formal process, which makes it easy to start one up. We’ve had interest from people in half a dozen more cities, and we’ve got chapters in various stages of development in Ottawa, London, Austin, … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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