awesome

Marathon towns

Dear Fellow Bostonians,

At its core, The Awesome Foundation is about community. And for Boston, the marathon represents our city's community at its best. It'd be a real shame if violence is all anyone thinks about now when they think of the Boston Marathon.

So we're collecting awesome stories and memories from Boston Marathons past to showcase this incredible community event. Let's remind the world about the 116 years of amazing memories, not a single sad one.

Read, share, and contribute here: 26milesofawesome.tumblr.com

Sharing a story can be as simple as completing the sentence: "The Boston Marathon is awesome because..."

Here’s to making the 2014 Boston Marathon the most awesome one yet!

Yours,
The Awesome Foundation, Boston

Tagged:
  1. Applicants don't have to meet obscure grant requirements, jump through hoops, or even be held accountable for the money they receive. This means that if someone is inspired by a particular idea, they don't need to compromise that idea to meet some seemingly irrelevant application criteria or foundation obligation. This ability to follow one's own muse results in a high variability in submissions, a diversity of applicants, and a sense of freedom that can be inspirational.
  2. The Awesome Foundation is the only philanthropy that enables people to form their own philanthropy. There is something about the idea of the Awesome Foundation that is contagious. Its openness, lack of formal structure and small consensus-oriented team size allow micro-foundations to be easily replicated. This deeper sense of individual ownership over the giving process could be a powerful motivator towards larger-scale social good.
  3. The focus is on funding individuals to get things started that they wouldn't otherwise start. There is latent awesome idea potential in all of us - the snag appears to be getting off our ass and executing on it. So the Awesome Foundation's mission is to help you introduce awesome into the world. Not the continuation of mediocre stuff. More awesome.
  4. There is no hard and fast definition of what awesome is. Each micro-trustee brings a different definition and evaluation criteria, and this diversity of opinion permits surprise and delight inside each friendly monthly debate
  5. Awesomeness is, well, awesome. Most of the world is structured to encourage the creation of lowest common-denominator crap. Crap results from ideas being evaluated on their broad appeal, practicality, proven track record, or predictability of outcome. Awesomeness instead is about novelty, surprise, excellence, uniqueness, and wild and risky ideas. If we're going to fix the world's really big problems, we are going to need more wild and risky ideas.

Full Disclosure: I'm a founding member of the Awesome Foundation and an active micro-trustee.

The Awesome Foundation is a simple idea. We support people doing awesome things in the world. Every month we give out a $1,000 of our money to an idea we think is awesome and should be released upon the world.

Yes, but what do you think is awesome?
Awesomeness is more the product of a creator’s passion than the prospect of audience or profit. Awesome creations are novel and non-obvious, evoking surprise and delight. Invariably, something about them perfectly reflects the essence of the medium, moment, or method of creation. Awesome things inspire and attract.

Here's how we support more awesome:

  1. You apply by writing a few sentences about your awesome but unrealized idea. There are absolutely zero restrictions on who can apply and what sort of idea could win.
  2. If we like your idea, we give you $1000. Possibly in a brown paper bag.
  3. There are no strings attached or hoops you have to jump through. Of course, we hope you'll execute on your idea, but, you know, whatever.

Lots of people have been asking to find out more about the Awesome Foundation. Here's some background.

Every day brings an avalanche of new ideas and novel creations to the web, from witty t-shirts and viral videos to innovative methods of collaboration and powerful new software. The creation of unique and interesting things is not new, but the current surge in individual creative activity and its subsequent high visibility on the web is unprecedented.

The most compelling of these creative products I have been referring to as The New Awesome, and they represent a tiny portion of the total creative output. Historically, the word "awesome" might have been used to describe the power of a tornado or the grandness of a majestic vista. Today, the word is more often used to qualify the ingenious or impressive products of personal creativity, such as using hairspray to launch a potato 200 yards, hosting a talk show in Halo 2, or mocking the Kansas school board’s ruling with an ingenious take on religion.

But there’s more to the New Awesome than merely creative flair. The most interesting and, well, awesome creative products seem to share some common characteristics:

  1. It is novel and non-obvious
    Nothing like it has really quite been done before. Whether a clever approach, an unforseen bending of the rules, or just a commitment to excellence far beyond the expected, the New Awesome never fails to evoke surprise and delight.
  2. It emerges from passion, without the prospect of audience or profit
    From the first encounter, it's clear that the creator felt compelled to make this. Recognition or revenue is icing on the cake.
  3. It is initially under the cultural radar
    The New Awesome invariably emerges from the depths of the long tail. While the creator might be previously known for their creations, your mom has never heard of them.
  4. It captures the essence of the medium, moment, or method
    For something to truly stand out in the sea of creativity, the creator needs to tap into something true and magical. Don't ask me to define it, because I can't. In the words of Justice Potter Stewart, you know it when you see it.
  5. It evokes passion, community, like-minded behavior, and the insatiable desire to pass along
    The New Awesome is meme fodder. From it springs a thousand remixes, knockoffs, spinouts, and analogs. People gather around the hem of awesome.

An interesting result of this creative surge is the rising importance of effective discovery and distribution of the best creative products. In other words, when there is a rising sea of mediocrity, how do we find and highlight the very best? Alas, this will have to be the subject of a future post.

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