In my lead-in talk for the Tufts Symposium on Innovation, I attempted to wake up the audience with a shocking tale of world domination.

Well, sort of.

We at the Awesome Foundation were surprised four years ago when our idea to give away money resonated as much with givers as with receivers. The very principles that directed our giving efforts turned out to be powerful facilitators for organizational growth.

Here are a few of them:

Low Barriers to Entry

What began as a desire to allow anyone, anywhere with a good idea to more easily pull it off translated easily into anyone, anywhere with a desire to start a chapter of the Awesome Foundation to do the same. No permission required. No formal organization to set up. We think of it like a highly portable brand anyone can own and use, an idea framework to extend, a set of tools to deploy, an excuse to join up with friends and make a difference.

Balanced Power Dynamics

A strict no-strings attached grant policy, a refusal to narrowly define what awesome is, and a lack of formal leadership or governance structure helps create an environment where work is driven by individual contributions, decisions are made locally, and anyone with a good idea doesn’t need permission to make it happen.

Constant Experimentation

We fiddle with things. Since no one needs permission, projects just happen (vs. a frenzied vetting of every new suggestion). This lets the best ideas gain traction while the less than stellar initiatives starve. This environment of experimentation works well on a global level as well. Each chapter imagines its own future, launches its own events, and sets its own rules. Then we learn from each other and steal the best ideas. Distributed ownership plus collective learning can be a powerful combination.

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