Rethinking Philanthropy at SXSWi: Philanthrogeeks & “The Awesome Foundation”March 14, 2012
Our SXSWi coverage was written/produced by Aprille Goodman. You can check out her music at AprilleGoodman.com. Videos were edited by Lance Goodman.
The sun came out in Austin and we headed down to Lambert’s BBQ to find out “just what is a philanthrogeek?”
Philanthropy is changing. As social change makers face continuing economic uncertainty, and government programs are downsizing, it seems like “doing good” can be an uphill battle. On top of that, traditional grantmakers can be hard to reach, requiring long proposal and reporting cycles.
Despite these challenges, exciting new trends in giving and fundraising are on the rise. The new philanthropy is driven by the DIY maker ethic, powered by social media, and draws on both entrepreneurial and good, old school community organizing practices.
The Awesome Foundation chapters worldwide are launching crazy brilliant ideas — and they’re doing it $1,000 at a time. Started in Boston in 2009, the Foundation has quickly grown to 35 chapters on 3 continents. They distribute a series of monthly $1,000 grants to projects and their creators. The money is pooled together from self-organizing “micro-trustees.” The chapters are autonomous and organized by the trustees around geographic areas or topics of interest.
The Foundation provides these grants with no strings attached and claims no ownership over the projects it supports. It is, in the words of one of their trustees, a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance. Projects have included efforts in a wide range of areas including technology, arts, social good, and beyond.
We spoke to Tim Hwang, founder of the Awesome Foundation, Christina Xu, founder of the Institute of Higher Awesome Studies, and Peyton Wimmer, an Austin chapter member. Here’s what we learned:
Tim Hwang talks about a project funded in Boston that helped track the oil spill eco damage in the Gulf of Mexico:
To learn more about starting an Awesome Foundation chapter in your city, becoming a “micro-trustee” or submitting your own “awesome” project go here. (Also, make sure to check out Lambert’s the next time you’re in Austin!)